Southern African Coaches – Making Things Happen
The position of a sports coach is a very fascinating one indeed. When the team is winning, the coach is a hero or heroine. When the team loses and does not perform to expectation, especially in football, the solution has always been over-simplified, FIRE THE COACH!
Over the years, there has always been a love-hate relationship between coaches and other stakeholders. However, people forget that coaches are the bedrock of sports development. Without good coaches, performance is largely inconsistent.
The most successful nations and regions in the world in various sport codes have come to realise this and have, without exception, invested heavily in the development of coaches.
In some instances, politicians and sports leaders have been found guilty of wanting instant results almost like instant porridge! Southern Africa and its sports organisations are no exception.
The coach’s head, professional or volunteer, is always on the chopping block. However, the trend of arrogance, disrespect and belligerence, when it comes to contractual arrangements for coaches, is actually very detrimental to sport development.
The “Abrahamovich Syndrome”, if it might be referred as such, whereby owners or sports leaders frequently fire coaches is bad for Southern African sport.
Firing coaches at the drop of a hat can never be a solution to problems confronting a sports club or national team.
Of course, like any other profession, you are hired to perform, to produce results but there is need for a holistic approach to the assessment of the abilities of coaches. Some coaches operate under the most stressful of conditions and are sometimes never given adequate resources to work with.
They are invariably expected and required to perform miracles.
Coaches are human and they need compassion, understanding and, above all, time to develop their own skills and those of their athletes. Considering this, there is need for national sports authorities, associations and regional sports confederations to invest more resources into raising the standards of coaching in order to improve the quality of athletes and their performances. It is vital that athletes have access to qualified and experienced coaches starting from inception and throughout their sporting careers.
Regarding regional projects, there is need for accelerated implementation of the Sports Education and Accreditation System (SEAS) programme developed by the Supreme Council of Sport in Africa (SCSA) Zone VI and its partners.
The time for piloting or piecemeal implementation is over. There is need for continued resource mobilisation at regional and national to support programme implementation without hesitation.
The Competency-Based Education and Training (CBET) approach, as envisaged by the SEAS programme, needs to be supported, as it will allow Southern African sport to make that quantum leap forward.
The SCSA Zone VI and Confederation of Southern African National Olympic Committees (COSANOC) should work together to make Southern Africa the leading sport region on the continent. This can only be made possible through structured development of coaches. With good coaches, all people ‑ regardless of age, gender, physical ability, socioeconomic background or geographic location ‑ can have positive experiences and derive benefits from their active participation and pursuit of excellence in sport.
Excellent coaches invariably produce excellent athletes.
The region cannot expect to qualify for various continental and world championships or even collect medals at the All Africa, Commonwealth and Olympic Games with lousy coaches.
The noble initiative of the Annual Coaching Conference, driven by the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC), should be expanded into a regional programme to enable the rest of Southern Africa to benefit. There is need to establish a learning community of Southern Africa coaches to enable them to share ideas, information and experiences, either face to face or through newsletters or online.
Senior coaches should take up the role of mentors and role models to ensure a multiplier effect of their accumulated knowledge and experiences to ensure constant improvement of standards in Southern Africa.
Furthermore, Southern Africa needs to identify, recruit and groom large numbers of young coaches who can train young Southern African athletes to qualify and win medals at junior competitions at continental or world championships. These young coaches, together with their athletes and teams, should be afforded opportunities to grow together; to graduate from junior teams to senior teams, ensuring progressive development of coaches.
It goes without saying that there is need to provide sports coaches with all the support they require to succeed at every level, starting from grassroots right up to elite level. Coaches must be respected for them deliver at every level.
Besides, people with an interest in the total development of sport should assess the performance of coaches in a sober manner and not those looking for instant results or success. Frequent dismissal of coaches is not going to raise the standard of any sport. In fact, it will make matters worse.
A good example is the South African Football Association (SAFA), who developed the “Abrahamovich Syndrome” long before the Chelsea owner took over at Stamford Bridge. SAFA has had 17 coaches in 18 years.
In this connection, the South African national football team, Bafana Bafana, has deteriorated from being African champion to a mediocre side falling down the FIFA and CAF ranks like a meteor.
Hopefully, they have learnt from their mistakes and they will keep Gordon Igesund despite the fact that there is a real possibility that they might not qualify for the next World Cup in Brazil.
Perhaps making history by becoming the first hosts of a FIFA World Cup, who fail to qualify for the next edition of the event.
In general, Southern Africa has no option but to empower its sports coaches.
They, together with athletes,are really the ones who make things happen! The rest of us are always sitting on the sidelines or in air-conditioned offices waiting to take credit for success while denying all responsibility for any failure or shortcomings.