Oluseyi Oyebode is an astute grassroots sports promoter whose passion cuts across all sports. His eagerness to see sports grow in schools has endeared him to many across the country. However, Oyebode believes there must be conscious efforts by schools to give attention to sports. He speaks with Olalekan Okusan
My background in sports was inspired by the level of sporting activities and awareness in the 1980s, I vividly recollect many football and athletics programme at the grassroots level which encourages me into sports developments, I was in class 3 in 1983 when I started my coaching career as a coach player, I usually gather my classmate and my juniors then for coaching before joining clubs for mentoring programmes and hence my decision to further seek more knowledge from the then Department of Physical and Health Education, University of Lagos in 1994 and later became the University of Lagos, Student Union Government (SUG) Sports Director, which emerged as overall winner in the UNILAG NUGA 1998. Furthermore, I also led as the director of sports at Greensprings School, Lagos with lots of achievements and participated in the 2003 All African Games in Abuja as assistant manager in gymnastics. I am also an alumnus of International Olympic Committee (IOC) Advance Sports Management course before finally becoming a grassroots sports development enthusiast.
Embracing sports in school
I decided to embrace sports in school because of my passion for genuine sports development, many years ago. I discovered that the bedrock of sports development lies in school sports. My love for sports was due to the structured events and activities with proper coaching put in place even from primary schools. I was fortunate to represent my Primary School then in the 70’s before playing for local clubs in the community. You will recall that many FIFA junior tournaments started in late 90’s and Mid 80’s and that further propagate the interest in school sports because many of the talent discovered then came from the school sports programmes.
Experience as sports director
My experience as a school sports director was overwhelming. My involvement exposed me to the global perspective of sports development and it has enabled me to interact with counterparts across the globe as well as gave me the opportunity to develop grassroots sports concepts that is now beneficial to many federations and associations today. One of the major challenges was encouraging schools to use sports as a tool to develop students’ growth which later encourages parents to subscribe to my philosophy of sports and education. Consequently, many students in public and private schools have benefited through scholarships and professional sports participation.
Lip service paid to sports in school
Sports have not been given enough attention in schools in Nigeria, due to lack of focus in school sports administration, dearth of various associations and bodies responsible for school sports growths, lack of good trained sports masters and coaches. Most schools focus on funds generations without actualising the purpose. Also lack of good structure to support school sports developments with adequate facilities and play ground to engender development in schools. In all, the overall economic situation has affected every area of our lives.
One of the major problems in Nigeria today is our inability to focus and understand our strength and purpose. I was able to discover this challenge at the tender stage in my career and this really helped my focus. Sports development has many challenges due to long time feedback on investments and this is one of major reasons why many administrators decided to avoid school sports. To be involved in school sports, you need to be rugged and dogged and also be resilient. You should be prepared to fail before success. All the above qualities eventually serve as my strength, hence my interest in school sports.
Challenges of school sports in Nigeria
My assessment of sports in Nigeria still remains below average. Though I am aware the current sports minister is doing his best to involve private participation, which to me is a good idea but the question remains, trust as an issue and sustenance a great challenge. We need a system that sincerely encourages genuine sports development. If you lack basic self-trust, self-respect and self-confidence, your self-esteem deficiency will limit you, no matter what other assets you possess. The value we place on ourselves is usually the value others place on us.
Our challenges in school sports are enormous and I have spoken about some of them for many years. Any Nation that fails to invest in her youths will definitely have issues and will kill the morals and passion of its youth, not only in sports but in every area of life. Lack of school sports funding and corruption has become the major bane to school sports development in Nigeria. In addition, the problem with uncoordinated sports growth plans and maladministration of wrong peg in the right hole with nepotism has become a big challenge. A good structure that encompasses coaching, teaching and administration with a well sorted policy can still change the situation.
Revival of grassroots sports
School sports can easily be revived through adequate coordinated plans and genuine efforts from the Federal Government that will trickle down to the lowest level of school sports organisation in Nigeria. There should be a DNA of sports development that will engender all areas including teaching, coaching and administration which will lead to a sorted grassroots sports curriculum plans for the purpose. I have discovered over the years that we don’t develop from the root but pick any available grass to use. The greatest enemy of tomorrow’s success is today’s success; hence the need to refocus our sports plans as a nation. We need to stop recycling our sports administrators, hence we remain static, and our sports education programme curriculum in our tertiary institutions is not addressing today’s sports needs. There is a need for sports policy development that will meet global requirements. A good sports structure that can accommodate 18 months to 18years will survive.