BY ALLAN PARROTT
THE article in which Johan Landsman imagined how Tessa Hefele and Suezette Arendse would have improved if they had other coaches, made me think about a question posed to me by the then President of WPAAA, Chet Sainsbury, in October 1990. This was after Jowaine Parrott gained her fourth selection to the WP team after just five months. He said: Wow, Jowaine must be very talented and surely there cannot be many more female runners like her in the townships?
I replied: No, Jowaine is not very talented, but well-coached and that I can immediately call up the names of at least ten runners who were much more talented than Jowaine. All ten of them will make their presence felt on the Western Province road running and cross-country scene and that they would easily gain immediate selection into Chet’s WP team.
The ten runners I was thinking of, were: Desiree Williams, Roslyn Meyer and Valda Booysen from South Peninsula, Sharon Klein from Bishop Lavis, Priscilla Windwaai, and Jeannetta Abrahams of Stellenbosch, Melody Marcus of Bellville, Lenie September of Grabouw, Theresa Swartz of Worcester and Francine Skippers of Mitchell’s Plain. At the time I said that, it never crossed my mind that they would have coaches other than those who were coaching them at Sacos. I was thinking of Reggie Dreyer of South Peninsula; Francois Maclons and Ian Rutgers of Bishop Lavis; Kevin Kiewitz, Roger Adams and Havilyn Elders of Bellville; Mr Meyer of Grabouw; Chris Visagie of Worcester; and Anwar Mentoor of Mitchell’s Plain. The coaches who could bring these athletes to the national and international stage were in the Sacos fold already. Emeraan Ishmail had already paid homage to coaches like Willie Davids, Wilfie Daniels, Robin April and Herman Abrahams on this website.
(Main photograph, left, William Davids, Wilfred Daniels and Allan Parrott)
However, in my way of pointing out the quality of coaching we had, I would like to give an overview of how we trained at the Stellenbosch Amateur Athletic Club when I started my own running career way back in April 1977 under the guidance of Wilfred Daniels. On the menu were training sessions like interval training, fartlek, aerobic runs on tar and dirt roads, hills, Indian sprinting (or Indian fartlek), Polish fartlek, track repetitions, long pyramids, short pyramids, the odd dune session, upper body and core strength training and rest sessions. We did not have a tartan track or a gravel track and it was not even a 400m track. Our track sessions were done on the grass soccer pitches of the Ida’s Valley Sportsgrounds.
Every February, the school’s PT Master, Geoff Damon, would measure and mark out a 300m track. He later taught us how to measure and mark out a 300m and 400m track with lime.
In summer we would normally do at least two track sessions a week. Each track session would have started off with a warm up run of about 3 – 5kms, followed by a stretching session, then strides and then the track session proper, followed by a warm down run and stretching session. Stretching sessions would consist of static stretching starting from the neck down to the feet.
Because of the risk of the cold weather leading to injuries, we did not do track sessions during the winter. We would start our runs from the bakery/shop called Ricky’s opposite Ida’s Valley Primary School. We left our clothes with the clerks behind the counter.
I remember long runs to Jonkershoek, Jamestown, Devon Valley and Vlottenburg, shorter runs known as Klein Blok and Groot Blok and medium runs like Rivier Om. Whenever I visit Stellenbosch nowadays, I still like to do the Rivier Om run.
Hard training days
Just like real top athletes the world over at that time, our training week will begin with a long(ish) run, a hard training session the next day, followed by an easy or easier session, then a hard training session, followed by an easy one and total rest on the last day before the race. Our hard training days would have consisted of interval training, fartlek, aerobic runs, hill repetitions, hill running, a sustained effort run, or Indian fartlek. Of course, there will also be scenic runs (active rest) and no runs at all (rest). It was the coach’s prerogative due to his (perceived) superior knowledge to decide what we will do at what time. I remember some evenings when the training was a little too tough, Abie Flink, one of the athletes in the group, would start complaining and threatening that he will buy “that book at CNA” and train himself. We even kept log books.
