Former Madibaz star Delaine Mentoor will place a strong emphasis on mental preparation after landing the job as head coach for the South African women’s water polo team.
The 27-year-old ex-national player was appointed to the position in October and has already targeted some international tournaments next year as their immediate goals.
To attain success in such a challenging environment, she says it is essential to retain “calmness in the chaos”.
“My main coaching philosophy is that I do not panic and prefer to work silently in the background to provide the calmness required,” said Mentoor.
“I coach the mind just as hard as I coach the physical aspect of the game, because I believe that you must cultivate the mind to achieve the maximum performance from players.
“Coaching with integrity is another big part of my thinking and I believe my players should, too, play with integrity.
“I suppose I also remain calm because I am a big believer in doing the work before the competition to make sure my players are well prepared for all aspects – the controllable and the uncontrollable.
“So there is no need to panic; you only need to adapt,” she explained.
“Teaching responsibility and accountability are important as this provides the players with life lessons through sport.”
As she looks to next year, Mentoor said their primary objective was to build a squad of fit and conditioned players, with a good work ethic.
“This will assist in us standing our ground against the many tough teams we will be up against and, most importantly, will allow us to be competitive on the world stage.”
“We want to be able to build and work towards the 2024 Olympic Games.”
She said much of the work had already been done by her predecessor.
“Right now it is all about executing it and ensuring players are meeting the targets set out for them and adapting as we go along. We need to find what works for all national squad players and for that reason the targets have been individualised.
“But we are always looking to improve, so there are a number of professionals involved to ensure that we stay on the right track and work towards player development and growth.”
Mentoor, then Christian, started coaching at a young age, during her first year at Nelson Mandela University (2012), and she played provincially and nationally for several years.
She competed in the junior world championships in Greece, senior world championships in Barcelona and Russia as well as at the European Union nations tournaments in Ireland and Prague.
And yet, if it hadn’t been for a talk given to a group of swimmers by some water polo players during her schooldays at Kingsridge in King William’s Town, she might not have found this career path.
“It is crazy to think of where it all started and where I am now,” recalled Mentoor. “I was a swimmer and a group of high school water polo players came around and called all of the swimmers for a talk when I was 11.
“I remember them telling us about the sport, how social it was and how you could travel the world and meet so many people. Well, 16 years later that could not be more true.
“Following that talk, we attended an introductory training camp at Stirling High School in East London and I fell in love with the game.
“I could finally use my strength and build with a combination of the swimming I was already doing and I received instant joy from playing – I knew this was what I wanted to do.”
She was recognised for her playing skills at Nelson Mandela University, twice receiving the Madibaz sportswoman of the year award.
In her last year, she was named the varsity’s coach of the year at the annual Achiever Awards dinner.
Having coached at various national levels, she now looks forward to sharing her knowledge gleaned over the years with the country’s best players.