Thursday 20 December 2012

Eko 2012: 10 Reasons why Team Akwa Ibom finished 10th

By Bassey Ibiatisuho
1.             Late Preparation: The preparation approach Team Akwa Ibom adopted reminded one of Team Nigeria’s ad hoc preparations prior to the London Olympic Games. The team started its close camping less than a month to the commencement of the games and it was obvious they would not stand the likes of Delta, Rivers or Lagos states that started camping three months to the event. In any sporting activities, good preparation is only what brings success and that was evidence in the states that started early as they also did very well.
2.             Inadequate facilities: It is unfortunate that Akwa Ibom state cannot boost of any standard sporting facilities. Sports take place in the stadium and are done using facilities, “gabbage in, gabbage out”, whatever facilities are used for training and preparations will definitely play out when the real competition gets underway, and that was exactly what happened in Lagos as the state’s athletes could not compete with their colleagues from Lagos, Rivers, Delta, Edo, Ogun states etc that have standard sports facilities. The state does not have what can be called a stadium where different sporting activities can take place at a time, except a playground regularly contested for with government officials who feels their political activities should take place there. How then do these athletes train?  Standard track to run in, no swimming pool, no table tennis board (which the chairman confirmed), etc. In fact, the state lacks almost all the standard facilities that can help the athlete succeed, but thank God there seems to be a ray of hope as the Olympic size stadium will help solve most of the trouble.
3.             Over confidence: This was mostly on the part of the officials and coaches, lots of “we’ve been doing it before” “we’re going to win laurels” hubris, the pride before the inevitable fall. They were all too confident without doing lot of work, banging on about how they can’t possibly be favourites and generally doing their best to slip under the radar. Confidence is built after the homework has been done and done right, but the officials neglected this and kept boosting to the press the team was good to go.
4.             Lack of Motivation: This will account to one of the main reasons why the team failed to live up to expectation. Sport is money. The two go in tandem as sport of any kind cannot succeed without the investment of money. It all started after last year’s edition in Port Harcourt where the state government prior to the event had promised to reward athletes upon their arrival, it took one whole year before the promise was fulfilled after a lot of cries by the poor athletes. Some of the athletes were already disappointed and downtrodden and even made up their minds not to represent the state again. In a bid to motivate them, the money was paid a day before their departure to Lagos when some of them had already had their minds made up. Although they eventually got the money, psychologically, the disappointment lingered. Apart from the monetary part of it, during the event, governor’s and government officials of other states paid visits to their contingents in Lagos and encouraged them, a mere presence of these people at the state camp was a boost which was an added advantage, no wonder team Delta claimed so much medals after being assured of automatic job employment by their state governor in Lagos. For Akwa Ibom, the team never had such a surprised or scheduled visit. 
5.             No good atmosphere in the team: Much as they won’t admit it, before the team’s departure to Lagos, some athletes had issues with some of the coaches and officials that were unresolved and manifested at the festival, souring the atmosphere in the squad, whining behind the officials back and being what one team member describe simply as “an all-round pain in the arse.” Apart from athletes-officials relationship, there were also officials-officials cases some which were played-down, all working together to make to team finish below par.
6.             Poor camping: Just as the team did not prepare on time for the festival, the camping for the athletes and their general welfare was not too good. Some of the athletes camped in schools and were uncomfortable in their camps, not just that the environment was not conducive enough, but many complained of the food they were served, on some occasions, some of the athletes complained that the food was not good for their body system but the officials paid deaf ear to such complains which is paramount to keep the athletes fit. A  long jumper does not need the kind of food a boxer needs because of their different tasks which requires different inputs of energy, but issues  like that were not tackled as a blanket feeding method was applied throughout the camping period.
7.             Not hungry for medals: With the kind of treatment given to the team after winning medals for the state in the last edition, the athletes were demoralized and the quest for more medals must have been killed during the long wait as most of them did not train as regularly as they used to do but waited for the promise to be fulfilled before going back to their normal training which definitely leads to drop of form. Lack of commitment also became a serious issue which the athletes had to battle with to get back themselves.
8.             Government distraction: The question if the government reward to the athletes was a blessing or a curse is yet to be answered. Why this position is held is because the athletes were actually overdue the reception which other states had long completed and started preparation for Eko 2012. For Akwa Ibom state, giving the money a day before the departure of the team was to be a morale booster for the team, but on the long run, the gesture became a big distraction to the athletes, some who have not own such amount of money to their names. With this, the athletes lost focus of what really took them to Lagos as their attention was divided at the festival as the money was all that mattered to them at that material time.
9.             Our coaches need training: Some Akwa Ibom state coaches are still far away from what modern coaching entails. A coach is supposed to be a motivator, counselor, guidance etc. The coaches need more than technicalities in their area of sports, they are human managers and so need training in that regards, how they can keep an athlete going even in the face of great difficulties and tension, am afraid some of them lack these characters of influencing other people. Leadership qualities are essential in coaching any team. They need serious training in that.
10.         Ministry of youth and sports: When Team Nigeria performed woefully at the London Olympics and returned back to the country, every concerned sports citizen of Nigeria called for the total overhauling of the sports sector, it was a debated issues for months. The best result of the state at the National Sports Festival still remains the Port Harcourt 2001, since then, the state has been fluctuating on the medal table, and when issues like this happen, it is either those in charge are not good enough or the athletes. They are some people in the state sports sector who care about nothing but to enrich themselves during the festival. Before now, the ministry usually organized a state sports festival in order to select the best from every local government that will represent the state, but this year seems that they adopted the selection method base on nothing to represent the state, when we have people in the rural areas who can do better than the same old names who have turned themselves to “permanent state athletes” that go for National Sports Festival every year. Until some sentiments are broken in the ministry of youth and sports and the interest of the state is held up high, the state will continue to suffer the same retrogression in sport festivals.  

Bassey Ibiatisuho is a sports writer based in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria

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