GROWING A SPORT
Hoop Dreams — no slam dunks but Basketball South Africa has plans for 2023 and beyond
Despite the popularity of basketball in South Africa, there are challenges for advancing the sport in this country. President of Basketball South Africa Sanele Mthiyane shared his suggestions for developing the game in 2023.
Basketball South Africa (BSA) is predicting a busy year ahead for amplifying the popularity of this sport. So says Sanele Mthiyane, president of BSA and a board member of the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc).
Mthiyane was elected to Sascoc on 26 November 2022 at their Annual General Meeting. The South African basketball community took this as a positive sign for the advancement of the sport, with South Africa’s Basketball National League (BNLSA) saying that Mthiyane’s election “augurs well for basketball”.
Mthiyane had a well-established career in basketball, having been a player, coach and referee. He also served on the KwaZulu-Natal Sports Confederation.
BNLSA is South Africa’s official and semi-professional basketball league, which is part of BSA, according to general manager Dali Dzingwa.
Widely popular and inclusive
Dzingwa labels basketball a “widely popular” sport in South Africa. “In terms of popularity and interest, I would put my head on the block and say that basketball is one of the most popular,” Dzingwa told Daily Maverick.
Dzingwa says this is evidenced through the significant participation of players that he’s witnessed from school to university level. He believes the sport is also inclusive through being popular across genders.
Despite this popularity and inclusivity, he says a lack of funding has prevented basketball from reaching its true potential in South Africa.
Taking the sport further
Mthiyane raised multiple areas that BSA will be focusing on to take the sport further during 2023.
The BSA president also singled out basketball as a developing sports code, but added that administrative challenges have hindered its development in part.
Capacity-building for more administrators will be one of the areas that BSA will focus on during 2023.
“[BSA] still has a long way to go for getting things proper in terms of administration,” Mthiyane told Daily Maverick. More administrators can help with efficiency of BSA’s operations.
Mthiyane says that focusing on youth participation can be a crucial strategy in building administrative capacity.
“If you’ve got a lot of kids playing, then you know there’s going to be a kid who says ‘Dad let’s go and watch a game’. The father will be compelled to watch the game because he will be supporting his kid. And then he too starts to develop a love for basketball,” Mthiyane explains.
In this way, an older generation can also develop a passion for basketball and might be willing to assist in growing the game as administrators.
“Capacity-building for referees and coaches will also be an area that BSA wishes to continue building on,” he says.
Significant work has been done in terms of training referees. Mthiyane says some referees trained as part of a program he helped run in KwaZulu-Natal have moved on to doing international work.
The success rate of coach training is also a source of pride for Mthiyane, which he is hoping to maintain in 2023. With his election to Sascoc, Mthiyane would like to take these programs to a broader national level.
“I’ve been given the responsibility to lead them at a national level,” he states.
Increased game participation
Along with capacity-building, BSA will focus on increasing participation in the game across South Africa. Zoning in on schools and youth will be essential, says Mthiyane.
“The schools are going to be an integral part to advance this development idea. And we are also partnering with the NBA through the Jr NBA program,” he says.
Jr NBA is a program by the National Basketball Association that tries to spark the interest of young people in basketball.
At a higher and more professional level, BSA also wants South African teams to strengthen their international competitive participation.
Key to this is having teams from both women’s and men’s sides to attend more international competitions and to support those teams in their journeys.
As in the past, there have been some missed opportunities for getting local teams to play internationally, according to Mthiyane. BSA aims to strengthen BNL SA and to build stronger provincial leagues.
Stronger pro leagues
BNL hopes to eventually become a fully professional league, but lack of funding is a significant obstacle, says Dzingwa. “Players in the BNL do not necessarily play basketball full-time, they have other jobs or are busy studying.”
Dzingwa says the BNL enters its eleventh playing season in 2023, tentatively expecting to start in February.
“Basketball National League is a special member of Basketball South Africa,” says Mthiyane. “The league remains a strategic structure and an important element for the development of basketball for BSA. There are plans in place to advance the relationship between BSA and BNL SA, which will be officially announced later this year.”
Building stronger leagues can stimulate alternative sources of funding for BSA, like corporate investments. Strengthening the leagues will help make them viable options for investments.
“We rely on the government to do most of the funding,” says Mthiyane, but adds that they hope to move beyond a heavy reliance on government funding.
By balancing mass participation and the development of basketball, and building the capacity for coaches and referees, BSA wants to “ensure that basketball is being played in each and every corner of this country”. DM
Ontong is an intern from Stellenbosch University’s Centre of Journalism and Media Studies honours programme.