Jola-jola’s jolly moment
The Botswana Integrated Sports Association (BISA) and Botswana Primary Schools Sports Association (BOPSSA) team that just returned from the Confederation of Southern African Schools Sports Association (COSASSA) Games in eSwatini will go down in history as one of the best ever assembled.
Team Botswana were the toast of the four-day event, dominating both short sprints and relays.
The team even ventured into unknown territory, stealing medals in some field events which over the years were the domain of the Namibians.
Team BW’s Chef de Mission and BISA President, Joshua ‘Jola-Jola’ Gaothobogwe sis adamant that after falling behind Zimbabwe and Namibia in recent years, the victory in eSwatini is worth celebrating.
The 49-year-old described it as a ‘sweet moment’ and a deserved pat on the back for teachers who spent hours readying these young athletes for the competitions.
In this interview, an elated Gaothobogwe fields questions from Voice Reporter Kabelo Dipholo.
Q. You have been the face of BISA for some time. Kindly share with our readers, who is Mr Gaothobogwe?
A. My Name is Joshua Gaothobogwe, born in Mahalapye on the 22nd December 1969.
I started my primary school in Mahalapye and ended my secondary school in Madiba Senior Secondary School in 1990.
I then went to Molepolole College of Education to do my Diploma in Secondary Education.
I started teaching Mathematics in 1996.
I am also Senior Teacher 1 Sports at my school, Ramotswa JSS.
Q. Kindly take us through your journey with BISA?
A. I started in BISA as a coach at the beginning of my teaching career.
Later on I became a technical official or umpire for both athletics and football.
I was once a starter at the National Finals Athletics.
But before that I used to be part of a team that organised trips to follow BISA athletics team as it competed in the COSSASA championships.
When COSSASA started in 1999 in Windhoek, I was there with Chris Chikwakwa and Eric Letsogile Ditau and other comrades.
We financed these trips from our pockets!
We were in Cape Town in 2000 and Harare in 2001 when Amantle Montsho broke into the COSSASA team.
In 2001, I became the Zone Organiser South Central.
I was a BISA COSSASA team coach from 2002 -2004.
I was a Zone Organiser for South at some point and acted as National Organiser Athletics.
I became the BISA Vice President in 2011 up to 2013.
I became the President in 2014 till now.
Q. Wow, quite a journey! Botswana are the 2019 COSASSA Athletics Champions, beating the highly fancied Zimbabwe and Namibia. What did you do differently this time around which ensured you came up tops?
A. Botswana has always done well in athletics. However this year’s success was sweet as it came after so many near misses.
We have suffered at the hands of Zimbabwe and Namibia.
This year’s national finals were a huge success in terms of talent display.
So we capitalised on that and had very good coaches identified to train the team.
We camped in Matsiloje in a secluded area.
It worked wonders as the team was more focused.
Q. As the Head of Delegation, what was your role in eSwatini?
A. My role was to ensure that the team prepared well for the competition, travelled to the competition, competed and travelled back to Botswana.
But above all, the team should uphold the good name of the Republic of Botswana.
I also served as a representative of the country at the competition.
Q. You are at the heart of sports grassroots development in Botswana. What are the challenges you face in nurturing young talent?
A. As somebody at the heart of sports grassroots development in schools there are many challenges that we face in trying to nurture talent.
These include, but not limited to, academics versus sports, cost of running sports, employer and employee issues.
Q. Teachers have for many years been volunteering to take up sporting activities. What do you think should be done differently to ensure they bring out the best out of athletes?
A. Teachers cannot stop volunteering to coach students.
They have been doing that for so many years.
There is a need however for us to have a different approach to sports development as a country.
We need to copy the good practices from other countries.
Q. Local officials and team coaches had to make a human wall in Swaziland to stop a race as they felt organisers were disadvantaging Botswana. How fair is officiating at COSASSA Games?
A. There was a human wall during the COSSASA competitions, which was regrettable.
It was not the right way to go.
There were some inconsistencies yes in officiating but it didn’t call for such behaviour.
There are challenges pertaining to officiating but it is dependent on which country hosts as standards are not the same.
Q. Botswana’s dominance in the short sprints was once again evident in eSwatini. What is it that the country is doing right?
A. Botswana is dominating in sprints because of the quality of coaches we have in schools.
Credit should also go to Botswana Athletics Association.
Furthermore, there are certain regions of the country which have naturally talented athletes, North and North West.
However, it doesn’t imply that other regions are not contributing good athletes.
Q. You’ve also made progress in field events as seen by success in both high, long and triple jump. What can we attribute this success to?
A. We have made progress in field events where we are now able to compete almost equally with Namibia.
However, we still have a long way to go. But more coaches are being trained on these codes.
As for high jump, we have been doing well as a country.
Again the BAA has done well to train our people in schools.
Q. How important are teachers in Botswana’s sports development initiatives?
A. Teachers are a critical component of school sports development across the globe.
Nobody should ever think that school sports is possible without teachers.
However, they are usually misunderstood as people who could do their job for free.
Q. A lot of athletes do well in both BISA and BOPSSA but only a small number of them turn professional? How can this be corrected?
A. Athletes do well in BISA and BOPSSA but the rest of them are lost on the way.
That is normal as they will choose different career paths once they finish secondary education.
But the main reason is that we do not have a clear programme as a country that seeks to develop them until they reach their potential at national levels.
We need a programme which is adequately funded and monitored so that they are not lost on the way.
We should not put academics ahead of everything.
It stigmatises athletes who are academically challenged.
Q. Any reason why South Africa has been missing in the COSASSA Games?
A. We are not sure why South Africa is not taking part at COSSASA as it has not been announced officially to us.
But they have not been taking part for almost ten years now.
Q. During the opening ceremony of the National Finals in Francistown you were critical of the Ministry of Basic Education for not doing enough to ensure excellence in sports. Do you still hold this view? Are you not worried that you could be victimised for such utterances?
A. During our National Finals in Francistown, I raised issues which make it difficult for us to run school sports.
To me it was never an attack on the Ministry.
We have consistently engaged the Ministry and they have always assisted where they can and at the same time they share with us the challenges they are facing in trying to fund school sports activities.
But I needed other people to appreciate our challenges as some think we are failing to run school sports and do not know our challenges.
I do not think my remarks will warrant any call to order.
Q. BISA and BOPSSA have similar mandates. Is there a possibility of a merger in the near future?
A. BISA and BOPSSA are doing the same thing that is why we run one national final.
As for merging, if ever it happens, maybe it will be an advice from the Ministry.
For now we shall continue as independent entities.
Q. Thanks for taking time from your busy schedule to field questions. But before we part ways, Thank God It’s Friday, what do you have planned for this week?
A. Finally after three hectic weeks with the team I might have to dash into space for a breather.