• To be able to manage your success efficiently, you need to know who you are-Kibe
• The prevailing coronavirus pandemic was an opportunity to speak about players' mental health and how to translate the same into success.
That the 17th edition of the Sportsperson of the Year Awards ceremony was held is a miracle deserving of a place in Kenya's sporting history.
It was naturally expected that the annual event, which awards exceptional sportsmen and women, would be scrapped considering the damage the Covid-19 pandemic has caused the sporting fraternity in the past one year.
However, there was still something — indeed a lot of things — to smile about hence the relevance of the 2020 SOYA awards.
This year's fete was markedly different from the previous editions where the sole focus has always been on the awards.
The gala event at Lake Naivasha resort was preceded by a day-long symposium at Salewa Resort where sports stakeholders surgically diagnosed and deliberated on the illnesses ailing the industry amidst the pandemic.
From the horse's mouth, sports-persons in attendance were enlightened on how to manage success and failure by 2008 Olympics 800m gold medalist Wilfred Bungei. His story on struggles with alcohol addiction was a timely reminder to those in attendance on the challenges of staying on top.
Furthermore, it was aptly in line with "overcoming adversity", the theme for this year's event.
"After retiring from athletics, there was a lot of idleness on my part. As an athlete, your schedule is busy all year round with training and competitions. Retirement brought with it a vacuum in my life and I started binge drinking," Bungei said.
The message was home and dry when he reiterated that all of us have an addiction we can only overcome if we accept there's a problem — as a first step towards overcoming it.
His session transitioned seamlessly into the next one by Wangui Kibe, a director on the Kenya Rugby Union board, who spoke on the need for sports-persons to guard their reputations at all costs.
Through the stories of giants who fell such as Tiger Woods and Marion Jones, those in attendance learnt they are not immune to capitulating should they embrace a haphazard life.
"To be able to manage your success efficiently, you need to know who you are. Knowing who you are involves understanding your weaknesses and how to counter them," Kibe said.
The prevailing coronavirus pandemic was an opportunity to speak about players' mental health and how to translate the same into success. Exercises, such as mental imagery, diaphragmatic breathing and self-talk, were weapons introduced to those in attendance to enable them secure their mental health.
"These exercises take time to master before they become effective. Sports is 90 per cent mental and 10 per cent physical," sports psychologist Kanyali Ilako said.
Sports-persons were also enlightened on the new anti-doping law enacted in December last year.
Former badminton player Charles Gacheru's session on social media branding was a sobering reality check for sports-persons on how to build their personal brand so that corporates can make a beeline for them.
"Corporates are not interested in what you are. We are interested in who you are. Do not think of yourself as special just because you win titles because the moment you do, you have set yourself up for failure, " Gacheru said.
The symposium wound up with a session on investment as well as sportspersons relations with the media. As they say; "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"; it was no different at SOYA as everyone congregated for the gala in the evening.
The black-tie event was an opportunity to honour sporting heroes who have risen above the adverse period and impacted their communities and the country. The creme-de-la-creme of the industry gathered in the auditorium at Lake Naivasha Resort where some of them were left starstruck.
In attendance were the immediate former CAS for the Ministry of Sports Noor Hassan Noor, Nakuru deputy governor Eric Korir, NOC-K president and SOYA founder Paul Tergat as well as retired and active sportspersons.
Harambee Stars coach Jacob "Ghost" Mulee could not hide his admiration for the achievements of the athletics fraternity.
"I really love athletics. I am so delighted to be here because I have met champions I only used to see on TV like Daniel Komen and Wilfred Bungei, " he said.
By virtue of successfully staging the event despite the virus, everyone was a winner even before the awards began as Tergat summed up in his speech.
"Everyone of us here has demonstrated the spirit of sportsmanship and Olympism. This event sets the perfect tone for the Tokyo Olympics where we are determined to send a strong team despite the effects of the pandemic on our training," he said.
Indeed, the pandemic continues to rear its ugly head worldwide in the form of a new strain, raising doubts over the feasibility of the quadrennial event, among other competitions lined up for this year. However, the sporting fraternity can find comfort from Noor's words, who encouraged them to face the future with hope and courage.
"Thank you to all our sportspersons for staying in shape despite being away from the track and field for that long. We have kick-started the process of resuscitating the industry," Noor said.
As the Outstanding Sportsman of the Year Michael Olunga said, we should not be under any illusion about the hard task ahead as sports events continue to gather steam in the country and abroad.
"Life will not be easy. You will encounter challenges but all in all believe in yourself, work hard and you will make it, " the Al Duhail striker said.
Nonetheless, the gains made thus far in the industry offer a glimmer of hope for the future. Belief and hard work, individually and corporately, will steer the sports industry of the Covid-19 storm.