Weight training was not done in the group and it was left to each individual to do on his own or with some bodybuilder in the community. (I remember Nico Vermeulen of Worcester who was a boiler maker at that time, training with weights he made himself. Hennie Klaase of Malmesbury used bricks for his weight training.)
The above-mentioned clearly shows that we had a good coach, who knew what he was doing – that is called knowledge – and a coach who was not afraid to sacrifice to convey that knowledge – that is called passion. He inspired me to do the same when I started my coaching career.
Coaching at Sacos
We had good athletics coaches and coaching at SACOS in the 1980s, but for various reasons our athletes found it almost impossible to break through the psychological barriers like 1:50 for the 800m; 2.20m for high jump; 2:20:00 for the marathon; 30:00 for the 10 000m, 4 minutes for the mile, and so on. Of these so-called psychological barriers, Jantjie Marthinus broke the 1:50 barrier for the 800m and Owen Machelm and John September broke 30:00 for the 10 000m, and most of the other barriers were broken the moment the athletes stepped onto the tracks and roads on the “other side”: Nico Vermeulen, Donovan Wright, Keith Court, Desmond Zibi and John September ran the marathon in sub 2:20:00, Gavin Lendis jumped over 2:20, O’Neil Simpson, Johan Landsman and Ebenezer Felix ran sub 4:00 for the mile, Jowaine Parrott ran her first full marathon (42.195km) in sub 2:50:00 and so did Farwa Mentoor (in their case there was no marathon for Ladies at Sacos and thus no time to compare their performances with. Jowaine at least ran the 10km in 38:55, the 15km in 58:24 and the 21.1km in 83:23 at Sacos, normally during the midday heat on tough courses.
The time of 83:25 for the 21.1km was achieved on a course that followed the dirt roads around Ashton in the Boland. Jowaine’s performances over these distances were run at sub 4 min per km pace, which equates to a sub 2:48:48 standard marathon, if she could maintain that pace over the full distance.
Gavin Lendis jumped 2:28 under the guidance of the same coach he had at Sacos. Keith Court, ran a 2:16 marathon and finished in the top three of the Two Oceans Marathon under the guidance of Willie Davids, the same coach he had at Sacos.
Wilfred Daniels implemented the coaching structures in the early eighties with people like Vijay Balram, Rashardt Williams and Allan Suban of Natal, Lizette Nagan, Norman Roman and Allan Zinn of the Eastern Cape, Roland Bastiaan, William Legolie and John Cupido (Boland) and Winston Kloppers, Allan O’Ryan, Cedric van Wyk, Henry de Grass and Willie Davids of Western Province.
John C Maxwell in his book Talent is never enough, points out 13 traits of what he calls a talent-plus person:
- Belief lifts your talent
- Passion energizes your talent
- Initiative activates your talent
- Focus directs your talent
- Preparation positions your talent
- Practice sharpens your talent
- Perseverance sustains your talent
- Courage tests your talent
- Teachability expands your talent
- Character protects your talent
- Relationships influence your talent
- Responsibility strengthens your talent
- Teamwork multiplies your talent
Any talented Sacos athlete who can truly say that he had religiously and diligently adhered to these 13 traits and still not achieved what he wanted, can blame the lack of facilities, lack of opportunities, lack of incentives, lack of competition, lack of focus, lack of belief – in himself and the coach, lack of teachability, but will never be able to blame the lack of coaches, coaching and coaching structures. It must be something else. That is a topic for a whole new discussion on a different day.
*Allan Parrott coached numerous athletes and tri-athletes to national honours, most notably Brad Storm and Carl Storm and Jowaine Parrott (Née Lategan), who he coached since her years as a beginner at Sacos in 1984. Under his guidance, she went on to become All Africa Marathon Champion in September 1995. Jowaine was selected to the SA marathon team on two occasions in 1995 and once in 1997. She also has the following PBs to her credit; Marathon – 2:41:59 in Berlin Marathon, 1996, 21.1km in 1:15:00, 1995, 15km in 52:36 in Paarl, 1995, 10km in Bellville in 34:26 in 1995, Two Oceans in 3:47:05 in 1996 and Comrades 6:55:19 in 1996.