When the history of President Goodluck Jonathan is written, a lot of chapters will be dedicated to his numerous achievements in sports. It was during his regime that Nigeria won her first Africa Cup of Nations in 19 years, remarkably, outside the shores of the country. Before then, Nigeria won the trophy in 1980 and the last triumph in Tunisia ‘ 94 among others.Definitely, General Mohammadu Buhari has a tall order ahead of him if his predecessor’s track record is anything to go by. Luckily, the President-elect is not a fresher when it comes to governance. As a former Head of State(under the military), Buhari welcomed the 1985 all-conquering Golden Eaglets from China with the first FIFA/JVC U-16 World Cup.That the team is known today as Golden Eaglets was a coinage by General Buhari when he received the team at the National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos. Nduka Ugbade who captained that historic team is currently an assistant to the national U-20 coach, Manu Garba. He was also part of the crew that won the FIFA U-17 World Cup in UAE.Buhari’s love for sports has not been loud, but it is on record that he made a surprise appearance at the Abuja National Stadium when Nigeria hosted Brazil in an international friendly. It was during President Olusegun Obasanjo’s regime when Buhari was in the opposition.No one can say, for sure, where the retired General would position sports in the scheme of things as throughout his campaign for this election, not a word was said on sports.The President-elect must however note that sports form a very critical sector in the life of the nation. Those who actively engage in sports are the youth who are the future of the nation. Sports today is more that just a pastime. Sport is a multi billion dollar industry which can offer employment to millions of our youths. The sports sector deserves the best brains. Seasoned brains that can turn the fortunes of our sports around. Sports is practical and results are the only determining factor that influences team selection, appointments. The President-elect must therefore avoid considerations other than excellence in making appointments to the sector.
By Michele J. KuhnTINTON FALLS – Emmett Walling is a much beloved part of the Ranney School community and now he has an aquatic center named after him to prove it.Ranney School teacher Emmett Walling, second from left, and Lawrence S. Sykoff, head of school, use scissors to cut the ribbon for the Walling Aquatic Center as Walling’s wife Jackie, left, and Athletic Director Thomas Moriau look on.The Hope Road school dedicated its swimming pool and aquatic center in the name of the teacher/coach, who is in his 33rd year there. The special ceremony to honor Walling was held on the school’s track Friday, Oct. 5, and was attended by most of the school’s 800 students, faculty and staff.The bright hot sunny day had nothing on the warmth radiated by the crowd toward Walling. Smiles were plentiful and applause punctuated speeches and fond remembrances.Walling was obviously proud of the honor bestowed on him. It was the first time in the school’s history that a facility was named after a staff member. When he was told about the naming of the facility last spring, he said he was overwhelmed.“I could not even put it into words,” the 62-year-old teacher said prior to the ceremony. “I’m a very humble person. I’m not a chatterbox but words just can’t express … it’s just so great to know that in years to come my name will be connected with a pool that has meant so much to so many kids already.“It’s very, very exciting,” Walling said. “It’s rare that someone stays this long but when you find something this good, you stick with it. This is a very special place.”Walling says he loves what he does. “Every day is a challenge. I’ve got 3-year-olds right up to 18-year-olds. For a teacher, it doesn’t get any better than that,” said Walling who, as the Ranney School swimming teacher, has taught every student the school has enrolled since he started in 1980. He’s the only teacher in the school with that distinction.Walling, a Middletown native who now lives in Manasquan, learned to swim at Shadow Lake, where he lived as a child. “It was important for me to learn how to swim,” he said. He is from a family of Belford Harbor lobstermen. “They made their money taking things out of the water. I’ve earned my living, supported my family, by putting things into the water,” he said with a laugh.Ranney swim coach Emmett Walling shares a moment with his wife Jackie before the dedication ceremony.He and his wife Jackie, who is a teacher in Oceanport, are the parents of Kaitlin, a police officer in Cranbury, and 24-year-old twins, Emmett and Elizabeth.Walling is known as a patient instructor and coach who is trusted and respected by the children he teaches.“He has developed kids not just as swimmers but as people too,” said Valerie Francois, the school’s director of strategic marketing and communications.Thomas Moriau, Ranney’s athletic director, calls Walling “one of the most dedicated educators I know.“No one deserves this honor more,” Moriau said. “We have (an aquatic) facility second to none in Monmouth and Ocean counties and it’s because of him … Our students love to swim for this man.”Lawrence S. Sykoff, Ranney head of school, spoke of the “extraordinary work of this great man.” He recalled that Walling arrived on campus in 1980, the year the pool opened. After 32 years, “that pool has earned a name, a very special name.“Mr. Walling has guided hundreds of students to take their first plunge to learn to swim” and has made those lessons enjoyable for those he has taught, Sykoff said.The head of school said Walling was the embodiment of the school’s motto: “Knowledge, Vision and Honor.”Senior Veronika Fischer, 17, of Rumson told those gathered to honor Walling that the swim coach was someone who worked six days a week, recognized students’ strengths when they couldn’t, sang Christmas carols with them when they practiced “and reminds us that it’s just a race.“Mr. Walling just doesn’t want us to swim our fastest, he wants us to swim our best,” Fischer said. “Mr. Walling teaches us that if you truly want something, you will have to work hard every day.”As the student turned toward Walling she told him, “There is no one who deserves this more than you do.”Doreen Fowlkes, a teacher at the school for the past 25 years, applauded her fellow educator. “It’s easy to identify why we are gathered here,” she said. “He’s not only being recognized for his 32 years at Ranney School, he’s being recognized for his character and for his professionalism.”Walling, who was hailed for his devotion to the school and its swim program and his determination to build the aquatic center now named after him into a top-notch facility, expects to spend another two years at Ranney School. At that time, after 35 years at the private school, he said he expects to retire along with his wife.