Parrott makes a case for Sacos coaches

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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.

VALDA Booysen (Ford) was the top senior ladies’ middle distance athlete in Sacos.

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)

Overview

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.

These are some of the training notes logged in Allan Parrott’s logbook of 1983.

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.

Track sessions

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.

The Sunday Times article is a testimony to the achievements of Allan and Jowaine Parrott, and Edward “Killer” Hendricks in 1990.

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.

Gavin Lendis was another athlete who excelled at the time of “unity” at the Engen Grand Prix Summer Series in the 1990s.

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.

Lendis

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.

Wilfred Daniels, the champion middle-distance runner in the mid-1970s, implemented the WP and SAAAB coaching structures in the early 1980s.

John C Maxwell in his book Talent is never enough, points out 13 traits of what he calls a talent-plus person:

  1. Belief lifts your talent
  2. Passion energizes your talent
  3. Initiative activates your talent
  4. Focus directs your talent
  5. Preparation positions your talent
  6. Practice sharpens your talent
  7. Perseverance sustains your talent
  8. Courage tests your talent
  9. Teachability expands your talent
  10. Character protects your talent
  11. Relationships influence your talent
  12. Responsibility strengthens your talent
  13. Teamwork multiplies your talent

Blame

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.

6 thoughts on “Parrott makes a case for Sacos coaches

  • August 4, 2017 at 11:17 am
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    Dear Publisher, everything Allan wrote here is the truth. It was hard but it was lekka!

    Reply
  • August 3, 2017 at 5:37 pm
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    The Publisher, Uncle Allan, this is a very detailed and insightful article into the circumstances that your generation of athletes had to endure and you still managed to achieve amazing accolades. Much respect.

    Reply
    • August 4, 2017 at 10:47 am
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      Dear Publisher,

      Byron, thank you. Your dad and Ron Oliver were part of the group of athletes who trained on the sports grounds and from Ricky’s. He achieved his WP Colleges colours and WP club colours long before I did and he actually took over as PT Master after Mr Damon left to Atlantis.

      Reply
  • August 3, 2017 at 4:59 pm
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    Dear Publisher, I like the article written by Allan Parrott.

    Reply
  • August 3, 2017 at 4:55 pm
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    Dear Publisher, I think it is a common misconception that coloured athletes who excel are anomalies. It is falsely believed that where an athlete of colour excels and reaches national or international level that this is because of some inherent talent or esoteric gift of the gods. That is what makes this article so interesting and important because it highlights the role of coaches, proper mentoring, guidance and also the fact there are many from disadvantaged backgrounds who can reach these heights if given the proper support and training.

    Reply
    • August 4, 2017 at 11:06 am
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      Dear Publisher,

      Aydn, thank you. In your reply, one can find numerous topics to write a thesis about! Many a thesis has been written on: People of colour must have been born with some enzyme or gene that predisposes them to excel in sport – totally ignoring the role of the primary school teacher, high school teacher and the community coach. This kind of thinking should have been dispelled with after the achievements of Arthur Ashe, Tiger Woods, Lewis Hamilton, Venus Williams and Serena Williams in sports previously seen as the enclaves of white people, but still, it persists.

      Reply

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