Boasting with personal best times of 10.48 in the 100m, 20.80 in the 200m and 46.95 in the 400m, Thabo Matebedi could have gone on to be a professional athlete, but instead he hung up his spikes with dreams of imparting his expertise and knowledge to the next generation of sprinters.

Matebedi started coaching as a 24-year-old in 2006, and because he approached coaching with the same passion that pushed him to run faster times in his heydays, he was set up to be a successful coach. “I believe coaching is my calling, and I can change and touch young people’s lives” said the Atteridgeville-born coach. “I am so passionate to help kids because I know all they need is an opportunity, and I know sport will change their lives for the better. We would find a kid with no profile, put him/her on the track, and help them become stars…that excites me because they are happy.”

Working at the Tuks Sport High School sprinting academy alongside Hennie Kriel, Matebedi proved he’s is a force to be reckoned with when he produced South Africa’s first ever 100m world junior champion, Tsenolo Lemao. Also working under his watchful eyes are Caroline Mosime, the SA u/18 200m champion, Malesela Senona, the Region 5 Games 100m and 200m champion, and Thapelo Maholela, the third fastest u/20 100m sprinter in SA. He takes pride in what he has achieved, but for the 35-year-old world class coach it is about more than just track and field. “Most of the time my athletes and I talk life in general, not sprinting. I try to teach them things that I was not taught in life, and I try my best to help them with life challenges, because I know athletics can change their lives.” Humble and straight-forward as ever, he always reminds his athletes that not everyone will become pro athletes, but it has the ability to change their lives. “Athletics teaches one to face life’s challenges and self-discipline” he further said.

He might always have a smile on his face, but the star coach calls a spade a spade, and he admits that the sport has a long way to go. Says the former athlete, “Most people think coaching is for old people, and it takes time for parents or athletes to believe in you. Only after you win national races people want to come to you, and I hardly say no because we want to help athletes.” “We have also been trapped under people that do not even understand the sport. We always have to do things that we don’t want to just to keep our jobs, but honestly, that takes a lot of time, time that could be used for planning and research.”

Looking ahead, he has his eyes set on encouraging young coaches to step up to the plate. “In our sport most of the coaches are over 50 years old and soon the will not be able to do these things, so if we can start learning from the coach at a young age, by the time we are 50, we have huge experience.” He further added, “We need to study and learn more, go and spend time overseas with other coaches to see what they do that can work for us. People in the offices think it’s easy, but we need to make time for research and planning.”

Coach Thabo’s holistic approach proves to work, so why not follow his example


Written by Reggie Hufkie