30 January 2018 – It is true that after acquiring a set of skills in any field the bearer of the skill is expected to have an edge over fellow competitors who may not be in possession of similar skills. This applies to coaching as well.

After coaches obtained their badges through the South African Football Association’s Coaching Education programmes, they expect to be well placed to be employed so that they can apply their skills to help players and teams improve while creating an income for themselves and their families. Easier said than done in deed!

Two factors make matters become even more complicated, namely, the accompanying course fees and competition for available coaching jobs from other Confederations such as UEFA. In fact despite the success achieved by the likes of our own Pitso Mosimane some people continue to display comfort with and confidence in coaches with a qualification acquired elsewhere rather than in South Africa via SAFA.  A question of democratic choice, one surmises!

There is a striking story related by one such coach who asked his sister to obtain a loan for him to be able to attend a CAF A licence with the hope that since this is a continentally recognised course it will bring him a coaching job sooner than later. When the coaching job was not forthcoming  after acquiring his licence and yet “the untrained people are employed even at the highest level of the game”  in the country the coach in question was perplexed and asked the question, “Why this”?

In as much as the South African Football Association is fully aware of the need to explore all possible avenues and remedies to add credit and greater value to the training of coaches in our country, it is the individual coaches who possesses the greatest weapon in their hands towards resolving this uncomfortable state of affairs. The simple call to coaches is “Coaches must coach”.  This provides them with the opportunity to test the relevance and workability of their acquired coaching skills, knowledge and experiences. It does not matter the level where one does the coaching. No coaching opportunity should be regarded as inferior to any other. Coaching leagues or levels may differ but the commitment to high coaching standards and the eagerness to excel against all odds are neither negotiable nor replaceable. Whether it is at Grassroots level in the remotest of rural areas, a school in a violence torn environment or a PSL team in the most opulent residential setting, the same attitude should apply. Remember the words of that great Indian nationalist, “some of us will have to walk through the valley of the shadow of death to reach the mountain tops of our desires”.

True to human nature we aspire to the ideal coaching environment with excellent club   management,structures, players, facilities, wages and salaries from the word go. We may be in the same technical landscape yet our rise to the top as coaches will be differently affected and influenced by both similar and dissimilar dynamics. Fate being fate we each have different paths with different landscape before we “reach the mountain tops of our desires”. We should simply “dirty our hands” to get things happening.

A qualification, no matter how genuine it may be, may not guarantee one a coaching job. It should, however alert potential employers to one’s skills and availability. It is equally not advisable to blame the doubting Thomases who every time they refer to  a newly qualified coach they  will throw around words and phrases like “inexperienced, novice, still learning, not yet ready, still innocent, not material for our club and league” etc.

Going through the history of top coaches from around the world it is clear that none of them  was born with a silver spoon in the mouths. There was no “secret code” lying somewhere waiting for any of them to crack it to rise to the top. Yet all of them took advantage of the little opportunities that fell their way. They made full use thereof and exerted themselves in a manner that built their “little brands from no name coaches to the heroes” of our game, from humble beginning to the top. It was their honest application in their coaching platforms that forced the powers that be to appreciate and provide them with more of such opportunities. The inevitable initial failure that accompanied their efforts was used to stimulate even more determined reactions instead of ushering in loss of hope.

It was through their actual coaching work that a combination of their skills, motivation and desire to succeed saw them overcome what may well be insurmountable obstacles. Some went through sheer pain , insults, mistrusts and some degree of degradation. Yet they stood firm and survived with their integrity intact. They cracked “the invisible code” to success.

What is the alternative to this call? The old man Madiba closes for us. “It always looks impossible until it is done”.