Grassroots Sports : The key to sports excellence

By Shelly Guni

Grassroots sport development is a fundamental pillar in building a strong foundation for any sport. It encompasses the essential process of identifying and nurturing young talent at the grassroots level, equipping them with the necessary tools and resources to excel in their chosen athletic pursuits.

The significance of grassroots development in sport cannot be overstated. It serves as the gateway to discovering and cultivating future champions. Without this vital process, countless gifted athletes would remain undiscovered, and their true potential would go unrealized.

Moreover, grassroots development plays a pivotal role in fostering diversity and inclusivity within the realm of sports. By providing young individuals from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds and ethnicities with the opportunity to engage in sports, it paves the way for a fair and inclusive society. It creates a level playing field where talent knows no bounds, and individuals from all walks of life can participate and thrive.

For any sport to thrive and succeed, grassroots development is an absolute necessity. It serves as a platform for budding athletes to showcase their skills and abilities while simultaneously promoting fairness, inclusivity, and diversity. It acts as a catalyst, propelling the growth and progress of the sport as a whole.

Renowned talent scout and performance analyst, Kudzai Chitima, recognizes grassroots development as the crucial ignition needed to yield tangible and impactful results. Through this process, aspiring athletes are provided with the guidance and support required to nurture their potential, enabling them to reach new heights of achievement.

“Grassroots development is like cooking oil when trying to cook a relish. It helps players develop the required skills at different levels of their growth, which are important in creating an elite or quality player,” he said.

Stages of grassroots sports

He went on to say: “For example, in football, there are four main stages that a player has to go through in grassroots development.

“Stage 1: Fundamentals (U5-U7) An athlete has fun, enjoys being with others, and knows how to be in a group.

“Stage 2: Learning to Train (U9-U13), Development of Technical Skills

“Stage 3: Training to Compete (U15–17), Taught the tactical aspect of the game as well as the physical aspects.

Stage 4: Competing to Win (U19–U23)

“So, lack of grassroots development will produce half-baked products, and those that won’t make it professionally or cannot transition to become 1st team or national team players

“So, it is imperative to have all stages of development done so that we produce a quality player,” he said.

“Research shows that to be a professional player, you have to undergo the 10000-hour rule.

FIFA urges grassroots sports

FIFA, the international governing body for football, has long recognized the importance of grassroots sports in nurturing talent and fostering the growth of the sport worldwide.

With a firm belief that the foundation of any successful sporting endeavor lies in the development of young athletes at the grassroots level, FIFA has been actively encouraging and promoting grassroots sports initiatives across the globe.

By urging the focus and investment in grassroots sports, FIFA aims to unlock the potential of aspiring athletes, enhance community engagement, and pave the way for a brighter future in the world of sports

“The FIFA Head of Global Development too said that if a player has not been able to grasp the technical aspect of the game by the age of 13, you can be guaranteed that that player won’t make it professionally.

“In national teams, if you have a weak U15, U17, or U20, there is a very high probability that your national team gets poorer because junior national teams feed into the 1st team.

“So, grassroots development is the oxygen in a fire.”

Moreover, grassroots development helps create a culture of sportsmanship and fair play.

When young athletes are taught the values of teamwork, discipline, and respect for opponents from an early age, they are more likely to carry these values into adulthood.

Chitima believes a lot should be done, with the governments allocating more funds to creating grassroots programs since they will benefit both the participants and society as a whole in the long run.

“We need to go back to the basics. Let’s give grassroots development the resources it deserves so that we can create better-quality players. The resources include infrastructural and, more importantly, human resources.

“Quality coaches to teach and train the kids so that they master all concepts of the four-corner model

“A quality player is the result of quality scouting, development, and coaching in a high-performance environment.”

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