Akani Simbine's coach Werner Prinsloo will now be at his side when needed after an agreement with the athlete and one of his sponsors has allowed him to do so. Photo: Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA

JOHANNESBURG – Out of the glare of the spotlight, coaches do not get the recognition they deserve, despite their immense influence on athletes’ successes.

It seems like greater effort is being made to show coaches appreciation for the work they do behind the scenes.

This year for the first time, coaches of medal-winning athletes also received medals at the IAAF World Championships in London.

The medal-winning athletes were given the medals to personally hand over to their mentors in recognition of the working relationship between athlete and coach.

Athletics coaches in South Africa often have big training groups and find other ways to supplement their income.

Battling to make ends meet on home soil, coaching opportunities abroad provide an opportunity for them to pursue their passion and earn a living.

For some it is a part-time gig where they have to juggle the pressures of holding a day job and finding time for coaching. During the international season they have to take leave from work to travel with their athletes, but priority is given to major championships.

Travelling from meeting to meeting on the international circuit comes with its fair share of challenges for the athletes.

The coach provides a sense of stability and comfort when they travel with the athletes, while problems that may creep in can be remedied sooner rather than later.

This week Akani Simbine’s long-time mentor Werner Prinsloo announced that he had been given the opportunity to take up coaching on a full-time basis.

With some wheeling and dealing, Simbine’s sponsor Liquid Telecom has made it possible for Prinsloo to give up his life in IT and spend more time on the side of the track.

Prinsloo is one of the brightest coaching prospects in the country, but striking a balance between work and athletes had proven to be a challenge.

This year a few problems crept into Simbine’s start while travelling, but due to work commitments Prinsloo had to guide his charge from afar.

Seeing the value of Prinsloo coaching full-time, the deal between Simbine and his sponsor could provide some sort of a blueprint to empowering our coaches.

Prinsloo now has more time to develop as a coach while it will allow him to travel with South Arica’s fastest man in the 100m sprint.

Coaches have for long complained that Athletics SA (ASA) fail to consult them on crucial decisions that affect the athletes.

ASA said this week that it had decided to host the SA Senior Championships in Pretoria in March before the Commonwealth Games after speaking to coaches.

“During the successful coaches’ symposium in Bloemfontein last month, coaches made an informed request to readjust the national championships so that they can use it primarily as a springboard for the Commonwealth Games and ASA has accepted,” ASA president Aleck Skhosana said in a statement.

“We took note that the Games will be held earlier than most international outdoor championships, so it made sense. Listening to the coaches and their opinions are crucial in our drive to take the federation forward, as they are a direct link to the athletes.”

It is unclear whether consultation was only limited to coaches who attended the symposium or whether ASA had spoken to other top mentors. 

But at least ASA is showing a willingness to listen while the federation should be commended for their efforts to empower and train coaches.

Coaches are the lifeblood of the sport and sustained success on the international stage is dependent on the quality of mentors we have in the country.

Saturday Star

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