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International collaboration to strengthen sport management exchange program

CPASS faculty are continuing an international partnership to build the capacity of sport and sport related businesses within Zimbabwe. Executives and Board of Directors of the Sport Leadership Institute of Zimbabwe (SLIZ) see the collaboration as a way to improve the quality of life and sport opportunities in their country.

During a visit to the WVU campus this past spring, much of Maradza Mhiribidi and Clara Mukononyanga’s time involved the design and expansion of professional development and short courses related to sport management, athletic coaching, physical education teacher education and sport and exercise psychology disciplines. Long range efforts will incorporate creating a certificate program from a mobile or online platform.

Course focus will include training, professional development and academic degrees at the bachelor and master levels. According to Mhiribidi, they estimate more than 6,000 potential professionals have been trained, having received basic courses offered by SLIZ within their scope of program services.

“These are teachers and professors who volunteer to run a sport league and related areas. They lack a university with credentialed sport faculty, that offers a degree in sport management,” said Mhiribidi, who is a former basketball player and coach. 

Last October, Floyd Jones, associate professor, CPASS Sport Management, conducted a three-day seminar in Zimbabwe for 90 working professionals. As the next step, Jones returned in June to train another introductory group as a prerequisite to enrolling into the program.

Jones has begun discussions with WVU Global Affairs for additional direction regarding the partnership and other university policy decisions.

The ongoing conversation attempts to strengthen the partnership between CPASS sport management faculty and SLIZ. The process will include designing distance-learning courses, promoting exchange programs with faculty and students and expanding sport business capacity in Zimbabwe. Additionally, the collaboration involves training and updating the skill sets of professionals in and around sports, while enhancing the value and performance of SLIZ.

Jones, a creator of African Sport Management Association, met the SLIZ leaders in Kenya at the Physical Education and Health Sport Conference in 2009. They began discussing how to create a partnership to bring sport management education to Zimbabwe.

Mukononyanga, who specializes in computer science, oversees marketing and information technology for SLIZ. “Zimbabwe, specifically, and Africa, in general, are growing their middle class, expanding their commerce and developing more sport related industries that promote international sport competition and entertainment in the country. We hope to invite growing middle class to get their kids to have better quality of life and sport opportunities, but there is a striking lack of opportunity,” she said.  

“WVU is the only university offering to help establish the framework to make this happen. We see this growing population along with the chance for new students, along with the emerging sport business in Zimbabwe,” she added.

“This is a big opportunity for WVU. The Sport Leadership Institute lacks capacity to be effective to develop sport programs in high schools. They seek the framework to develop professional sport industry because of this lack of professionals who know how to do that. WVU is good at that,” said Jones.

“We are very excited. We are progressing and putting the final touches to the partnership,” explained Mukononyanga.

“We want to thank all faculty members in spending time to meet with us. It’s been abstract but now it is worth talking about. We have designed a program structure. We think it will work in Zimbabwe," said Mhiribidi, who holds a bachelor’s degree in physical education and sport..

Initially, the group hopes to enroll 150-200 students, says Mhiribidi. “The outcome will add value to sports industry. It will change the way business is done. This could be a model for other African countries to use,” he added.

“I’ve worked for sport organizations in the country. There are no relevant and properly accredited sport degrees in the country. We see a lack of sport management skills and related opportunities in education,” Mhiribidi said.

“As an institute, people can share ideas and find the solution. We started running sport leadership camps for sport managers. The response to those camps and quest for more knowledge and accreditation grew. We believe we can give our people what they want, an accredited sport management training,” said Mukononyanga.

The group has received support from government organizations and individuals within the sports industry.

 “We are investing in the future of Zimbabwe. And Africa. I think it’s been worth every penny,” said Mhiribidi.
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