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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

SA sport commentary

South African sport: Where winning doesn't matter, and we are the losers

A very South African-centric post today, apologies to our readership in the USA and the rest of the world. Feel free to read and weigh in with your opinions (just keep them tidy!), because it might be interesting to hear what you think of how sport in my country (SA) is run. To provide a little bit of background, South Africa had their worst Olympic performance since 1936 in Beijing, and also find themselves sliding rapidly down the ladder of world sport - many of our teams are now languishing outside the top 10 in Africa, which, for it's wealthiest nation, is a dismal under-performance.

In response to that decline, and other problems associated with SA sport, a big meeting was held to chart the way forward for SA sport. However, instead of developing solutions (and listening to them, because those solutions exists and have been proposed), the only thing that emerged was a political movement for getting rid of the Springbok logo of our national rugby team. If you think that's crazy, you're right. You may be reading that and thinking "what's the big deal?. It's just an emblem." Well, it gets complicated, thanks to our checkered past and the racism that surrounded the logo in years gone by. But that's not what this post is about, and my opinion on the emblem is largely irrelevant. What I would like to discuss is just why SA sport finds itself in the situation it does - the arguments about the Springbok logo point to the solution. This article first appeared on Health24.

Politics and sport

Last week South African sport was once again dragged into political controversy when the National Sports Indaba in Durban produced only one major outcome – a request for the removal of the Springbok emblem as a result of its “racist” connotations.

The Sports Indaba was supposed to contribute to clearing up some of the problems in South African sport; instead, this outcome has reignited a debate that creates a new set of problems. The real problems remain unsolved, relegated to the periphery by political posturing and non-performance-based agendas that are focused on anything but winning.

The sports indaba was called by the Minister of Sport with the intention of charting the way forward for SA sport. This was partly in response to our poor performance in Beijing, and other problems that have been affecting South African sport of late. Soccer is primary among them, but there are also issues around sponsorship across the minor sports; and the development of sport among women and disability groups was also on the agenda.

As is always the case when politics meets sport in South Africa, perhaps the biggest focus was reserved for transformation policies. There is nothing wrong with this, of course, and the appropriate strategy to address transformation is an important piece of the overall sporting puzzle. However, the Indaba was intended, I believed, to be a meeting to discuss how we might improve on-field performances through mechanisms like coaching, sports science, and yes, transformation.

It’s black and white

Pardon the expression, but winning in sport really is a black and white issue. You are either doing what you can to win, or you will lose. Sport makes little allowance for distractions from the process that aims to ensure success. Progress is measured in milliseconds, and margins for victory are so small, so hard to find, that experts and athletes will spend years searching for them. If you fail to devote 100% of your energy to joining the quest for those milliseconds, then you lose. You are either a prospective winner or a guaranteed loser.

It is against this backdrop that we have to consider South Africa’s sporting report-card in recent years.

  • Consider that South Africa was once ranked inside the top 20 of world soccer, and now languishes in 85th position.
  • Consider that our netball team was a world championship silver medalist in 1995 and is no longer even the best team in Africa.
  • Sports where South Africa has a rich history and legacy of champions, like boxing and athletics, are now failing to produce new competitors, let alone champions.
  • And then of course, there was Beijing 2008 – South Africa’s worst performance since 1936, with a solitary silver medal the product of many years of sporting neglect.

So an overall “health check” of SA sport will reveal a very dark, ominous picture – little is positive, most sports are declining and a diagnosis of “critical” or “terminal” would apply to most.

Yet a possible solution exists, driven by people who possess both the desire and the ability to improve our on-field performances. I was privileged to attend a conference in Sports Medicine in Cape Town last week, at which many of the doctors and physiotherapists associated with the SA Olympic and Paralympic teams were present. It’s immediately obvious that expertise is not the problem in South Africa – consider, for example, that when Great Britain decided to invest heavily in sports medicine for their Olympic athletes, they identified two South African doctors as world leaders, and then drafted them in to help with their efforts. South Africa possesses experts in abundance, and they are the solution for South African sport.

Unfortunately, South African sporting authorities fail to recognise this, allowing other nations to recruit our talent and intellect, and then use it against our athletes. Our own sporting codes and government instead rely on the volunteer efforts of those people who can do a job, but are not empowered to do so.

