Sean Van Staden
3 minute read
25 Jan 2014
12:40 pm

Soccer development needs a national plan

Sean Van Staden

It has been a really wild week after the Minister of Sport dropped the bombshell in the public domain that Bafana Bafana are a "Bunch of Losers".

Sean van Staden

Whether he should have said it or not is another topic, but there is not a fan alive that has not been thinking what Minister Mbalula said.

One of the most interesting things that came out of this week’s hot debates was “where is the youth development”? Quite frankly I will reply by saying, where is the leadership, framework and manuals for youth clubs to follow?

How can you expect to produce world-class players when 80% of the youth coaches do not have any form of football education or certification? Thanks to the World Cup held in South Africa, clubs have grown exponentially, so much so that there is a shortage of coaches. This presents the perfect opportunity for “Dad” to step in without any formal football education and teach his team how he was taught back in the day.

I remember a few years back when I worked for a PSL team as the strength, speed and conditioning coach. I implemented a new-age warm-up strategy to help players prepare better for games which included injury prevention tactics. They often started the game very slowly and then picked up their performance 10 minutes in. This was due to a pre-game old- school static stretching and traditional warm-up dance.

I implemented a strategy that took the players through a series of dynamic movement, movement preparations, injury prevention techniques and muscle activation drills to get every muscle firing at optimal rate.

In the sports specific element I took a combination of a Manchester United, AC Malan and Barcelona drill sequences that they used and created a matrix for the players to go through. What do you think happened?

At a game against Sundowns, as I was walking onto the pitch to set up my pre-match routine, the coach pulled me aside and said the players were unhappy with what they were doing and wanted to rather conduct their own dance warm-up routine for the crowd. The coach then proceeded to say that in this business you have to keep the players happy or they just won’t perform for you.

I didn’t blame the players or the coach, but the structure in which they grew up. It was not their fault that they were never exposed to this type of training while growing up, nor was it their fault, that all but a handful are still playing in the PSL today.

The funny end of the story is that some of the world’s best teams were using this type of system, including the German national team under world-renowned performance coach Mark Verstegen, yet it was not good enough for our local boys.

If you ever have the opportunity to tour with a youth team to the Mundialito Cup in Spain and Portugal or the amazing Gothia World Cup in Sweden, you will realise how far behind we are in tactical and technical training and most importantly speed of thought in relation to football.

I provide Sports Science to some of the best youth clubs in South Africa but one thing I can pick up is that everyone is doing their own thing. It’s not to say the one training system is better than the other, but a bigger concern is that 20 years on, Safa still don’t have a framework for every club in the country to adhere to.

Gordon Igesund and every other coach before him have put their reputations on the line coaching Bafana Bafana, even with years of impressive victories and successes. It’s about time the minister puts his neck on the block and commissions an immediate rethinking of how football is run in this country.

We have some of the greatest minds all around us, from professors, scientists, coaches and ex-players who can all lend a hand in building a proudly South African Framework for Football.

Mr Mbalula, you have the ability to be one of the most famous and loved Ministers of Sport if you get football right in this country. Are you a man of action or a man of talk? Only time will tell.