Coaches' position as key role-players and powerful influencers in the lives and careers of athletes were emphasised by several speakers during a Sport Coaching Summit hosted at Stellenbosch University's (SU) Department of Sport Science on 22-23 September.
Approximately 170 coaches – from primary school to provincial level – attended the two-day conference organised by the department's Dr Wilbur Kraak and his third-year coaching specialisation students.
Speakers included Prof Wayne Derman, Director and Chairman of the Institute of Sport and Exercise Medicine at SU, Mr Peter de Villiers, former Springbok coach, Mr Sean Surmon, Head of the High Performance (HP) Unit at SU, Dr Suzanne Ferreira, lecturer at the Department of Sport Science and world-renowned Paralympic coach, and Kyle Brown, Blitzbok player and former captain.
Speakers covered topics such as: recovery in sport, mind coaching, creating a performance environment, talent identification and development, and strength and conditioning trends.
Dr Heinrich Grobbelaar, chairperson of the Department of Sport Science, welcomed the attendees with the famous Nelson Mandela quote: Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way little else does. It speaks to the youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair.
“I believe that coaches are the most important role-players to turn this ideology into reality," he said. He also told the audience that the department aims to be their knowledge partner.
“New knowledge is created through our research; this knowledge is taught in our classrooms and impacts on society once our students and staff members engage with the sporting community.
“This summit creates a platform where you can share knowledge and practical experience gained over many years and where the questions you deal with on a daily basis could perhaps guide our future research agenda."
Grobbelaar encouraged the coaches not only to learn something new, but to foster friendships and establish new networks.
In an effort to illustrate how much experience there was in the lecture hall, PhD candidate and lecturer at the Department of Sport Science Ms Debbie Skinstad asked the audience to add up the number of years' experience in every row. The count came to 103, 110, 144 and even 154 years in a row.
Sharing this knowledge is crucial, several speakers said.
During a conversation about upskilling, coaches Ferreira, De Villiers and Zanele Mdodana, coach of the Maties Netball team, emphasised the importance of mentors and surrounding oneself with experts in their fields to assist you.
“I upskill myself by tapping into the knowledge of experts around me, having discussions with fellow coaches, reading, and using the athletes I coach as a big source of knowledge," said Ferreira.
Several Maties coaches and managers attended the event.
Surmon, who heads up the Maties HP Unit, described what this athlete-centered, coach-led and performance-driven programme is all about.
“Planning is the number one performance enhancer," he explained. This is especially true for environments where coaches have limited time with their athletes.
He also emphasised the importance of reflection and review, as well as communication.
According to the organiser, Dr Kraak, they received positive feedback from the attendees, as well as requests for more events and even workshops and short courses of a similar nature.
“There seems to be a gap in our country with regards to training systems for coaches," he added.
“It was great to see how coaches from different sport codes could network and learn from each other. The summit also provided practical tips that the coaches can now apply in their own environment."