The University of Johannesburg’s Simone Conley, who was a member of the South African football team’s coaching staff at the Rio Olympics, came back wiser and confident in the country’s sporting future.
The biokineticist and physical trainer of the U23 team said the trip was a learning experience for her and the team.
In their first Olympic competition since Sydney in 2000, the team missed the quarterfinals, but showed their talent by drawing against eventual champions Brazil.
Conley felt the exposure to international competition at this level would benefit South African football.
“At the next Games the team will be in a more favourable position because they will know what to expect and so will the technical team.
“This will allow for even better results and possibly even a medal,” said the 28-year-old Joburg local, who was closely involved in the team’s preparation.
She said her role included the periodisation of the preparation camps and planning training sessions with coaches.
“I was also responsible for the fitness level of the team and final phase injury rehabilitation.”
They would have liked to have done a lot more, said Conley, but Fifa dates and budget constraints did not allow for that.
She said longer preparation for major competitions would also help close the gap on traditional football powerhouses.
“We cannot prepare for just one year and expect to compete and win against the best, who have been working towards winning a gold medal for the last four years.”
Conley, who runs the biokinetic clinic at UJ, however believed in the team’s potential.
“We have an exceptional group of players with a lot of talent that South Africa will still see as they grow in their careers.”
Her Olympic experience reached beyond the football field. She later moved into the Olympic village to support her sister, Alyssa, who was competing in the 100m and 200m sprints.
“The village was great,” she said.
“Being part of the Olympic Games became real when I entered the village. Mingling with the cream of the crop in the world of sport was bliss.”
Conley, who studied sports management and biokinetics at UJ, said she was still processing the trip to Brazil.
“The learning experience is ongoing as I will reflect on the performance of our team and the other teams and compare what we did to their preparation.”
The former badminton and netball player said she would also analyse other sports codes for her personal development.