Having worked his way to the top in the sport world, CEO of the Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) Tuelo Serufho embodies a truly inspiring success story.
Today, Serufho, 39, is heading the committee in charge of planning and delivering the 2nd African Youth Games to be held in May this year.
The Voice News Editor Boineelo Hardy caught up with the CEO to talk about, sports plans for the upcoming youth games and life in the universe.
Q. How are you Mr Serufho? Please introduce yourself.
I am well thanks. My name is Tuelo Serufho, I was born in Francistown and raised in Selibi- Phikwe. I am about to turn 40.
Q. Tell us about your family.
My family for now is my siblings, I am not married and there are no children (Laughs).
Both my parents have passed on, as has one of my siblings so I now have 4 siblings.
Q. I understand you were once a teacher, how did you end up in sports?
I was a business studies teacher after having completed a teaching diploma at Tonota College of Education and also a very passionate artist.
Art and sport are my passions.
There was a time I was conflicted between the two.
So I really ended up in sports more by default then design.
I worked for nine months as a teacher; I was then recruited by the Botswana National Sports Council (BNSC) seconded to the tennis association as a development, administration officer.
Q. How did BNSC know about you enough to recruit you?
I was a tennis player and was volunteering as a coach for young players.
At the time, I was actually the youngest ITC accredited coach.
The Botswana Tennis Association (BTA)and Sports council saw my commitment to sport from as early as when I completed my high school.
Q. What is your current designation, where do you work?
I am the CEO of the Gaborone 2014 Africa Youth Games, seconded from of the BNOC where I serve as CEO.
Q. What kind of leader would you describe yourself as?
I am a consultative leader. I believe that you can get a lot out of people when you inspire them to be the best that they can be.
But of course one has to become authoritarian in instances where results are not being produced and objectives not met.
My dream is for sport to occupy its true role in the economy because I believe it can contribute quite significantly to the country’s GDP.
For that to happen a lot needs to change, especially the mindset because currently people view sport as a pastime which cannot add value to their children’s lives or to their own.
I want people to see sport as alternative employment as passionately as someone would when they pursue a career in the corporate world.
In addition, government and the private sector need to invest in sport for this to be achievable.
Q. But Botswana has a small population, isn’t this a challenge?
The fact that we have won an Olympic silver medal, gold medal at the Commonwealth Games as well as medals from other top competitions should be an indicator that indeed Botswana has potential.
Q. Impressive goals, how far are you from actually realizing them?
We have achieved a bit but there is still a long way to go. But fortunately from the likes of Dipsy Selolwane, Amantle Montsho and Nigel Amos, parents have realised that indeed sport can be a vocation that their children can pursue.
More and more parents are enquiring about what they could do to assist their children to become professional sports players.
But we still have a long way to go especially in terms of getting Batswana parents to offer support in a way that you would see in countries like South Africa where parents watch their children’s training and then have conversations with coaches to see what they could do to assist to help improve their kids’ performance.
Q. What is your proudest career moment?
I can’t point to just one, there are a few.
It was when Botswana won her maiden gold medal at the Commonwealth Games.
I was at the helm of the organisation that took the team to Delhi in 2011 where Amantle won gold.
The fact that Botswana got her first championship medal in any sport during my tenure in 2011 warrants for a proud moment.
The other best moment would be when Botswana got her first Olympic medal (Nigel Amos) also during my tenure in 2012 and the country attaining her first youth championship medal (gold) under my leadership as well.
These are some of the key highlights of my work in sport especially at the BNOC.
Q. The upcoming 2nd African Youth games, what should Batswana know?
Interestingly, when we decided to bid for the games it was not just about sport it was mainly to contribute towards the diversification of the country’s economy because one of the things the Botswana excellence strategy talks about is event based tourism.
We thought bringing 53 countries here would certainly put the spotlight on the country and that it would give us an opportunity to show the world that there is much more to Botswana than wildlife, diamonds and AIDS, BUT to say there is a lot more the country can offer such as decent health and education facilities.
The aim is to use sports as a vehicle to achieve this over- arching objective.
Q. What’s in it for the sport sector?
Sport will benefit because when the games have ended sport facilities would be refurbished.
Furthermore many young people will be inspired to take up sport and we would have brought the business community closer to sport- a link which we hope would be maintained to even benefit the individual national federations.
Q. Aren’t you afraid that the games will be a flop under your leadership?
I never get thoughts of what if it fails because as the organizing committee we know that we have to deliver the games successfully, there is no other choice.
However, that is not to say we have put our faith on some stroke of luck.
We are cognizant of the fact that we need to tick certain boxes for the games to be a success, so we are working around the clock to ensure that this happens.
Q. What are you doing to publicize the games, there seems to be little hype?
I think we have made a phenomenal improvement in terms of being visible.
We now have a few billboards around the city and a few in other parts of the country.
Every week, we have adverts in newspapers which also carry stories about the games and there are jingles on radio.
We have improved our publicity efforts however it can never be enough so we will work to increase our visibility.
Q. What is next for Mr Serufho after the games?
When the games end, I will have 6 months remaining on my contract with the BNOC.
We will then negotiate on whether I stay or not.
Q. This is your time, what do you want to say to The Voice readers?
These are the biggest games that we have ever hosted;
I would like Batswana to know that we all have different roles to play to make them a success.
We could be volunteers, individual donors and sponsors, vendors and even offer support by attending the games in large numbers.
Only a handful of Batswana will be able to make money from the games but know that it is not about making money at this point because if we host the games successfully, we will be in a bigger stead to host bigger games having the possibility of more Batswana making more money