Sport, Education and Leadership: What Can be Achieved

By Lolade Adewuyi

Presented at The Business of Education Conference Organised by at Nelo’s Place, Ikeja, Lagos on  October 12, 2017

Good morning ladies and gentlemen.

It is a pleasure to stand before you to talk about sport, a topic of great passion. Just yesterday I was in Abuja at the Nigeria Economic Summit where Sport as a Business was the topic of discussion at one of the breakout sessions. Nigeria is trying to figure out what sport is in order to define it and ensure it works for us economically.

And today, I get to speak about sport to this very reputable gathering of education leaders in our dear state. Our proprietors, principals and teachers are the strong threads that bind our society and keep our values alive. Without you, where would we be today? Without your hard work and effort, our children would be poorer.

Therefore, I salute your work – each and every one of you. Please give yourselves a round of applause for the brilliant work you are doing.

In recent months I have become a kind of sports evangelist, like my friend Parth Kalke has put on his LinkedIn page. Since my return from studying for a Masters’ degree in sport, I have come to see sport as a solution to many things ailing our country. If you have a headache, do sport. If you feel bloated, do sport. If you want to go to heaven, do sport.

I think sport offers schools and school leaders several benefits that can help to better manage today’s young students.

While my trip to Abuja was to look at sport as a business, my talk today will encompass sport as business and sport as physical participation. So you will be getting the best of two worlds.

Let me start with sport as physical participation.

As the years roll by, Nigerian school children are spending less time doing physical activity. Instead, they spend time in front of the television, with video games as well as on homework.

Unlike many of us from the older generation, today’s children are likely never to play football down the street with their friends because their parents are afraid they may be kidnapped or hit by a car or okada while crossing the road.

So parents keep them locked inside the house or estate. With many estates lacking adequate spaces for sports, our children are denied an opportunity of growing up as social beings.

Where the school used to offer the playground for children to play, many of our schools today lack proper grounds for sport. And where they are available, students are restricted to two-three hours a week for physical practice.

My remit is that school leaders must begin to create a greater amount of time for children to practice sport. How do we intend to raise world-class athletes if we do not allow children adequate time on the playground?

While it is not my plan to tell you the length of time to offer your pupils on the playground, it is my hope that you will increase the frequency of sports practice.

Nigeria’s decline in sport has coincided with an increased focus on classroom learning against all-around learning. Many parents are seeing more homework being brought by their children these days than when I was growing up.

As we try to catch up with the West and China, we must also ensure to build strong bodies for the minds that we are creating. Is it any wonder that these countries are also the most successful at the Olympic Games?

They understand that classroom learning and physical activity work hand in hand.

Here are a few things that sport does for young people:

  1. Sport helps to prevent sicknesses and diseases.
  2. Sport helps to improve leadership and problem-solving skills.
  3. Sport helps to ensure competitiveness and competence.
  4. Sport helps to engender cooperation and emotional maturity.
  5. Sport helps to improve social skills

Therefore, when we deny our young students the opportunity to practice sport, we reduce their social skills and ensure they cannot develop the competitive edge that is needed in today’s environment.

I would quickly like to move to the second part of my talk – sport as a business. With the number of children present in your care, schools could become a major part of the push that we need to grow sports business in Nigeria.

The more opportunities that you create for your pupils to compete, the greater there will be a demand for sports clothing, shoes, balls and other equipment. You will be unwittingly helping to create business for everyone that works in sports – referees, equipment sellers, sports facility managers, sports media, etc.

That is why I told you that I have become a sports evangelist.

One way that I think schools can become a lot more involved in creating opportunities for sports and then bringing up sportsmen and women for Nigeria is through conferencing.

You do not need to wait for the inter-house sports season or the annual Principals Cup or school relays to compete. 10 schools in a particular area can form themselves into a conference and compete against each other over three months in different sports.

This way you will ensure that students have goals to work towards. This will keep them busy and give them a sense of pride in defending the colours of the school.

Many of the greatest school rivalries were not formed over who has the best WAEC or JAMB results but over bragging rights on sports results. That is what sport can do.

And while these activities increase in pockets all over the state, you will be helping to grow the sports ecosystem as demand for goods and services increase.

As school leaders, your decision to increase sport activities in your domains means a lot for several people, including yourselves. Engaged students mean fewer agitations and unruly behaviour. Active students mean stronger bodies and less time spent in the sick bay. More sport means more business for all.

I thank you for your time.

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