In a sporting world, full of doping, politics and corruption, it’s quite easy to become a cynic and to lose some enthusiasm. It happens to me from time to time, and in these instances, I usually find redemption in schools sport, where more often than not, everything remains untainted.
Of the best damn things in sport is watching a young child being introduced to a new game or being taught the skills it takes to play the game. There is so much joy to be found in a child who has mastered a particular sport being taught there is more to a game and being given tools to thrive in a sport and to improve themselves. It makes me livid then, when schools’ coaches forget the focal point of what they do and become self-absorbed instead of working for the benefit of the kids.
Two of my best mates are the head and assistant coach of the Free State men’s hockey team. Between the two of them, they have had immense success on the field over the last two years, and any coach would gain from sitting and listening to them or watching them share their knowledge. It surprised me that this is not so. One of my mates won the u18 girls’ IPT with Boland last year and went through the whole season unbeaten with his u16 girls’ team and in a few weeks will be conducting a coaching clinic in Bethlehem in the Free State. From the responses so far, and the way in which funding was organised, it certainly seems everyone involved is quite keen on having one of the best coaches in the province visit their little town and coaching the kids.
This is not the situation with my other mate and the coaching camp he is organising in our hometown in the Eastern Cape over this coming weekend. If I was 16, 17 or 18 again and a top coach who has already produced 5 junior national players, amongst a bunch of other accolades, came to my hometown to conduct a clinic, I would have jumped at the chance to attend. It’s a great opportunity for any kid to gauge his own level and set new standards for himself and perhaps even dream bigger or set bigger goals with the new information he’ll assimilate. But when the first team coach at the school asks what the point of the clinic is and that he is not fussed whether he is involved or not, I can’t help but scratch my head. But for this blasted clinic, he would have had a free weekend. How can someone entrusted with equipping young men with skills and helping them improve as players and as people have such a nonchalant attitude towards his job?
It makes me realise why EC schools and their provincial teams struggle at big national tournaments against schools from WP, KZN, Gauteng and Free State.
In my honest opinion, school sport in the Eastern Cape is lagging behind. This is not only because there are richer or more prestigious schools outside of the province or that they offer outrageous bursaries but that opportunities like absorbing new skills, techniques and knowledge from elsewhere aren’t seized and I have seen this from a few coaches who are regarded highly there. The interests of the boys (in the cases I am aware of) aren’t prioritised. It seems at times to me, that the traditional schools are content with doing things the way they’ve always been done or focussing on one sport in particular over the others. Eastern Cape schools will continue to be competitive because the province is a gold mine for talent but it saddens me that the kids could be so much better or get better opportunities but their coaches are limiting the very people they’re supposed to be cultivating and nurturing.
Coaches need to understand that it’s not about them.