I had, for a long time, not understood why this situation has been allowed to develop, why expertise is not prioritised. But the outcomes of the Sports Indaba reveal the possible reasons – politics overrides excellence. Those in authority barely acknowledged expertise-based plans, focusing instead on fighting battles against the past, and the emblem of only one of our sports teams. Discussions around the real challenges are destined to grind to a halt under the weight of the political incentives.

The root problem

The single biggest problem we face is that the people who run SA sport are not incentivised to win. By virtue of the fact that sport separates people out into those who aim to win and those who will lose, the implication is that South African sport is tainted by losers, who do not care about winning. It's as simple as that. Those in authority are more interested in their political agendas than they are in winning. So ‘transformation’ hijacks every single discussion, every attempt to chart a path forward for SA sport. The actual solutions to on-field performance then become about as significant as a drop of water when it falls into an ocean.

When so much energy is invested into political agendas, and incentives that do not contribute to winning, we lose. This is the reason our athletes are not likely to escape from the doldrums – no one is offering the hand of high-performance support.

The role of transformation

Transformation is critical to high performance success. Why? Because sports performance is like farming: you find yourself some arable land, you plant the seeds, you water them, provide fertiliser and then hopefully, with the right conditions, you produce a good crop that year. In South Africa, we are using only 20% of our arable land. That is why transformation is vital. If we fail to access all the talent that has until now been marginalised by political, economic and social ideologies, we will never achieve our sporting potential – why pick a squad of world class athletes from only 15% of the population?

The problem, however, is the time-scale, and that's where people have missed the point. Firstly, if you force athletes into top-level sport with selection criteria based on colour and not on merit, you produce two very destructive outcomes in two very different groups of people:

The first is a sense of entitlement. You are sending a signal to certain groups of people that they are going to be supported, regardless of the effort they put in. So you don’t get the necessary work ethic, drive and competitive passion; it’s part of the reason South Africa produces so many excellent junior athletes and sports people, but so few go on to achieve senior success. Entitlement is destructive to success, because it dilutes dedication and commitment to training.

The second outcome is disillusionment in the non-selected population. South Africa cannot afford to marginalise existing talent in an attempt to find new talent, and this is what quota systems achieve. Can you imagine a coach or manager standing before a young school team and telling them that the secret to success is to be disciplined, to work hard, to train with commitment and success will be the result? Quota systems make a mockery of that advice, because the overt message is that work ethic and discipline are only part of the process.

A culture of sport

And then finally, what I believe people have missed is that sport is a culture. Australia has a great cricket team because in the 1920s, it built a culture through great players such as Bradman. Jamaica has great sprinters, because there is a culture of sprinting on the island. Kenya is a great producer of long-distance athletes thanks to the efforts of those in the 1960s who laid a platform that extends to today.

In South Africa, we have a culture of rugby – as a function of the past, mostly amongst whites. That can (and should) be changed, is changing, but not overnight. It will take at least three generations to change the culture. The first is the generation of people who have been discriminated against. It’s painfully regrettable that they have had little opportunity to achieve success in rugby.

The second generation is their children, who should be exposed to a more balanced world view, and begin to adopt the attitude of performance-based success (as opposed to quotas). I have very little doubt that if you went to a strong sporting high school today and asked the typical 16-year old what he felt about quotas, he would tell you that he would much rather achieve success based on the work he puts in. That is a sign of things changing for the better. And finally, their children's children will enter a sporting environment where the parents and grandparents are equally exposed to the culture that it takes to create sporting champions at a young age.

I must emphasise that the same principle applies to those running the sport – I have no doubt that there are still issues of marginalisation and discrimination in certain sports, and these should be policed and removed. Over time, however, the stereotypes that exist from the top and from the bottom will evolve until we reach a point where success is a function of work and talent, which is how it should be.

So transformation then, should be seen as a long-term process, because achieving sporting success is a long-term venture. It begins from the top, however, and I reiterate that South African sport has failed to win because it is led by people who are not winners. They do not prioritise excellence, they have little interest in intellect and expertise, and they are leading South African sport into an increasingly hopeless situation.


