Invisible training sessions key to Mokwena's philosophy

Rhulani Mokwena.
Rhulani Mokwena.
Image: Lefty Shivambu

Mamelodi Sundowns coach Rhulani Mokwena has stressed the importance of what he termed “invisible training sessions” as the cornerstone of success.

Mokwena spoke on the lessons he looks to pass on in his coaching career, from his interactions with young boys who hope to one day play football professionally to his professional charges at Downs.  

“As our former president Nelson Mandela once said, sport has the power to bring societies together. When we look at where we are as a country and the amount of social ills we have to fight against, one of the biggest vehicles we can effectively use is sport. I tell my players that they are players for just a few hours, and the rest of their time, they are back as part of the broader society. I always emphasise the role environment plays in the development of an individual, as well as what I call ‘the invisible training sessions’. This refers to diet, nutrition, mental fortitude and discipline. You won’t always have the motivation to do things, and that is where discipline kicks in,” Mokwena said.

He was part of a panel assembled by food and beverage company Nestle who discussed the importance of sport and the life skills that can be learnt from it. The panel included former Banyana Banyana striker Portia Modise,  African Boxing Union champion Thulani Mbenge, former professional rower Ursula Grobler, broadcaster Motshidisi Mohono and singer Kelly Khumalo.

With the Covid-19 pandemic and the related regulations leaving sport fields across the country empty, the goal is to get children back on the field of play, with the slogan #FindYourGrit used as the rallying call behind the initiative.

Mbenge, who is tipped as a future welterweight prospect, spoke of how sport can be a vehicle for youngster to evade the perils of teenage pregnancies or crime.

“It teaches you self-discipline and builds better characteristics. With sport, you learn not to cut corners,  what to do and when to do it, and breeds leadership,” Mbenge said.

Grobler, who has represented SA at the Olympics, detailed her journey to the top, and the qualities that she has that reflect her grit.

“I had lost my job and decided to take up rowing. One day I spoke to a coach and told him that my dream was to compete at the Olympics. I was 26 years old, had only started rowing six months before, and he told me I had the wrong idea. But I persevered and made a commitment. Though it took me 10 years, I broke a world record and did make it to the 2016 Rio Olympics,” said Grobler.

Modise, one of the country’s most exciting footballers in her heyday, is the embodiment of grit, overcoming obstacles and charting new frontiers. The first African player to score more than 100 international goals, Modise was named player of the championship at the 2006 Women's African Football Championship. She paid tribute to developmental coaches and people in the township who helped her budding career while growing up in Soweto.  

“There were coaches and community members who helped us and created the opportunity for me to be where I am. They gave their time and resources when they didn’t have to, and that is why I achieved what I did. My mom was a single mother, so the coach played the father role for me. He made sure I had lunch so that I could concentrate on what I had to,” Modise said.

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