Prioritise sports as a strategic objective at Unam

Vincent Shimutwikeni
Sports has long played a significant role in the lives of students and the community alike at the University of Namibia.
Integrating sports as a strategic objective holds the potential to yield numerous benefits beyond the traditional boundaries of the playing field. The University should elevate sports to a more prominent position and prioritize it in its strategic plan.
After almost every weekend, you may open any local newspaper, watch daily news or check your social media feeds to see coverage of Unam’s sports successes.
FNB Unam men’s squad has won the Namibia Rugby Union’s Premier League four times since 2015, establishing themselves as a dominant force. Namibia’s squad at the 2023 World Cup in France contained eight current or former Unam players.
Unam won the inaugural NRU women’s 15s rugby league in 2023 – a historic milestone.
In 2017, the Unam ladies’ displayed their brilliance by winning the Bank Windhoek Field Hockey Premier League.
Unam has won the Khomas Basketball Association League and the Independence Cup, while its netball squad shone brightly by collecting silverware in the 2023 Super 10 and has won the Khomas league at least three times. Over the years, some netball players have been selected for the national team.
Unam Athletics Club proudly sent three of its athletes to represent Namibia at the Botswana Golden Grand Prix.
The Unam Football Club reached the finals of the Bidvest Cup in 2015. In 2017-2018 they secured third position and continue to make strides in the Namibia Premier League.
However, the University’s reviewed Institutional Strategic Plan 2019-2024 sadly does not speak to the enhancement of sport, neither are there any other key policies which speak to sports on a strategic level.
Sport plays a crucial role in the holistic development of students. The University of Pretoria’s focus on sport development and their world-renowned High-Performance Centre, is a major drawcard for student-athletes to study there.
Their priorities for UP2025 Strategy relating to sports include providing access to qualifying student athletes, supporting student-athletes on an educational and coaching level to ensure their success, leveraging sports science research, and transforming the university into one with a reputation for excellence that has a positive impact on society.
Proponents may argue the primary focus of universities should be on academia; however, the integration of sports as a strategic imperative remains crucial. By adopting a well-balanced approach that incorporates sports into a university’s strategic blueprint, a more dynamic and comprehensive educational environment can be cultivated.
This approach not only improves student recruitment and retention (attracting high-caliber students), but also fortifies alumni relations and generates revenue. Sports fosters a strong sense of belonging among students and offers a deciding factor for prospective students when considering which institution to join for their studies.
Sports at Unam presently garners significant media attention, elevating the university’s visibility on both national and international fronts.

As Unam formulates its post-2024 Institutional strategic plan, it should strive to establish sports and physical activity as a pivotal factor in achieving its goals of enhancing and elevating the university’s standing within the realm of sports, at local, national, and international levels.
This objective should be realized through excellence in teaching, cutting-edge research, active industry engagement, and effective commercialization efforts.
Unam should actively explore and take a pioneering role in promoting international partnerships with universities focused on sports. It should also lead in forging research collaborations, both nationally and globally, in the field of sports.
Moreover, Unam should assume a role as a thought leader on topics encompassing genetics and human performance, sports engagement, and equity and inclusion in the world of sports.
Viewing sports as a central strategic objective involves acknowledging the importance of sports in realizing broader university goals. To make this approach effective, the objective must be formally integrated into the institution’s framework.
All in all, ensuring alignment with various internal functions and departments within the university will be crucial. This involves finance securing sufficient financial resources to enhance sports programs, estate services focusing on upgrading Unam facilities to world-class standards through renovations and expansions, and academia, especially in fields such as the sciences, conducting research to advance knowledge in sports-related areas, among others.
It is essential to acknowledge that without making sports a strategic imperative, Unam’s sports programs may struggle to thrive in the highly competitive and ever-changing sports industry landscape.
• Abridged. Vincent Shimutwikeni is a Legal and Compliance Officer at the University of Namibia and a sports enthusiast. He writes this opinion in his personal capacity.