So we therefore need to make a decision – do we wish to be a nation of world-beaters, excellent sportsmen and women, who strive to find the milliseconds it takes to win? Or do we wish to allow these other, non-winning related agendas to override that pursuit. If we choose the former, we must recognise that our preoccupation with transformation is strangling our efforts to achieve a winning sporting nation.

To return to the medical health-check analogy, South African sport has a cancer, and like any cancer, it can be treated through the removal of the responsible cells. For success, that is crucial.



Anonymous said...

Firstly let me disclaim that I am an ex SA expat from one of the 'previously disadvantaged' groups.
I have also have more than 30 yrs experience in my sport, once at a high level, and also have extensive admin experience.

In general, your comments about the health of SA sport, measuring in purely against 'success' is quite superficial, and your comments about quotas are not backed by historical experience.

Success in, for example, cricket in Australia or soccer in England come at great expense, not all of it well funded (see current issues with English soocer club debt).

However as, for example, a runner who is part of the biggest demographic of runners, the weekend warrior, where would you rather be..all else being equal in stadard of living...South Africa. Nowhere else.

Australia might be able to fund more gold medals due to its elite system, but road running is virtually non existent by South African standards.
They have nothing like the Comrades or Two Oceans, and even weekend runs like Bay to Bay are bigger than almost all races in Australia.

From the outside it is easy to judge sporting health by 'measures of success' such as gold medals, but western countries like Australia and the US do not have the highest percentage of obesity for no reason... one of which is an adulation of successful sportspeople at the expense of 'doing it yourself'.
Sitting on thecouch watching your top athletes perform is not a sport.

On the quota issue, remember that for many years SA had a racial quota system much more overt than the present one, which is aimed at addressing an imbalance.

It was a 100% quota of white people, yet the success or otherwise was never questioned...success, I may add which was never put to international test in a much less competive arena.

It is , kind of, quite insulting to ascribe the present 'success' or 'failure' to the quota system, when by other measures great progress has been made.

I will refrain from commenting about your views on 'intelligence'.

Guys, you have a great site, most often with good imterpretation of the science for the masses,and I am an avid follower and 'recommender', but you should not use your credibility in the scienctific arena to infer expertise on socialogical issues.


Anonymous said...

Oh Zed makes some good comments here and I fully understand them. But if you look at the world's best sporting nations they have created heroes first. I think that's what Ross is saying. The most effective way to get proper transformation is to create first up... the rest will follow: sponsors, children who want to participate and finally, more success. Without elite sporting success, no amount of transformation and planning will get grassroots participation going.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi oh zed

Thank you for the inputs. I strongly disagree with your last suggestion. Please bear in mind that I am actually employed in a sports management company and my passion is the very topic I've written about here. I have a postgraduate qualification in management and marketing, just as much as science, and so I believe I'm more than credibly able to comment on matters of sports management. This is very much an issue, and your view of the world is so tiny that you cannot see that a person as a scientist cannot also find a way to apply that thought and knowledge to a known problem. You have thus placed expertise in a box, symptomatic of the very thing that has produced the problem in the first place. So spare me the lecture on infering expertise on sociological issues - this is the very issue that I am most qualified to comment on. You have also completely missed the point when you suggest my insight in superficial.

And then you wax lyrical about the mass participation aspect of sport - what part of this post even suggested that was a relevant topic? Of course it's worth another discussion and yes, we can talk about mass participation road races, but this was an article about Olympic medals, nothing more, and it was written as a direct result of a plan that I wrote, directly commissioned by the Minister of Sport of South Africa, on high performance sport. I therefore take offence to your suggestion of watching from the couch and being outside the system - I'm very much inside and trying to fix the problem.

And thank you for pointing out the quota system issue, and that I prescribed the success and failure to that system. Perhaps you might go back and read the article again and figure out what I really said.

Then to Mickeyj, exactly, that's what needs to be done. No one is saying that we should neglect development, but this post was about high performance, how to win medals and world titles. Some of the issues raised by oh zed are true, but they miss the point completely.

Thanks again

Anonymous said...

Interesting, having lived for over 25 yrs in southern Africa.

However it would have been a more interesting read, and maybe even beneficial, if you had named names instead of simply laying blame on anonymous people.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Bob

Thanks. A couple of reasons why I didn't/couldn't.

