By James Bakama
ALMOST everyone attached to athletics that happened to be in Rwakitura on Friday left the place with a smile thanks to President Yoweri Museveni’s generosity. Museveni, visibly in a good mood, gave away close to two billion shillings.
This was in cash prizes, a promise of money to organize next year’s Africa Cross-country Championship plus a reward for Stephen Kiprotich.
Kiprotich received sh10m, the same amount given to each of the 12 athletes that featured in the just concluded World Championship.
The Kapchorwa-born Kiprotich was also rewarded with a car and house for winning a gold medal in Moscow, Russia.
But amidst these rewards, there was a group of people glaringly left out. The coaches were missing.
Athletes perform best if well guided. The responsibility of ensuring that the athlete delivers lies largely on the coach.
Kiprotich is shining today, not only because of his talent, but also due to the input of his coaches Patrick Sang and Richard Metu.
Earlier on, it was Moses Kipsiro in the headlines because of coach Johnson Kasaja. But despite the spadework, coaches are always neglected in Uganda.
Neither does the world body IAAF nor the agents that share billions of shillings with athletes ever consider the coaches.
Kenya is athletics giant largely because of the close attention paid to coaches by their government.
Up to the early seventies, Uganda used to beat Kenya in athletics because of a resident British coach Malcolm Arnold.
Arnold, well catered for by Uganda, laid the foundation that brought forth super talents like John Akii-Bua, Judith Ayaa and Ruth Kyalisiima.
Well aware that Arnold’s stint wouldn’t last forever, Kenya also recruited a Briton John Velzian. Velzian’s mission was specific –– to end Uganda’s dominance.
To ensure that the best was made of Velzian, Kenya not only gave him comfort, but also assured him of permanent stay in the East African state if he so wished. The results are there for everyone to see today.
So, as Museveni rewards the athletes, he should also remember the coaches. That, shouldn’t be hard, as the president has already demonstrated that he listens.
When Kiprotich won Olympic gold last year, Museveni only rewarded the champion. This, did not go down well with the rest of the team.
The other team members left State House in Entebbe grumbling. Museveni took note and this time rewarded all the 12 athletes that travelled to Russia.
So, likewise it is not too late to also reward the coaches.