PREPARATIONS have begun for Thaba Jabula Secondary School from Soweto, Gauteng, after registrations closed this week for the 2015 Kay Motsepe Schools Cup, sponsored by Sanlam and the Motsepe Foundation.
The school represented the Gauteng province at last year’s national finals, and the team’s manager/coach, Cassius Mpati, says they have been hard at work, preparing for this year’s competition.
The school competes in the Pimville Cluster in the JHB North Region and the first games will be played at the Nike Centre on April 24. So far they have played 2 friendly games, and are planning on playing a few more before the tournament starts.
“We still have time to prepare the team, and the teams that we will be playing against in the cluster don’t scare us,” he said. “We are used to playing against them and have beaten them before and I have no doubt in my mind that this year will be the same.”
The school has lost 5 members of last year’s team, who have either finished school, or are now too old.
So a number of under-17s have come up into the under-19 team. “We have also taken in 3 new players, Happy Mashiane, Thato Tshabalala and Given Thibedi who are from the Kaizer Chiefs Academy,” Mpati said. “They are from Tembisa and Kaizer Chiefs has moved them to Soweto so that they could be close to where they train with the club.”
Thaba Jabula School is close to the Nike Centre where the Chiefs Youth Academy practices.
Mpati started his career as a player, which has helped him in his coaching career. “I have been where my players are so I can talk from experience. It’s not something that you can learn from a book,” he said.
A successful coach needs to relate to his players, believe Mpati. “A coach needs to be able to understand his/her players at all times. Being able to take yourself down to the players’ level is a good thing because it shows that you care for them and their needs,” he said.
Mpati teaches English and Life Sciences at the school, so finding the time to coach is a challenge. “Sometimes I am swamped with academic stuff and I cannot make training, so I have had to ask for assistance from an external local coach, Zakes Khumalo.
“Zakes helped us from the provincial level upwards last year and this year we decided to bring him on board at the beginning of the tournament so that he can start prepping the team the way he wants to,” said Mpati.
Every year the school holds awards for teachers and students, and for two years in a row Mpati won the best teacher of the year award, and also the Sportsman and Team Manager of the year awards.
“It feels great to know that one’s efforts don’t go unnoticed. Winning these awards also makes me want to do more for my students and my team.”
The team did not do as well as they wanted to at the national finals last year, but the experience did them a lot of good. “I think that stage fright got the better of them,” Mpati said. “That’s one thing that a coach cannot prevent. A team can train and play 50 games to prepare for a tournament, but that still does not guarantee that they will not get nervous.
“That’s what happened last year. We got nervous and lost all our day 1 games. We bounced back and finally drew 0-0 against Holy Trinity, the other Gauteng team in the finals. They went on to win the tournament and the R1 million to go with it.”