1 September 2020 – Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis has bagged yet another personal accolade, this time the 2020 Momentum GSPORTs Coach of the Year Award.
SAFA.net sat down with her to review the meaning of this prestigious award.

  1. Another of several personal awards since being appointed Banyana Banyana coach.

DE: Look, Banyana Banyana have been on the rise over the last couple of years and that brings with it both the team and individual awards to the fore. For me, it’s never ever been about personal awards but team awards and rewards. We always pride ourselves on team work and when the team does well, the individuals will always stand out. You have to thank the players for their efforts on and off the field of play, the behind the scenes work of the technical team, the support staff and all the coaches that coach in women’s football for their contribution and of course Sasol and SAFA for their continuous support. I am blessed that that today it’s me and all of this shows that we are on the right track.

  1. How many personal awards have you won so far since your appointment as Banyana Banyana coach and how do you rate this one?

The most recent are:
• 2019 GSPORT coach of the year but actually third time lucky as this was my third nomination but the first time I get into the top 3,
• 2018 and 2019 CAF Coach of the Year
• 2019 Shining light award by the Motsepe Foundation
• 2019 Coach of the Year Western Cape Sports Council
• 2019 Glamour Women of the Year (Sport Category)
• 2019 Western Cape Department of Cultural affairs and Sport Ministerial Commendation.
I hope I have not left out anything (lol)

2. How do personal awards inspire you to do better? Doesn’t this put you under pressure to continue improving yourself?

To me, it’s all about the team coming first and personal awards are just a bonus and recognition of excellence. Awards and rewards are a reminder that says we doing something right. No matter what, we always want to improve and do better each and every time we step on the field of play. When you are part of Banyana Banyana the pressure is already there and the expectations to do well comes with that. That is why we always want to give our best

3. When do you start preparing your team for upcoming tournaments?

Well, we are not sure when football will resume but there has been a lot of behind-the-scenes work done already as the next one is the 2020 COSAFA Cup. This of course will all depend what the lockdown regulations will stipulate. But generally planning and preparation starts as soon as we get notification and then we follow the processes step by step to reach our goals that we set out.

4.How have you been spending time during Covid-19

Funny enough, one has been busier than when football is in session. It has been five months now but when the lockdown was announced, the first thing I did was to make sure I get back home to Cape Town as I wanted to make sure that my mom is okay as she is 75 and in the high risk category. It has been a great time being with family during these difficult times – it’s moments like these when you realise just how important family is. My heart goes to those who had to endure being by themselves at this time because it is not easy. We handle situations differently as people. Sometimes we close ourselves off from the world not knowing that some people are going through a lot and they have no one to turn to – so in the early days of the lockdown I spent a lot of time making contact with almost all the people I work with – coaches, players, colleagues, staff members in Banyana Banyana as well as local coaches. These chats have been ongoing since lockdown and It differed from situation to situation – you would call someone and all they wanted to do was to talk to someone, just hear a different voice. With others it was all about football and we would discuss ideas and tactics. For instance, at Banyana Banyana we have a core group of 38 players and we divided them into three groups where
myself, Thinasonke Mbuli (Banyana Banyana assistant coach) and Shilene Booysen (Performance Analyst) would lead each group in discussions about several aspects. It was a great
exercise as it helped us keep in touch with the players and try to limit the impact of the lockdown because it is new to all of us – we didn’t know what to expect and how to react, so
checking up on each other helped. I also interacted with all players abroad in Europe as well as those players at schools and universities in the USA. It was a great exercise as it helped us keep in touch with the everyone and therefore try to limit the impact of the lockdown because it is new to all us. We didn’t know what to expect and how to react, so checking up on them helped. I also have regular meetings with the assistant coach, Thinasonke, performance analyst and fitness trainer Riedoh. I know some clubs have given players training programs but I also send out daily training programs to make sure that we limit the impact of COVID-19. I have also studied and completed three online coaching courses – about football periodization and football analysis. I am currently assisting SAFA Cape Town with an online coaching course facilitated by Boebie Solomons where I focus on the selection criteria and getting coaches to focus on girls from young age so that they get a better. Shilene Booysen is also part of the course and her focus is on the different types of analysis from amateur to professional level. I attended webinars (online seminars), and they are very informative.
I am also in regular contact with the manager Lauren (Duncan) where we discuss different things. I have daily meetings with Riedoh, (Banyana Banyana fitness trainer) to prepare training sessions for the players. I also get to analyse games – see what we did right and what we did wrong. I watch other teams and check where best we can improve as a team when we return to the field. This is also the best time to update the database because there have been so many player movements.
Through the Desiree Ellis Foundation, I have partnered with BallsnBooks who donates weekly vegetables. I have collaborated with the Alcardo Andrews Foundation in my community of Hanover Park and through this project all the satellite feeders are assisted to make sure everyone gets a meal. We now also get a weekly supply from another contributor of maize meal, samp and beans and sometimes we get rice for Hanover Park and other local communities that needs assistance. Through this collaboration we want to make sure that during these difficult times that we take care of each other and I am hoping to continue with this project going forward. And amongst all of this I am also trying to stay fit and not forgetting we also celebrated our one-year anniversary of our appearance at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

5. Have you been getting in touch with Banyana Banyana players overseas?

Since lockdown started, I have been in regular contact with all overseas based players. I have even watched a few games and now there are more players that have gone abroad and that is exciting for us. Some have never stopped playing while others are busy with their pre-season and about to restart a new season. A very big congratulation to Bambanani, Lebohang and Rhoda on winning the Belarusian Cup final with Dinoma Minsk.