Analysis: FREDRICK CHITANGALA
THE Olympic Youth Development Centre (OYDC), which was officially opened in 2010 is undoubtedly the only high performance centre, elite sports academy, or centre of excellence in Zambia.
It is an epitome of how dedication plus philanthropy can bring so much hope.
In 2010, Zambia finally had one and almost instantly came the Teulings Youth Sport Challenge, sponsored by Coen Teulings, chairperson of Merifin Capital in Brussels.
The Teulings Youth Sport Challenge and Academy was established to cater for athletes between 10 and 18 years old from different parts of Lusaka and the 10 provinces of Zambia. In the past eight years, the project has given over 3,000 young people an opportunity to experience well-organised sport training and competition, from Sport-for- All to developmental aspects of sport, which eventually have led to producing high performance athletes.
The project is an inspiration and contributes to the development of young athletes, giving them opportunities to participate in competitive sports, structured training, and access to free health checks. It is also the country’s major competition officials’ development platform.
With over 100 athletes contributed to the various national teams in the project plus an additional group of talented athletes in judo, table tennis, badminton and athletics supported in their training for various international competitions through the Teulings Academy Support funds, the project is undoubtedly the biggest national youth sport platform.
With education as an important aspect of the project, thousands have benefited with evidence of positive lifestyle changes shown throughout the project life. Fun-based HIV and AIDS life skills sessions have been delivered through Olympic Values Education (OVEP) during competition and training days.
The Teulings Youth Sport Challenge which has teams participating from the schools, academy teams and community teams kicked off the 2018 calendar in March, giving young people an opportunity to experience well organised sport training and competition through monthly leagues.
Through the project, young athletes who have shown potential and are part of the academy have been supported to enhance their performance and increase their chances of qualifying to international games such as Africa Youth Games and Youth Olympic Games.
Just having a centre of excellence does not necessarily mean tomorrow you will change the high performance sporting culture and win medals.
These centres are not just buildings or facilities but are supposed to be people, programmes, passion and performance.
They are also supposed to be places of talent, well trained coaches, effective sports management, world class sports scientists and quality leaders. Otherwise, simply building a world class sports centre without all these is building yourself a laboratory of failed experiments. The Teulings Youth Sport Challenge has been one rare programme, that when combined with the Podium Performance programme (PPP) under the Ministry of Sport, Youth and Child Development, it won’t be long before we get our first summer Olympic medal since 1996.
You wonder why the hockey team got a silver medal in Algeria! Or perhaps why they qualified to the Youth Olympic Games in Argentina and came out 4th! They received support from the Ministry of Sport, Youth and Child Development and National Olympic Committee of Zambia. But they are also beneficiaries of The Teulings Youth Sport Challenge and Academy.
The project has been running for eight years now and comes to an end today with an epic grand finale involving beach volleyball, basketball, tennis and hockey.
Please come over to OYDC today and watch our future Olympiads in action, our hope and our investment. This is the Zambia I want.
The author is Olympic Youth Development Centre director.
Analysis: FREDRICK CHITANGALA