First, there are no specific people to name - it's a systemic problem, from the top, and so by implication, the Minister of Sport, but it's not quite as cut and dried as this. As I'm sure you can appreciate, placing accountability at any one person's door is impossible and I don't want to single out a "fall guy" for what is a bigger problem. It's been this way under three different directors of sport, about a dozen different leaders, and maybe hundreds of heads of various federations and sporting codes. It's a culture, more than a person.

Second, most in SA will be fully aware of the context - not sure how much you've followed in the media the last week or so about the situation in SA, but anyone here knows the context immediately. I guess that means those outside are out the loop, which is a bit of a shame, but I had to decide whether to be specific or not. I chose "not" in order to be more relevant to those outside, who don't know the characters.

As for beneficial, definitely not on this side - for those readers outside the country, yes, but this was more a commentary on the general state, and had I been specific with names, I feel it would have alienated people. And it would have been inaccurate - the main instigator is a guy called Butana Khompela, who must be the most destructive force in SA sport today. But he's the front man for what is a huge body of people behind who are of the same mindset. I was at the meeting in Durban, incidentally, presenting a high performance plan, and it was clear there's a faction of people, most of whom are nameless, members of political parties, heads of federations, government staff, who push this agenda. I didn't want to single anyone out, nor could I, to be honest, apart from this Khompela fellow...

Thanks for reading!


Anonymous said...

No need for an antagonistic and defensive response guys.

Firstly, no offence intended at perceived expertise in sociopolitical issues. My point was that all your credibility in the sports science is based on digging up the facts, explaining them in an uncomplicated way, and debunking any myths. Getting the research evidence out to the masses. I thank you and admire you for that, and so do most of those who support your and recommend your site.
When it comes to sociopolitical issues, things are a lot greyer and more opinion, less factual, in content. Whether it’s your opinion, mine or anyone else’s, and notwithstanding whatever sports or marketing management qualifications one may hold- it is still opinion., and it is heavily influenced by our paradigms.
It’s currently your credibility on the scientific front that enables your views on sociopolitical issues to be believed by outsiders. For the moment…. If your sociopolitical opinions are not backed up by the same factual rigour, then over time it will just be seen for what it is – opinion… and your credibility on the scientific front will suffer.
Just my opinion btw…. 
Your post was intended to encourage criticism of the SA system, it is worded that way, and in fact makes a presumption of adverse comments (your “…just keep it tidy!” as one example). So it’s a bit sensitive to be defensive about a comment that disagrees with your view of the world.
This is not a pissing contest about qualifications and experience. Suffice to say I am sufficiently qualified in science, engineering and management, with enough experience in sports management and administration (30 yrs to current), both in SA and overseas, to comment. And I have lived a different path to you guys and know the impact of the alternatives to the current system.
Of course your post wasn’t about mass participation. I didn’t say so. I said that there were other ways of measuring sport success, and that your measurement may not be the only way that the dollars spent on sport benefits the public and that OG success did not always mean success on participation criteria.
The quotas that you guys don’t like at the moment is a lot lower than quotas previously given to other population groups, and without these quotas we would not have seen stalwarts of SA teams, such as Gibbs, Ntini, Habana etc, who have been recognised at the highest level by respective international bodies and critics. Quotas may have run its course, but it has been a useful tool to balance the opportunity.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Oh Zed

OK, thanks for the opinion. I trust our "opinion" piece won't put you off the site, but if it does, that's too bad. I believe this post to be accurate, I believe it to be backed up by facts, and most significantly, I believe it to be backed up by the fact that I'm still involved in the SA sporting system today, trying to put together the plan. So I know the athletes, the coaches, the Minister of Sport, the government, the scientists and the doctors, and have consulted to all of them. My "opinion" is thus a little more than opinion, so I'll keep posting on this, as is. I'm sure your 30 years provide you with plenty of experience and insight, but I'm interested in solving the problem, not talking about it.


Anonymous said...

WOw, Oh Zed

What's it like on the high horse? You, the expat, sitting there across an ocean passing opinion on the credibility of someone who is actually involved in SA sport at the moment? That's fresh!

