Coaches on Monday expressed mixed feelings on Blessing Okagbare maintaining her recent winning streak after getting married to Igho Otegheri on Nov. 8.
Some of the coaches, who spoke to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja said Blessing should be encouraged to do better while others felt married life would affect her performance.
NAN reports that Okagbare, Africa’s fastest woman and World Championships medallist in long jump got married to Otegheri, an ex-footballer.
A Basketball Coach, Thomas Wallace, said the most important thing was for the athlete to remain focused and not to be bothered about her marital status.
“The most important thing for her is to remain focused and to have the right coach who can develop programmes and divide it into different phases for her.
“ It is a team effort, not just for the athlete, but for the coach, for her husband and for the family to be able to work together for a common goal.
“ It is not something difficult, but it must be a team effort; it will take a lot of efforts on her side now that she is married and possibly going to have a child,’’ Wallace said.
He, however, said that there should be developmental programmes to nurture upcoming athletes, instead of depending on the successful ones alone.
“ There should always be room for younger athletes to come up and too much emphasis should not be placed on those that are performing now.
“Rather, attention should be on the young and upcoming ones by creating different developmental programmes at which they can develop from,’’ Wallace said.
A Handball Coach, David Emmanuel, said that although Nigeria was not a conducive environment for married athletes to perform better than they had been doing, he was convinced that Okagbare would perform better.
“Based on my experience, I believe she can do it and I believe she will even perform better now.
“She will still be able to perform if we handle things the way they are done across the world.
“But due to the nature of the society we are in this country, we have the problem of whenever a lady is married, she has become somebody’s property, nobody wants to help her or look at her direction.
“I was at the Handball African Cup of Nations sometime in January and the lady that was the Most Valuable Player at the tournament was nursing a baby at that time.
“Now, if you look at the Angolan handball national team, most of them are married women.
“If you go around the world, you will find out that the most successful female athletes in the world are married.
“But we have a problem here in Nigeria that we neglect married women,’’ Emmanuel said.
A Football Coach, Ifeanyi Sammy, said that married life would affect Okagbare psychologically and emotionally.
“When you are married, you have a lot of things to think about, family and some other things.
“And as a female, there will be a time she will get pregnant and if the husband does not understand her profession, it will make a lot of difference.
“Because preparatory to a competition, there are times she has to be alone and the husband as a family man might need her which can cause emotional problem for her.
“This will consequently, affect her during the competition. So, I think it is not easy for a married woman to cope under that umbrella as an athlete,’’ Sammy said.