Székely Sport interviewed the Minister of Youth and Sports and Paralympic champion cyclist Károly Eduárd Novák during his short visit to Székelyudvarhely (Odorheiu Secuiesc) last weekend about how he sees the future of sports in Romania. The Paralympic champion of Romania was proposed for the job by the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (known by its Hungarian acronym of RMDSZ).
You took over the mandate of Minister of Youth and Sports one and a half months ago. What are your experiences so far? What is going on in Romanian sports?
I have participated at plenty of gatherings, discussions and meetings, which has been particularly useful because I gathered a lot of information that we can work with in the future. My life has fundamentally changed; I am in the office from morning till night. What happened is that, after the 1990s when the ministry lost control over the clubs and associations, everybody got into a comfort zone. This is how we got into the situation where these days, an Olympic medal costs plenty of money. There is money in Romanian sports, there’s a lot of money in it, but its utilization in the areas where results could be reached is imperfect.
Which are the areas where changes are needed quickly?
As things are today, a new coach who just finished a two-year-long course can straight away become a coach at a sports association or even on a national team. For me, this is unacceptable. We have started a project, which would reform the training program of coaches. We are introducing methods that are similar to the ones in the educational system, meaning that if you are a new coach, first you have to start working with kids, then after a while, you can go to the next level. We have to achieve somehow that national teams are led by the best professionals. And if there is no highly qualified coach in the country, then the sports associations have to bring in mentors from abroad.
The answer to the question, why is the number of sportsmen so low in the country, is that the coaches are not qualified and cannot motivate children. The other big problem is that there is no goal-setting at all in our own state clubs.
So, the coaches are sitting around with one athlete for years, which is paid for by the ministry. Starting this year, we will define how many athletes a coach has to cooperate with, and they must work with them effectively. These are some of the topics we are working on now. If we finance these 195 sports associations, we have to control their activity and have to help them progress toward successful results.
An Olympic medal costs a lot of money, but there is money for it. This should be spent more effectively, and we should even bring further amounts into sports from the private sector.
Yes, this is what I was talking about with the prime minister. He brought up the topic of how the private sector could be involved in sports.
I outlined the Hungarian example
for him; when we also have
a sports strategy here, it will be clear which sports are worth developing.
The money should be pumped into those via which we can achieve great results in the future.
Because it is not worth giving the same amount to everybody because then we would lose focus. If this would happen, there would be a lot of investments that are not really interesting for us because they are not Olympic sports. The point for us is to finance the top zone to the maximum. Of course, we should not only support the pros, but within these sports, we should start paying attention to [school kids] and offering support from childhood.
Which sports can become the high-priority ones in Romania?
We have to think about those sports where we can collect lots of medals. This might be track and field, swimming, gymnastics, kayak/canoe, rowing, track cycling, fencing — but the list can be much longer too.
Out of these sports, there are associations that work properly. If we can boost the others, if we start the coach-training program, then more children will start doing sports. If we establish Olympic centers and keep them there for training camps, and if we can develop a proper system, then in eight years, Romania can be one of the top 15 most-successful sport countries in the world.
One of the biggest questions of 2021 is whether the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games will be organized or not?
They will be organized.
Ede Novák will be there too?
Of course, I am preparing for it even though I have quite little time for the trainings. I can only train twice or a maximum of three times weekly, but I would like to win a medal at the Paralympic Games.
Title image: Károly Eduárd Novák giving an interview to Székely Sport in the Székelyudvarhely sports hall. (Photo: László Beliczay/szekelyhon.ro)