As I read between the lines, I see that Ross is actually the one guy who in the last 18 months has worked with all the stakeholders to try to fix the problems of SA sport. So he knows it better than anyone. You're not in SA, of course, and so what you won't know is that he's been featured in all the papers, TV and radio as a result of his involvement in trying to chart the path forward.

I am, and I've seen it and been involved in the process from outside, and I can assure you that this post is anything but opinion. I don't want to add to the "pissing contest" as you call it, but you just need to understand that when you step up onto your high horse, you're actually trying to argue with the one person in the world who's closer to the SA sport situation right now than anyone else. Yet you still preach your message of "lacking credibility". Of course, I know what you'll say - it's still opinion, influenced by personal views blah blah.

You're like one of those guys who tries to tell the car mechanic what is wrong with the car over the telephone, when the mechanic is the guy standing over the engine block, covered in grease actually fixing the problem. In the USA, it's called an "armchair quarterback". Your 30 years of experience are valuable only if you apply them to the current context and situation, which you can't. And you suggest they're turning it into a "pissing contest", when all Ross was trying was to clarify that he's involved and immersed in the situation?

Nice try...


pearl flower said...

I think oh zed has 2 main points and both have validity.
(1) we DO come to your site in the main for the scientific analysis and I personally also found this opinion piece a bit of a remove from the usual output which has a well-earned reputation
(2) elite results are not the only barometer of whether the quota system is working AND grassroots participation can happen independently of (or inspite a lack of) elite success.

This comes from a working physicist with no connections to sports management or south africa.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Paul

Thanks for that. The piece is a departure from normal, yes, but you have to realise that this is my big project right now. And I make no claims about producing "science" of performance - this site is about the opinion and insight that newspapers offer. We focus on science yes, because that's what lacking. Right now in SA, what is lacking is objective opinion about this very issue, so for me, as a South African, it's very close to home. And as Alan points out, this is what I'm immersed in, and it's a current piece in South Africa. I also make no secrets about my current occupation - I'm in sports management, and perhaps as a physicist, that's not what you find stimulating, but to those involved in coaching and management of sport, it's an important step. In the future, we'll do more of this, and more of the scientific, to try to cover all the bases. I've always said that if people want science, the journals have more than enough, we're about the opinion of the news, as scientists.

But that was always the danger of posting it - I did try to clarify right up front that it's a South African-centric post. And I'd do it again what is lacking overseas is the context, and that's unfortunately how it is for this post.


david said...

Thanks Ross for your excellent article, for the record I know Ross and am a great admirer of his work both on and off the sport's fields of South Africa!

I agree wholeheartedly with his sentiments. For the record I have been coaching sport in RSA for the past 30 years, run a community sports programme and lecture in sports management. The state of most of our sport's health is on the decline (should I say on a landslide to nowhere).

I put Ross's article and the posts up for discussion with my students today. It is a class of 26 with only 2 white students. The conclusions were that oh zed was sadly out of touch. They do want hero's, they love watching top athletes perform, were appalled by our lack of success at the Olympics, that his rhetoric was atypical of one stuck in a time warp and quota systems ought to be scrapped because they had weakened our sport.
There you have it from a bunch of students who love sport and yes a lot of them stay in the townships!

I personally subscribe to the 'Tucker Plan' and am appalled by the misuse of sport finances in our country.

So there you go oh zed have a pissing contest with my students.

Anonymous said...

As a Brit with little knowledge of SA sport, but somewhat basking in the golden glow of Beijing, whilst being an active spotrs coach at grassroots level..pheew..I have to say we have the heroes, we have the next olympiad, we also have falling participation & rising obesity, not sure whee that leaves the argument..oh & we have a Government getting pissy about funding elites & wondering how to afford 2012.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi David

Thank you very much for the support and encouragement and for embracing the argument so whole-heartedly. I'm interested in the sports management course you lecture on, hopefully it goes some way to making a difference. Thanks again! We must definitely discuss at some stage.

Then to the anonymous poster, you make a good point. But let me state as clearly as possible - the link between high performance and general participation and health is non-existent. This post and the discussion revolves completely around high performance. The issue of mass participation and obesity is a completely separate issue. I have a strategic plan on that, incidentally, but am firmly of the belief that it must be run separately and in parallel with the high performance plan. Two objectives, two plans. Countries that have tried to combined them have failed on either one or both counts. Australia definitely did, and it sounds as though the UK are too, from the sounds of your mail.

