Holistic approach to high performance training key

Ndeulipula Hamutumwa

MY previous article spoke of the need to ensure that as a Nation that desires to compete regionally and internationally in various sport codes, there is a need to develop an effective talent management program for the sport sector. This program should aim to identify talent as early as possible in order to develop and mold similar athletes such Helalia Johannes and Jonas Junias as an example. Equally, the conversation should extend towards how we go about preparing athletes for international competitions where they compete against other athletes that take sport as a fulltime career.

Over the past 29 years, the sport industry has prepared elite athletes in a certain manner that may be considered as a high performance program especially the swimming, boxing, athletics and cycling codes. A high performance program entails preparing athletes both physically, mentally and emotionally for competitions. The Namibian norm has been to (a) send athletes to other countries to train prior to Games/Competitions and (b) training camps are held very near to the Games/Competitions.

In terms of the above-mentioned training model, there is a need to review its effectiveness due to the fact that it has predominantly been focused on the physical training with less emphasis on the psycho-emotional aspect.

There is a need to start thinking of the athletes as a whole. In order for the athletes to perform well coming from a society that has broken homes, high poverty levels, high income inequality, gender-based violence, substance and alcohol abuse, poor sporting infrastructure and very low investment in sport.

We need to holistically prepare the athlete. And can be done through incorporating a personal and team effectiveness aspect to the high performance model. This program will start to prepare the athlete as early as 12 months prior to major Games/competitions by assessing their levels of psycho-emotional states as well as mental fitness to determine their readiness for such competitions. Various assessments within the psychological assessment field can be used to increase the effectiveness of the program. This will allow athletes to obtain their optimal performance levels. Whilst the Nation is only recognizing Helalia Johannes’ stellar performance, she too had to deal with her emotional state of her mind.  Her long term coach Robert Kaxuxwena was recently quoted saying that “Johannes had to overcome fear.…she is mentally prepared and fit”.  One of the priority team sport also suffered a similar ordeal. At the just ended AFCON Hockey tournament in South Africa, the Namibia national man team coach Trevor Cormack was also recently quoted saying “I think the boys were a bit nervous and couldn’t finish off their moves and let in two silly goals. I think they were a bit inexperienced, and we must now regroup and fix our mistakes”. The above examples demonstrate and illustrate that a lot needs to be done to the mental and emotional preparedness of our athletes before local and international Games/competitions.

It is imperative to emphasize that creating a high performance sport environment is a fundamental building block for any nation. The creation of this environment can be a challenge for any national and sport leader, and generally requires considerable amounts of observation, perseverance, innovation, team work, government support, investment, international exposure and most importantly, organizational buy-in. The world’s most successful sporting nations have all found a unique formula that works for them.

Therefore, changing our high performance training philosophy is vital if we desire results at Games/competitions such World Cups and Olympics to mention but a few. The new game plan will fast-track our desired sport goals as envisaged in NDP5.