OLUSEYI Oyebode’s background in sports was inspired by the level of sporting activities and awareness in the eighties.
He recounts his early experiences and how he started thus: “I vividly recollect many football and athletics programme at the grassroots level which encouraged me into sports developments. I was in class three in 1983 when I started my coaching career as a coach player.
“I usually gather my classmates and junior students then for coaching before joining clubs for mentoring programmes and hence my decision to further seek more knowledge from the Department of Physical and Health Education, University of Lagos in 1994 and later became the University of Lagos student Union head of sports, which emerged as overall winner in the UNILAG NUGA 98.
Oyebode also lead as the director of sports Greensprings School with lots of achievements and participated in the 2003 All African Games as assistant manager in Gymnastics. He was also an alumnus International Olympic Committee, IOC advance sports management course before finally becoming grassroots sports development enthusiast.
On why he decided to embrace sports in school, he said, “I decided to embrace sports in school because of my passion for genuine sports development. Many years ago, I discovered that the bedrock of sports development lies in school sports.
“I discovered love for sports due to the structured events and activities with proper coaching put in place even from primary schools.
“I was fortunate to represent my Primary School then in the 70’s before playing for local clubs in the community. FIFA junior tournaments started in mid-80’s and late 90’s further propagate the interest in school sports because many of the talent discovered then came from the school sports programmes.”
Recounting his experience as a sports director in school, the Unilag graduate reacted thus:
“My experience as a school sports director was overwhelming. My involvement as exposes me to the global perspective of sports development, it enables me to interact with counterparts across the globe. It also gives me the opportunity to develop grassroots sports concept that is now beneficial to many federations and associations today.
One of the major challenge in his experience as a sports director in school was the difficulty at trying to encourage schools to use sports as a tool to develop students’ growth which later encourages parents to subscribe to his philosophy of sports and education.
Consequently, many students in public and private schools have benefited through scholarships and professional sports participation.
Oyebode also laments the fact that sports has not been given enough attention in schools in Nigeria, which he said was due to lack of focus in school sports administration, death of various association and bodies responsible for school sports growths, lack of good trained sports masters and coaches, schools focus on funds generations without actualising the purpose, lack of good structure to supports school sports developments, lack adequate facilities and play ground to engender development in schools and the overall economic situation that has affected every area of our daily lives.
Asked what ignited his interest in school cum grassroots sports, Oyebode said he was able to discover this challenge at the tender stage in his career, which really helped his focus.
“To be involved in school sports, you need to be rugged and dogged and also be resilient. You should be prepared to fail before success. All the above qualities eventually serve as my strength, hence my interest in school sports.”
Oyebode however admitted that in spite of his passion, there were many challenges confronting school sports in Nigeria, saying the challenges were enormous.
“Any nation that fails to invest in her youths will definitely have issues and will kill the morals and passion, not only in sports but in every sphere of life.
“Lack of school sports funding and corruption has become the major bane to school sports development in Nigeria. In addition, the problem with uncoordinated sports growth plans and maladministration. “
He however believes a good structure that encompasses coaching, teaching and administration with a well sorted policy can still change the situation.
“School sports can easily be revived through adequate coordinated plans and genuine efforts from the federal government that will trickle down to the lowest level of school sports organisation in Nigeria.
“There should be DNA of sports development that will engender all areas including teaching, coaching and administration which will lead to a sorted grassroots sports curriculum plans for the purpose. I have discovered over the years that we don’t develop from the root but pick any available grass to use “The greatest enemy of tomorrow’s success is today’s success” hence the need to refocus our sports plans as a nation.
“We need to stop recycling our sports administrator, hence we remain static, and our sports education programme curriculum in our tertiary institutions is not addressing today’s sports’ needs. There is a need for sports policy development that will meet global requirements. A good sports structure that can accommodate 18 months to 18 years will survive.”
For the Physical and Health education graduate, sports in Nigeria still remain below average.
“Though I am aware the current sports minister is doing his best to involve private participation, which to me is a good idea but the questions remains that trust as sustenance is still a great challenge. We need a system that sincerely encourages genuine sports development,” he noted.