Also, the UK's olympic medals are very expensive, in terms of the investment required to win the medals. The cost of medals is a function of the system in which the funding is spent, and so Kenya and Jamaica have very cheap medals, UK very expensive. Aus and the Netherlands are mid-way along the spectrum. South Africa needs a plan for cheap medals, because we require other (dare I say) more important matters to be addressed.

SO the plan has to be done on the "cheap", which will hopefully free up funds on a separate strategy for mass participation and obesity.

Having said that, there is a link, and it comes from having a unified strategy from the top (a strategy that prioritizes sport, not just medals), and then you link them through the marketing and PR campaign around sports, using the elite to leverage the success as a promotion for the masses.

But anyway, details, details...

Thanks for the comments!

Anonymous said...

Bottom line is we have the talent and the money,we need to put sport first and not the money in our pockets.The right people for the job and those who now how to manage with the athletes interests first ie(athletes that have to take money from there own pockets for accomodation,kit,travel etc etc trust me i know)Once big buisness is convinced there money is not wasted and the right people are in place and focus on the future we can do it.

Anonymous said...

Mr Khompela that Ross refers to is the same gentleman who threatened to withhold the passports of the members of the national rugby rugby team (dare I say Springboks) because they were too "white". Other comments and outbusts he has made during his controversial tenure provide evidence that he is anti-white. His actions have been divisive and have polarised society - not the actions one would expect from someone leading such an important portfolio in government. No wonder sport in South Africa (elite and mass participation)are on the slippery downward slope.

Anonymous said...

Ross; thanks for your response. I did say that my view was opinion, so no need to rub it in mate. But so was yours, though I don’t pretend by putting it in a site that has largely gained credibility through facts, that it is actually factual.

I am glad that you are working on solutions to SA sporting success, and would like to see them.

However, your original piece was largely a whinge about the present SA political system, quotas, marginalized people etc and its affect on the sporting success (measured in medals and rankings) of SA.... and that is what I am responding to.

To me it is no different to all the other “when we” whingers. About how the system “used to be better then” etc etc, though this is generally encountered at BBQ’s, where it should be restricted to i.m.o. and where one can vigorously and sportingly counter them over a few beers !

Hey, we all think the grass is greener somewhere else or that things were always better in the past. Its natural but not always true.
When people whinge about quotas then, I’m sorry, but I can’t help but remind them of the old system ‘quotas’- no, restrictions is actually the word. Restrictions on education, job opportunities, sporting facilities and opportunities, entertainment, residential areas, health care, etc etc.
Many of the younger generation do not know this, and most do not want to be reminded. They all say "it wasn't me, I was still at primary school". But comparisons about how SA used to be ‘better at this or that’ are not really honest without actually admitting that SA was ‘better’ for only a small proportion of its population, who wanted to keep it to themselves.

The quotas that are so criticised today have been proven to bring people into the same 'hero' class that David's students (amongst others look up to). You know who those heroes are and I disagree with the opposition to 'affirmative action' to accelerate success. To be more blunt, a white person complaining about lack of opportunity for success, even in today's SA, is still an insult and not backed up by outcomes. Their opportunities are still underpinned by the legacy of their previous unequal status. It is more of an excuse to use the following .. "Quota systems make a mockery of that advice, because the overt message is that work ethic and discipline are only part of the process."

I’m sure people like Ross will contribute towards change in SA. Thank goodness that at least he can openly criticise the system without disillusionment through be jailed etc. A few canings can easily dent your enthusiasm!

Despite those 'disincentives', I spent a great deal of my time and sporting potential against the system, but I still think it was worth it. They were my personal choices and opinions and I didn’t dress them as facts without highlighting actual experiences of the disenfranchised.

Let’s keep the opinion as opinion and be objective about the facts. You do a great job with your sports science site, and are admired for it and a ‘breath of fresh air’.

Just make sure the delineation between the two is very clear.
Perhaps we could better agree to disagree over those BBQ's and beers!

Anonymous said...

