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How to restart sports amid COVID-19 pandemic

By Mariam Mell’Osiime Mpaata

Added 21st June 2020 02:55 PM

Managing ourselves after the Covid–19 pandemic is never going to be an easy task, as no body envisaged ourselves in situations like this.

How to restart sports amid COVID-19 pandemic

Mariam Mell’Osiime Mpaata

Managing ourselves after the Covid–19 pandemic is never going to be an easy task, as no body envisaged ourselves in situations like this.

The past months have been hectic with sectors of our lives affected. Sports, like other sectors, has suffered a major blow as well, sports programmes disrupted and catching many unawares, leading to losses running into billions of dollars.

Here in Africa, apart from big clubs and federations, the sting trickles down to the non-profit sports organisations, local sports groups, and sports academies.

These are programmes that play a vital role in our society, for apart from helping us to curb social evils by engaging millions of youth in productive sports and mentorship programmes, they also provide platforms for delivery of vital messages within society like peace, disease prevention, and poverty alleviation which, according to United Nations, can be summed up as the Sustainable Development Goals.

In fact, there is always a link between the success stories of many sports professionals and grassroots sports institutions operating in our backyards.

Now, as economies show signs of opening up, there are several questions that come to the fore, especially now that all the major sources of income have been affected, be it, student player subscriptions, sponsors, donations, or government funds.

Just how can we get back on our feet? Is it possible to ever stand upright the way we used to before the coronavirus? Can we do better?
While we agree that these questions have no obvious answers, there are a few tips we can hold onto, first, to survive, then to get some energy to bounce back to our feet.

l As you plan to reopen, revisit your monthly/annual budget and eliminate expenditure of which is not indispensable. If possible, find cheaper alternatives like office space, or training grounds. It might also be a good decision to cut the number of sessions offered until you stabilise. Stick to the items that contribute directly to your core business.

Look out for opportunities to collaborate and network with like-minded programmes, if possible, discuss cost-sharing on knowledge, office space, or field until you both stabilise.

-This is also a good time to reinvent the wheel, think about ideas that can propel you through the next level.

Adding new elements into the programme can lead to new excitement and possibly new enrolments and partnerships. Because what you do is for the good of community, it is also good to tap into volunteer relationships, by inviting volunteers with different expertise to help invent or shape the new ideas.

-Advertise. The experts in marketing tell us that when business is good you should advertise, when business is bad, you must advertise. Currently the cheapest way to advertise now is social media. This is the best time to keep active on social media, find interesting things to remind the public that you are still interested in providing service. Show your concern for what is happening and eagerness to reunite with the players.

-If by any chance you did not move out of your rented space, and have accumulated rent arrears through non-payment of rent, now is the good time to discuss your repayment plan. Do not wait until it is too late. Prioritise official discussions with your creditors for leniency.

-Plan for placement of safety and hygiene measures like providing water points during the sessions. It might also be a good idea to host different teams on different timings to avoid over-crowding in the centres. This will create confidence in the parents and players. Safety First.

-If you are not financially very comfortable, do not go into Capital developments yet, concentrate on survival first. You need to survive to grow, but you cannot grow when you are no more.

-Seek for alternative sources of income. If your programme owns extra land, it would be a great time to think about utilising this land either through farming or renting it out to those who can farm. Depending entirely on sponsorship or donations is ill advised, it is important to work towards self-sustaining programmes that in such times when support does not come your way, you always have what to keep you going.

-Re-think in terms of Strategy. It is important to acknowledge, especially if you were struggling even before the pandemic, that some strategies are not cast in stone. A good entrepreneur is also one who recognises that if some things cannot be redeemed, it's time to let go and find something else that can work. There is no shame in starting a new chapter or taking a break to re-birth yourself.

-Be open to your staff about the institution's financial situation. Try not to lose your valuable staff. Let them not operate as outsiders. Make them feel part of the solution and not the problem by involving them in the discussions and decisions. It is also good to take advantage of the ongoing global online discussions to enrich yourself and your staff on various sports topics at hand.

-Keep your players connected even when they are not physically together. The sense of belonging to a team keeps a player available. You can also think about doing some digital lessons to your players in effort to reduce many physical meetings as well as familiarisation of the online space that will be a favourite for many. Encourage your players to send in recorded sessions which can be shared amongst others.

The writer is a sports activist, with a master's in sports management from Real Madrid Graduate School.

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