By Tadious Manyepo
While the country is making commendable strides to nurture sporting talent in its infancy, little is being done to address the fitness aspect of those athletes.
As sport has become increasingly scientific, incessant calls to develop athletes at grassroots level have always been made as the country aims to perform better on the international scene.
Academies have been formed, with schools and professional clubs coming in handy to complement their efforts in terms of technical and tactical development of the athletes.
But somewhere along the way, the athletes get lost, and always show some yawning gaps in terms of their development even in situations where they have always adhered to academy rules.
They fail to come to the party when they mature to perform at the highest level. In fact, their performances are always suggestive of a crucial phase they would have skipped in their career progression.
And fitness guru, Thompson Matenda, who is also the Warriors strength and conditioning trainer knows the country has what it takes to be on the world sporting map given the abundant talent possessed, but raised concern over the athletes’ physical and mental fitness state.
He argues that most athletes succumb to defeat merely because they lack the right physic.
He says for athletes to fully realise and dish out their potential, they need to have been developed in both skill and strength.
Unfortunately, most mentors are only specialising in polishing skills, ignoring the physical fitness part.
This area has always been the country’s Achilles heel as athletes are ruthlessly exposed in international competitions.
An across the sporting divide survey by The Herald revealed that close to 90.9 percent of the country’’s academies in all sport codes do not invest in physical training staff.
To them, it’s a liability, but they are blind to the fact that it is one of the main hindrances to the full development of their athletes.
One of the famed soccer development project, BN Academy, who have produced stars, some of whom are in Europe admitted that they have no one in their staff who specialises on addressing the physical fitness part of their players.
“We have produced an array of stars who have gone on to illuminate the scene locally, regionally and internationally.
“But, we don’t necessarily have someone who specialises in physically training our players.
“Those who coach the players have the responsibility to address the physical aspects,” said director Bekhimpilo Nyoni.
This is the case with most academies. According to fitness experts, factors like endurance and psychological stamina are not naturally acquired.
They should be part of the athletes’ long term development programme from the time they start horning their skills, which is not the case.
Matenda, who has taken it upon himself to go round the country and train young athletes on fitness issues, believes Zimbabwe has enough talent to conquer the world in every sport, but they lack enough physical and mental fitness.
He reckons that for an athlete to be fully developed, attention should be given to both skill and strength training.
The Harare City fitness trainer says young athletes should be trained in the right physical routine which needs experts in the field as haphazard exercising, which is often wrong can actually be detrimental to performance.
“We always emphasise on doing the right exercise for the right part.
“While exercising is an integral part of performance, it should be noted that doing it in a wrong manner can actually hinder or even reverse growth in terms of what needs be accomplished,” said Matenda.
“Fitness is a science and it should be developed right from the grassroots just at a time when the athletes’ skills are being polished.
“We have a scenario in the country where this important component of the growth spectrum is overlooked only to be appreciated when the athletes progress to the highest level of their career.
“We are saying, this aspect is as important as all other things which need to be developed when the athletes are still in the kiln.”
Today, the former Dynamos staffer, who now runs his own fitness organisation (Thompson Fitness), will be in Kadoma where over 100 prospective athletes converge for a day-long exercise lectures.
The participants have been drawn from academies and schools who have come to the realisation that skill development goes hand in hand with right fitness training.
“There are some academies and schools in Kadoma whose young athletes will gather for a fitness camp to be conducted by Thompson Fitness on Saturday (today)
“It’’s out of the realisation that fitness drills need to be done in a correct manner, with the right attitude and intensity.
“We will be doing camps like these across the country to make sure that this aspect is addressed in the best way possible.”
Matenda’s approach to fitness issues is also shared by sport experts in the country including the Sport Leaders Institute of Zimbabwe.
SLIZ are to hold their 5th edition of the annual summer camp in Nyanga next week where 300 guests, mostly physical training teachers have confirmed their attendance. The organisation are ardent preachers of sport development and have of late been spreading the gospel of correct exercising as a fundamental principle in the growth of young athletes. The Herald.