I think that was the point I was trying to make...that elites are elites & armchair surfers need separate funding & incentives to get out of their armchairs...the London bid lumped them in together & launched, doomed to fail I feel for the reasons you outline as well as the parsimonius streak that has emerged of late from UK government..bigger fish to fry I guess, but mutterings were still a foot before the banks went pear shaped.

Anonymous said...

First up, I really enjoy this site - Jonathan and Ross in my opinion you are doing a great job in providing quality information on a wide range of sporting issues as well as initiating thought provoking debate on the more 'contentious' ones such as doping in sport, the Oscar Pistorious issue and this recent one relating to the state of SA sport.
I give this brief personal profile only because I feel it necessary to put into context my comments; white, strongly pro-(new)South African and on the wrong side of 50yrs.
Oh Zed in my opinion you make some valid comments regarding the socio-economic issues wrt the previous government(s), the huge damage it caused to so many individuals and the enormous challenges we still face in attempting to re-dress the many wrongs going forward. If it came to debating those issues then I believe that you and I would be on the same side at the braai (your BBQ) discussions (fortunately we've managed to retain the braai word and even use it in polite conversation;-)).
However in terms of this debate; which, in the way I read it, Ross clearly defined his standpoint as (in my own words): 'why we currently suck when measured at the highest levels of various sporting codes and if we want to fix that then it would probably be advantageous to consider a plan based on solid research and science instead of nit picking around political agendas that may well not contribute in any significant way to solving that problem'. In commenting on that plan he has highlighted the importance of 'transformation' although he hasn't clarified the specifics of it here. Yes he gave the thumbs down to the quota system in a rather sweeping manner in my opinion. Here I think he has the backing of most if not all curent SA sporting individuals of colour who have said much the same thing (e.g. Charl Langeveldt turning down his own recent selection to the Proteas) and if the opinions expressed across the country in various media are to be believed then there is certainly merit in that a significant number of sport loving South Africans across the board are also of a similar opinion. What is interesting to me is that in countering i.e. defending the role of quotas (albeit that you did state that the quota system may well have run its course) you use the example of some of our local sporting heroes of colour; namely Gibbs, Ntini and Habana. In my opinion those particular individuals give greater grist to Ross's greater argument. Herchelle went to Bishops (a very traditional elite high school with a proud sporting history) where he excelled in a number of sports (he could have chosen to play any one of soccer, rugby or cricket for his country such was his talent), Makhaya, after showing natural talent in the UCB Development Program went to school with my nephew at Dale (another traditional school with a proud sporting history, and particularly in cricket), Bryan went to the same primary school (Meredale) as my two children where he showed prodigious talent (particularly in athletics) he then went on to KES (again another strongly traditional school with a long list of past Springboks) and RAU (Rand Afrikaans University – no further comment needed). Also I believe that Hechelle has in the past singled out Peter Kirsten as one of his own heroes who inspired him, Makhaya I believe looked up to the West Indian fast bowling great Malcolm Marshal and Bryan (like many of his age in rugby) says he was fired up by the Springbok World Cup victory in 1995. Some interesting facts here don't you think? Possibly there are other high level sporting examples that may better illustrate your point?

Kind regards.

Anonymous said...

Sorry that im commenting on an old topic but when you said "The single biggest problem we face is that the people who run SA sport are not incentivised to win" it immediatly caught my eye. I live in New Zealand and that is the single biggest reason why we are losing everything at the moment (rugby world cup etc). Ever since the government brought in the 'play for fun, not to win' idea, our sporting victories have plummeted.

For example, I played used to play rugby and now coach my sons team (10 year olds), and I was disgusted when we won a game by 40 points one day and the paper adjusted the score just to make the other teams loss not look as bad.

Side note: I also read your article on the Matthew Effect and will keep that in mind when selecting my next competition team.

Mike said...

Mr Khompela that Ross refers to is the same gentleman who threatened to withhold the passports of the members of the national rugby rugby team (dare I say Springboks) because they were too "white". Other comments and outbusts he has made during his controversial tenure provide evidence that he is anti-white. His actions have been divisive and have polarised society - not the actions one would expect from someone leading such an important portfolio in government. No wonder sport in South Africa (elite and mass participation)are on the slippery downward slope.