Constitutionally mandated, SAFCA has the crucial responsibility of disseminating technical and coaching knowledge and to update its national constituency with the latest relevant information. This process is being implemented through a series of workshops and technical meetings where local coaches also have the opportunity and responsibility to discuss about their own experiences, to emphasise critical needs or deficiencies and make suggestions.
However, the most disturbing and harmful predicament – as indicated by the vast majority of our coaches – is the conceptual and methodological confusion created by a multitude of contrasting technical influences which have indiscriminately altered coaching in South African football.
The sources of confusion and consequent inefficiency in the current application of coaching objectives and methods have been identified as the following:
Ø The absence of a national football identity – what kind of football is best for South Africa (National Football Playing Philosophy);
Ø Irrelevant and incomplete coaching syllabus – particularly the contrast and discrepancy between mentalities and concepts provided by knowledge/practice copied from the German, Dutch, English and Portuguese schools of coaching;
Ø Erroneous and irrelevant youth coaching content – the YDF manual (a German version of social youth football) that has been used as the syllabus for the SAFA D Licensing courses despite the fact that its content is NOT recognized by the DFB for coaching licensing.
The ever essential observation made by experienced youth coaches indicating that SA talented black children – over 85% of local youth football - do not respond, adapt or progress optimally when exposed to most of the coaching and training solutions offered by foreign – mainly of European sources – must be viewed with great concern.
On the basis of scientific findings and recorded successful experience, it has to be accepted that the biological and cultural characteristics/profile of over 85% of talented black SA youth MUST be strictly considered when the coaching and training content is defined and applied. Some of such natural traits and predispositions that enhance local children’s talent/abilities/limitations and potential to reach high level of competitive football refer to:
Ø Significant high level of coordination, agility, balance, timing, rhythm and movement diversity – to support a higher than average mobility and dynamic play;
Ø Faster maturation rate of loco-motor skills – capability to learn more complicated ball skills and related movement at the age of 6-7 years;
Ø Creativity and improvisation surpasses analytical and/or pre-conceived responses in play actions;
Ø Faster than average patellar reflex (‘knee-jerk’) – a decisive trait for superior dribbling, passing, scoring and foot-work;
Ø Dominant ACTN3 genotype – the ‘speed/explosiveness’ gene;
Ø A slighter body profile and a larger lung capacity, which translates into greater endurance and quicker recovery;
Ø More energy producing enzymes in the muscles – capacity to sustain higher work rate;
Ø An apparent ability to process oxygen more efficiently, resulting in less susceptibility to fatigue and accelerated effort recovery (ref. Prof. Tim Noakes’ research)
Ø Several cultural, social and environmental specific or unique characteristics.
The issue of culture in the context of a player’s development and then at the level of high performance needs careful and renewed consideration.
Prof. Andrew M. Guest (Portland University) concludes that “Superficially, it is easy to assume that a sport like football is identical around the world. The rules, the playing field, the objectives, the number of players, the basic skills required for success, all seem to cross national and cultural boundaries.
When moving beyond the superficial, however, differences emerge.
When one plays, coaches, watches, or follows football played in diverse locations by distinct individuals it becomes clear that psychological meanings for sport change with context.
People feel different emotions according to the situation, they define success differently, they bring different expectations, and they are motivated differently.
Most research coheres around agreement that personal meanings for sport performance depend on cultural context”.
In his study, “The Cultural Dimensions of the Coaching Session”, Kevin Sherry, reviewing his coaching experience in Japan, concluded that advanced Western coaching concepts and methods recommended to other cultures have little or no positive impact on the dynamic of training and match approach if the strengths and mentality of the players from those cultures are not recognized in the contents of the training session”.
Confirmation and support of these important specifics that define SA players’ nature and local environment have been, many times over, demonstrated in the work of many experienced local coaches but no attention was given to their recommendations even when success was evident.
It is imperative that determining biological, cultural and environmental characteristics of players have to be respected when the coaching syllabus for talent development and competitive football is defined and applied. It is even more so when primarily international standards of high performance are targeted. This leading principle applies in all successful football nations, unconditionally. On this understanding it is only normal that the highly complex profile of SA players would not be known thus considered in the syllabus or practical application of any foreign coaching culture ‘imported’ to this country. The most advanced and most successful technical expertise in the football world cannot answer the unique specificity of SA football. It is simply not possible!
Following the recent resolution of the SAFA Congress, SAFCA was requested to make a presentation on the National Football Philosophy at the SAFA workshop on 4-5 June, 2015. The information concerning all aspects of bio-cultural and environmental specificity that should govern football in this country as well as additional evidence was incorporated in the SAFCA presentation as a major contribution to the progress of local football.
The outcome of the workshop was highly significant as the findings and recommendations made by SAFCA Technical Group were unanimously endorsed and the process of implementation given the green light.
The realistic base of inputs and evidence led to agreement on proposals regarding the urgent updating or changing of coaching education syllabus, the introduction of talent discovery and development criteria and new effective solutions that can maximize local talent to achieve international success, e.g., ‘Vision 2022’, etc. The harmful effect of indiscriminately allowing contrasting foreign coaching mentalities and methods to downgrade SA’s exceptional young talent was also strongly emphasised at the workshop and generally denounced.
A shock and disbelief wave emerged on 14 July, 2015 when Neil Tovey, the new Technical Director of SAFA officially announced that ‘the Association is in a process of forming partnership with the KNVB to conduct D License Coaching Courses’. This surprising new turn is in total disregard and blatant contrast with the resolutions taken on 4-5 July, 2015 at the SAFA/SAFCA workshop that approved, among other requirements, a joint effort to review, change and adopt the coaching education syllabus according to the SA Football Philosophy.
