During the day, I grow companies by helping them boost revenue. Why can’t I do the same in growing basketball in Tanzania?
The business of things stays the same
Way back when, while I was entering college at Auburn and having to declare a major, I picked construction management. This was peak boom and pre-GFC. I spoke to my dad about my main concern however: I wasn’t sure I wanted to be the “on-site” guy. Come one, my hands were too soft to carry around a hammer.*
(*Note: this is a bit ironic as in the time since, I have made a name for myself in my career by being dropped in for boots-on-the-ground management in some fairly remote outposts to a fair bit of success)
My dad’s rebuttal has stuck with me: I wasn’t getting into the building side of things, but the business of construction. There are similar needs no matter the sector, I was just choosing to dig deeper in the day to day workings of the construction industry.
A vast majority of my consulting uses the same framework, regardless of the industry. The same thing that drives revenue in one business have a lot of carry over to another.
Waking the sleeping giant
Having just landed in Tanzania, I wanted to literally hit the ground running. One of the main reasons for moving back was to make an impact and one of my areas of competency is basketball. I reached out a number of weeks ago to the President of Basketball Tanzania and asked what I could do to help.
Honestly, I was surprised when he got back.
Today, less than 24 hours in the country, I met with the President of the federation, the BT’s Secretary General, and the Director of Coaching. For two hours we shared a passion for the game that crosses generational and continental boundaries.
In a country of 60 million people, Tanzania has underperformed regionally in the sport during the past few decades. But it is not their fault. With the limited resources the federation has at its disposal, the massive size of this country almost hurt. If and when things start clicking however, the basketballing world better be on notice.
How would I deal with a company begging for growth?
In many ways, this is not about basketball...it is about the business of basketball. It is about building a foundation that allows the grassroot efforts to flourish. If I was walking into a business that needed help getting over the hump, these are some of the things that I would tell them:
The members of the federation are smart and enthusiastic. They have a drive to improve the sport here. What is needed however, is a plan and process for growing the coaching base. We discussed developing a plan to layout coaching goals at each age group that build on each other. This way there is a standardised way across the board to both coach and player development.
Before reading this, did you even know that you could help out a country’s sports program? I didn’t until recently.
While the federation may currently lack resources, it doesn’t have to stay that way. There are regional and international companies and individuals that are willing to help. We plan on putting together a plan on what it takes to grow the sport across the country. Down to the cost of a new rim installed halfway across the country. Understanding what help looks like removes friction from receiving the help.
Basketball in Tanzania must build on its own successes. It is a cycle: success breeds resources, resources allow for development, and development creates success. It is a matter of getting that process started with what is available.
A couple very important things to note
I am very excited to help the federation, but I must make clear a few things.
First off, there have been men and women who have worked their butts off for years to help grow the sport in this country. I am not the muzungu (Swaheli for white guy) riding in with all the answers. I am only a tiny resource that has a passion for growth.
I am a volunteer, not a glory hunter. Right now, I have some free time and some ideas, and that is welcomed. I also plan on being in-country for at least a few years: so this is not some fly-in, fly-out feel good instagram opportunity.
This is also an incremental battle that is about the future. Nothing is happening overnight. This may be a good time to cue Rick Pitino’s “Larry Bird is not walking through that door” rant. Instead, the Tanzanian Larry Bird must develop through the programs that the federation puts together.
It is a long term goal, but I want to help make basketball in Tanzania the number 1 sport in the country by 2030!
By the way: if you have any desire helping out in any way, please let me know.