Coach Steve Komphela keeps the Golden Arrows ready with Zoom training sessions

On his birthday on Wednesday, Lamontville Golden Arrows coach Steve Komphela let Sazi Hadebe and Bareng-Batho Kortjaas in on how Abafana Bes’thende kept their training going via technology

Lamontville Golden Arrows coach Steve Komphela addresses his team who went to pay respects to Nkanyiso Mngwengwe’s family. The former club skipper died during lockdown in May.
Lamontville Golden Arrows coach Steve Komphela addresses his team who went to pay respects to Nkanyiso Mngwengwe’s family. The former club skipper died during lockdown in May.
Image: Golden Arrows/Twitter

How did the restrictions and protocols imposed on all of us affect the team?

It’s the human touch. In a football environment a human spirit has to be very close when you talk team spirit. You could not impact people’s lives through touch and sincere interaction. We got separated, we were more like in an informal prison and needed to be creative within our little prisons. We had to keep away from people but still keep in touch with them through technology.

How did the team adjust to the lockdown?

We had to explain to players what kind of opponent was going to face SA, the strategy of that opponent, what game plan can we develop to defeat that opponent. We explained based on the experiences of China, Italy, the US. We anticipated that in SA the impact will likely be the same and maybe be worse because our health systems were not as tops as those top nations.

We sat at home for a couple of weeks and then we decided it’s getting too long. We needed to find some sort of a way to resume training for maintenance sake which we started on April 21. We told them we’re going to be in a scenario where we have to adapt to the new normal and learn how to train virtually. We then requested the fitness coach [Eduardo Schoeler] to outline to us how he’s going to go through everything. The warm-up, the activation and the actual session itself.

How have you adapted to virtual training?

We’ve adapted to this thing so well that last Friday we threw a question to the players to say if the PSL were to say start tomorrow gentlemen and we’re playing tomorrow, out of 10, where do you think you’ll be. Each individual gave their scores. When we did an audit and worked on a game of averages, they were averaging seven.

Now if players say they’re at stage seven of readiness when they’ve been in Zoom it means when we get to the field you can get an extra 10% of fitness and then the other 15% you’ll definitely get in a match because the best fitness you get is in a match. Zoom has assisted a lot in our work.

How do you ensure that you get the best for your players out of virtual training?

We have five sessions. We train on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, in fact four days — for four days it’s more your physical work and then on Friday we make it a mental talk. A day before Monday, Mandla [Ncikazi, assistant coach] extends invitations for the meeting to the group, technical group and the players.

And the fitness coach would have given the players an indication of the requirements for tomorrow because players must organise their own training station based on what the fitness coach is going to require.

The next day, from 8.30am they start to log in and 9am exactly as I enter. First there ’s an opening prayer. It could be Musa Bilankulu or Gladwin Shitolo who comes up with a prayer. After the greeting it’s over to the fitness coach, because there’s nothing really technical or tactical you can do as a coach because they’re not here. He will explain what the session will be about on the day, maybe power, working on your coordination, working on lateral jumps, your speed, agility, as per the notice you received yesterday. As he demonstrates, all the coaches, we also have our youth coaches, keep an eye on different individuals.

I think they kept it very tight and everything was so superb that all our players came back [for testing this week] not overweight.
Steve Komphela

I could be looking for four or five as I flip through my screen and someone will be looking at the others. If there’s something that I need to rectify or drive through to the fitness coach or any member, I would do the same, and then training will go on for a good one hour or one hour and a half. After the session, we wrap up and then it’s stretching and we cool down. After cooling we do a debrief where we get feedback from the players with regards to how they feel and how far it went.

We also get a feedback from staff members in terms of what they observed in a training session. And then from there we make a closing prayer and release the players. As soon as the players are released the staff members stay on Zoom and we do our own wrap as staff to check where did we go wrong and how did it feel and then from there what are we doing tomorrow. So it was basically that and it was highly beneficial.

The biggest challenge in virtual training, more especially when we have to introduce ball work, was that you can’t lose the ball. You can’t pass the ball to anyone because you’re training alone. So every exercise had to be designed in a manner that the player does not have to lose possession of the ball. So whatever he does we cannot demand that they play it to someone else because you have individuals at training using the ball.

We could only do that by keeping it. So every drill would then have to be confined within the touch of the player and the ball. The company had to be kept with the ball which we mastered very well because we didn’t want them to only be conditioned, conditioned without the ball and lose touch of the ball because they’re football players.

What about the equipment, did everyone have it?

With the equipment we were very practical and realistic. Not all of these kids own your first-class gyms. ULungelo Dube could be having dumbbells or he’s skipping, he’s got a treadmill, but somebody else doesn’t have all that.

We would be creative within levels of adequacy with that individual. Let’s say we need weights and this kid doesn’t have weights. We would recommend that you get any bottle of water, whether it’s five litres of whatever, use it as an overload. If you cannot you have plastic bags, take a plastic bag fill in sand there and put it on your backpack.

It’s an overload. So using your environment to be creative and most of them survived through that.

Any fitness challenges encountered?

We do have one player who even yesterday (Tuesday) we reprimanded. We felt he had gone beyond their normal weight. Now it is the responsibility of the fitness coach to get that particular individual into the right shape and fitness even though we don’t have time. But everybody else was OK.

We were very strict in terms of advice on diet, nutrition and even our exercises. It used to be hectic but after training we’ll say to the players everybody did well, we’ve taken your scores because after every session they’ll score the session, seven out of 10 or whatever. And then we tell them to go back, take a shower and then we emphasise again that shower, go eat and rest. And watch what you eat and if by any chance you’ve

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