In all recent meetings between SAFA and SAFCA - as the custodian of SA coaches and a recognized technical authority – the possibility of SAFA forming partnerships with foreign coaching education programs was never suggested. The fact that there was understanding and evidence against coaching knowledge and training solutions generated from incompatible foreign sources make the project of using KNVB’ syllabus in the D License coaching courses, irrational.
On the part of the Technical Director it is not only his unacceptable disrespect for the agreement reached by SAFA and SAFCA on jointly addressing the challenge of implementing coaching education and talent development difficult challenges but also showing appalling technical ignorance.
Had the Technical Director consulted SAFCA’s Technical Task Team would have discovered and learned incontestable facts that classify the Dutch coaching and training philosophy (KNVB) as content deficient, diversity confined thus irrelevant to SA talent development. This was concluded as far back as the early 90’s.
In 1993 a year after SAFCA was established, a KNVB delegation of coaching experts came to SA to assess the possibility of a Dutch program of coaching assistance. Before the visit at the Sport School of Excellence they suggested that the KNVB youth coaching materials be reproduced and used in SA youth development. However, after evaluating the type of talent (they called ‘natural identity’ of children at the SSE, they fully agree with the school’s technical team that the coaching and training philosophy applied in the development of young players was absolutely relevant and methodologically highly advanced.
Consequently, an application for sponsoring a SA Coaching Guide comprising the syllabus used at the SSE to be provided to SAFCA members at that time was made to the Royal Netherlands Embassy.
On February 15, 1993, recognizing the pressing need of developing a SA specific youth coaching syllabus, the Dutch Embassy approved a contribution of R14 800.00 for producing the Coaching Guide. The subsequent success of the SSE initial program – producing 46 high quality players for local and foreign professional clubs, youth and senior national teams, including the likes of Steven Pienaar, Old-John Mabizela, etc., was entirely based on the application of coaching/training as reflected by the unique specificity of SA players.
In 2011, after only 18 months of brain-centred, maximized specificity training – an advanced concept and methodology (a modern version of the 1993, SSE coaching syllabus) which was developed according to the Bio-Cultural profile of SA players was responsible for delivering a record of 28 players from the Sundowns elite youth program and PUK Tawana experiment. Six of those players have been selected at different stages in Bafana Bafana while the PSL clubs (14), NFD (12), and other foreign clubs and national teams also benefitted from the success of this SA own concept and methodology. In spite of neglect and isolation those few SA coaches who have been part of the two successful youth projects are still working and producing excellent results by employing a genuine SA coaching philosophy.
If the Technical Director would have shown any consideration for the factual evidence that proves the futility of South African football employing foreign coaching mentalities and solutions, in general, and the KNVB option, in particular, he, most probably, would have found the correct answer to coaching education in SA football.
Furthermore, those who analysed the input made in recent times by the Dutch coaching philosophy in SA, the continent and in international competitions have informed SAFCA of the following:
Ø The involvement of Johann Cruyff Institute – the top of Dutch youth development philosophy – in the Academy of a local professional club at a cost of over R 50 million led to failure as no player of international standard was produced during a three years period of Dutch adopted coaching solutions;
Ø Most recently, SAFCA’S Head of Technical Simon Ngomane, was debating the issue of SA players’ biological traits with Vera Pauw the Dutch SA Women national team coach in ‘Soccer Zone’ on SABC TV show when it was obvious that Vera Pauw wasn’t aware of key characteristics of SA players or coaching adaptations to such particularities;
Ø To date, no African players have been produced by Dutch youth philosophy at the level of top African international youth, club and national teams competitions;
Ø Apparently due to less ball skill diversity, confined tactical/positional game approach and insufficient play creativity; the current Dutch concept of a player’s development has led to unimpressive international performance of Dutch national youth and senior teams;
Ø The superiority of talent development programs in Brazil, Argentina, Spain, Belgium, Germany, France, etc., has significantly surpassed the quality of young players produce by the conventional Dutch youth coaching.
On this background and evidence, the SA Football Coaches Association remains firmly committed to the implementation of SA football philosophy. This can only become successful if its two pillars - the coaching education and consequently talent development concepts – are governed by the scientific principles of complete and uncompromising recognition of all attributes and limitations reflected in the biological and cultural profile of local talent and the environmental factors and conditions.
The policy, objectives and mandate of SAFCA impose a determined stand for continuously promoting and protecting the rare values and high performance potential of South African football. The imposition of any contrasting foreign coaching or irrelevant technical ideologies will be exposed and decisively opposed. Any international developments or trends that can enhance performance in SA football without altering the unique nature of players and the foundation of nation’s playing philosophy will be supported and promoted by SAFCA.
The Technical Director is very new in the job, it is very concerning that such a major technical decision is taken with so much haste, based on the above facts regarding KNVB coaching programmes, SAFCA will be interested in evaluating a Due Diligence Technical Report that informed this decision.
On 16 July 2015 the Department of Sport and Recreation and SASCOC convened workshop with Federations and Coaching Commissions/ Associations. Our understanding is that the National Department of Sport and Recreation through SASCOC is embarking on the completion of the process towards strict policy/regulations, that is, to review the Legislation relating to coaching by 2016.
SAFCA was also part of the workshop procedures and WILL give unreserved support for the enforcement of the proposed Legislation.
The critical and vital role of SAFCA in addressing this challenge of national importance should not be overlooked, undermined or treated with hostility, never!