Academy View: My relationship with Young Bafana

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My relationship with Young Bafana, Moritz Kossmann and Bernd Steinhage started in January 2015

My son, Lance started playing for their U/17 team at the time. After the team games the coaches and myself would chat about the game and we found out that we have the same ideas of how the game should be played. We were on the same wave length.

I would attend the team training sessions to get a better understanding in what the coaches wanted to achieve. This was important to me, because I can give the players the individual advice, what the coach really want from them.

Most of the players are Xhosa speaking and although they understand the English medium, they are sometimes confused at some of the instructions given. They sometimes needed reminding about their positional discipline and their positional responsibility.

In 2016, the team started training in Athlone. The problem at Athlone was that three teams shared one astro turf field. The challenge was to reserve ourselves a portion of the field. That means, clearing the field of the people that wants to encroach onto our side of the field.

This was also the time when I started giving the players advice in their personal lives. The mental wellbeing of the players became important to me. The players started asking me questions about eating habits and nutrition in general.

The players sometimes think that fast foods will make them faster. It is quite difficult to dispel this myth. Some of the players never heard about carbohydrates, proteins and vitamins. That is an education on its own.

In this time I also became the team’s unofficial physiotherapist. I treated all the players’ injuries. While treating the players, I would inquire about their school work. This was very important to the club. The club allocate the Wednesday for schoolwork.

The Somerset boys would go to HH High School and the Athlone boys would go the Avendale club for extra lessons and homework. I would help and give advice on how to study and drawing up study time tables. I would periodically inquire on their progress in their study methods and where they experience any problems.

The Bayhill U/19 tournament is one of the biggest tournaments in the country. We had the privilege to have participated in the tournament. To register for a tournament of this magnitude was quite a challenge. Because of the age cheating phenomenon, the organizers were quite strict with the verification process.

With the pressure mounting in getting every document ready, it was a pleasure to have worked with Moritz under these extreme pressures. The tournament was not as successful as we wanted it to be, for us. Looking back, I thought that I could have done better in preparing the players mentally. The stage was too big for them, mentally.

It was a privilege to have worked with the Avendale Ladies in preparing the meals for the players at the tournament. Actually it was the highlight. They were quite energetic at their tasks. They had the most amazing ideas for preparing the nutritious meals for the players.

Judging by the second helpings the players asked, it must have been quite delicious. The positive thing that came out of the tournament was that we became a family. The players, the technical staff and the women became very close. The women adopted the players as their children.

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In conclusion, Young Bafana afforded me the opportunity to help the players in their personal lives. The players’ wellbeing, physically and mentally, is so important, for them to perform optimally on the field.

It is such a privilege to work with this group of players. I hope, with my actions and help, that I portrait the role model some of the players longed for. I see them, not as players anymore, but as my children. 
There is a saying that I often used to inspired or motivate players: “Hard work will beat talent when talent does not work hard.”  

Moritz Kossmann is actually living proof of the said saying. I always remind the players, if you want to see what hard work looks like, look at your coach. Through the years, we became friends and I think, we will go to war for each other.

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