Where are the bodybuilders?

HARARE - The National Federation of Zimbabwe Bodybuilding and Fitness (NFZBBF) has managed to achieve considerable successes in recent years. 

Among their success stories is the participation of local athletes on the international scene where they have held their own against strong competition. 

Although a lot of ground seems to have been covered in the local bodybuilding and fitness industry, athlete retention remains the association’s big challenge. 

As the federation prepares for this year’s Novice Championships, we sat down with NFZBBF secretary-general, Quiet Shangai to get to the bottom of the problem. Below are excerpts from the interview:


Q: I understand Novice Zimbabwe is around the corner. What are your expectations? 

A: As usual we expect to recruit a number of athletes as well as other key players like judges, volunteers etc.


Q: Over the years can you say that the federation has done enough with regards to athletes’ recruitment?

A: Yes. Novice has been doing very well as an event but in terms of retaining those athletes for national events, things are not going according to plan. Retaining athletes is a big challenge.


Q: How have you performed with regards to Novice Zimbabwe?

A: If you take a look there is an increase regarding athletes and audience. However, it is the senior men divisions especially the Men’s Physique category which is doing very well at least regarding Novice Zimbabwe.


Q: You highlighted that retaining those athletes is a bit of a challenge. Can you elaborate further?

A: Our goal is to have 90 percent of these athletes doing other events rated national and/or provincial. This is not happening. 

The following data illustrate that not all athletes doing Novice are considering progressing whilst the retention regarding other shows is not as expected. 

Naturally around 120 athletes should have done the Nationals in 2017 and the number could have risen to 160 in 2018. 2019 should be targeting around 200 athletes.


Q: What do you think are the major challenges or factors leading to numbers going down especially at other events other than Novice?

A: There are a number of factors such as the following:

n Retirement. Athletes retire due to various factors (age, work commitments, education, marriage, etc.).

n The sport is expensive; hence very few athletes are able to take to the stage every other season.

n Disgruntlement. Some people do not take defeat easily. They easily get demoralised

n Misunderstanding with regards to how the stage should be approached. This can lead to athletes quitting the sport especially novices.


Q: How do you intend to ensure that most athletes are retained?

A: There are two key strategies targeting the ageing ones and those who are still young. For those ageing we introduced the Masters divisions meant to keep them on stage as they compete with their age mates. 

For those still young we created four classes and are working on a paper to identify their needs and expectations so that we can improve in that regards. We have also introduced categories to try and give every athlete an opportunity to showcase a stage worthy physique.


Q: Can you elaborate on these classes?

A: We have developed four classes namely freshmen/novices, ordinary amateurs, premier amateurs and professionals. 

Professionals will not affect participation at this level but will affect our key performance indicator regarding active professional athletes. Novices are those athletes who have never competed before. 

They expect the federation to afford them an opportunity to compete on their own and learn at the same time. 

They want to understand the sports protocol with regards to bodybuilding and also career progression opportunities available. 

In view of that, the federation should model Novice Zimbabwe with that in mind; hence pre, during and post novice activities must capacitate these athletes. 

Ordinary amateurs are those athletes who are not Novices but are still to develop physiques which are not possibly ready to do damage at regional or international shows rated amateur. 

They need more stage time and education. It is imperative for the system to afford them competition opportunities for example provincial shows. 

Premier amateurs are those athletes who are ready for international and regional shows rated amateur. 

They are good enough to turn professional and are expected to do damage at the Nationals. 

They need exposure to corporates so that they get endorsements and sponsorship. 

As for professional athletes, the Federation should continuously identify professional competitions where these athletes can compete. 

The Federation should also identify competitions where these athletes can guest pose. Furthermore, the Federation should expose these athletes to corporates. Career opportunities such as partnerships in various sectors of the fitness industry should be afforded to these athletes. 


Q: How have you been hosting events? What are your targets this season? 

 A: The number of district shows has gone up and we are very happy. Hopefully in 2019 we will have around 10 district shows. District shows are very important. George Munyoro, Claudius Phiri, Tendayi Chaipa, etc came through district systems. 

We are also expecting to host at least three provincial shows in Harare, Bulawayo, Midlands and Manicaland. 

These provinces which house the four major cities should at least host a provincial show each. 

We are likely to maintain our shows rated national or even combine some to ensure that standards are maintained. 

A show rated national should look like one.

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