Several teachers who double up as coaches for their school teams have urged Debmarine and other corporates to consider ways through which to continue nurturing young talent.
Teachers hailing from various regions expressed these sentiments during the just-ended Bridging the Gap Schools tournament, which took place in Windhoek over the weekend.
The youth tournament drew approximately 45 000 students from all 14 regions of Namibia. After two gruelling days, Kunene emerged as the football champions for the first time, defeating the //Kharas region in the finals, while Oshana secured the bronze medal.
On the other hand, the host region of Khomas dominated in athletics, claiming the gold medal, with Otjozondjupa and Omusati securing silver and bronze, respectively. In netball, Khomas secured the gold after defeating Omahake in the finals, with Kavango East taking third place.
Despite all the good moments, teachers expressed concerns that while numerous sporting activities occur at primary school level, opportunities become scarce once pupils transition to secondary school competitions. The teachers emphasised that this scarcity hampers talent development and called for another competition to support the continued nurturing of specific talents.
New Era Sport spoke to Makone Hynziatha Ipotseng, the Omaheke region netball team coach, who guided them to second place and she applauded Debmarine for providing a platform for young athletes to showcase their talents.
She noted that such tournaments not only offer opportunities for talent showcases but also contribute to boosting self-esteem through cultural exchanges.
“These tournaments are crucial for the pupils as they provide an opportunity to test their talents at the highest level. Playing at the national level feels like competing on a big stage, which is essential for their talent development,” Ipotseng stated.
“Such competitions also open doors to scouts and potential scholarship offers for the top-performing individuals. Additionally, we must recognise how these tournaments boost learners’ self-esteem.”
However, Ipotseng pointed out that despite the remarkable platform provided for pupils to showcase their talents, there remains a need for additional competitions to continue nurturing that talent.
“We had exceptional talent from last year’s edition in Swakopmund, but some of them could not participate this year due to age restrictions, preventing them from competing in school competitions. Often, talent is lost after primary school, and we fail to recover it due to a lack of competition at the secondary level. “We appeal to Debmarine and other corporations to organise a tournament of this magnitude at the secondary level to sustain the nurturing of talents at that stage,” she said.
Shirley Gertzee, coach of the winning Khomas netball team, echoed these sentiments, emphasising that the absence of tournaments at secondary school level hampers the continuous development of talent.
“I am satisfied with the amount of talent this competition has exposed, not only among the players but also the coaches. Many coaches appreciate this opportunity,” Gertzee remarked. “It would be ideal to see more competitions of this nature introduced at both the secondary and primary levels. This would enable us to groom talent from as early as seven years old.”
More umpires should be trained.
Irvine Ndjavera, deputy director of School and Community Sport in the Sports Ministry, called for the training of more referees and umpires at the school level. He made this suggestion during the award ceremony at Independence Stadium, where he observed netball games being officiated by young umpires under the guidance of Netball Namibia (NN) national umpires.
Ndjavera suggested that young, passionate umpires be trained at school level, providing them with opportunities to pursue their talents from a young age.
The Debmarine Bridging the Gap initiative was launched in 2019 but couldn’t proceed in the following years due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, the competition was relaunched last year after a two-year hiatus.
Debmarine Namibia and Namibia Schools Sports Union (NSSU) announced it would bring the school competition back and inject in an amount of N$3 million for two years.
The tournament caters to U/15 and U/17 children in various sports disciplines.