A few times over the years I have participated in this conference. It has never been particularly fruitful for MYO. Each time I present, I urge sport practitioners to consider that sport for its own sake is not development in any meaningful sense. Sport certainly can put a lot of smiles on young faces, and it can encourage a healthy lifestyle (obesity is a growing problem in Africa), but it no way will it help a young person to move beyond their impoverished environment.
At MYO, I have always advocated a combined sport and academic approach. In our early years, Alta and later Beverly, coached our kids in tennis. So our programming included blocks of time each day for academics and for tennis instruction. It was a great fit and our kids excelled both in academics and in sport. But in some ways, we became a victim of our success in sport. Our kids quickly became very good at tennis. So good that at one time, we had around 5 of the top ten female players in the country at various age groups. But running a high end tennis program becomes expensive very quickly. Once Alta and Beverly moved on our coaching fees increased. We had to pay more for court time and rackets and equipment and appropriate attire for the kids for tournaments.
Eventually, we chose to drop tennis. It was simply the case that our budget was swinging to disproportionately favor the sport component. We have a very good music program which helps balance our programming, but I still wish we could find a way to combine sport again.
Anyway, my point at being at this conference is not to attack the sport practitioners operating model as much as to suggest if we partnered we could get better results in a more financially efficient manner. But as I said, we have never really gained much traction here. But now, with our main funding partners pulling back significantly, MYO is in a dire position and we must find new revenue sources.
So I am heading to Lusaka to beg and plead for money.
When I think of MYO, and especially in the early years when I was deeply involved and running all the daily operations, I always think of Paulina–and so her image appears a lot in my thoughts and in my publications. I have never gotten over her death.
I completed my visa application for Zambia this weekend and was prepared to wait weeks and perhaps not even have it in time for the conference. Or more likely, a long back-and-forth exchange of their continually asking for more information. But alas, two days after submitting, I received my approval. I guess my check cleared.