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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

'Your responsibility to train a school athlete is much more than to train an Olympian' - Zola Budd

In convincing Zola Budd to join her in grooming the next generation of top runners at Hoërskool Stellenbosch, Elana Meyer has pulled off an athletics coup. Last week the first recruits of a new athletics scholarship initiative pioneered by Meyer's Endurocad and supported by the Athletics Foundation Trust were inducted into the programme where Budd will serve as the middle distance coach. The first woman to run under 15 minutes for the 5000m believes that coaching youngsters is a huge responsibility which she does not take lightly.

Some of the recruits in the Endurocad Athletics Scholarship Programme which is supported by the Athletics Foundation Trust and technical sponsor Adidas. Photo Credit: Alvin Dirkse Photography.

"It's really a privilege," she told #TheTopRunner standing on the famous Coetzenburg Stadium athletics track at the University of Stellenbosch. "When I moved over here Elana was the first person to contact me and ask me if I would like to get involved. So it's a privilege for me to be involved with the school and the High Performance Centre and just to be involved with high school athletics because I think your responsibility to train a high school athlete is so much more than what it is to train a Olympic athlete."

The new recruits pose with their new Stellenbosch High School blazers. Photo Credit: Alvin Dirkse Photography.

Sixteen young athletes have been selected from mostly rural areas in the Cape region to be part of this new venture to produce top quality sprint, middle and long distance, pole vault and race walking athletes. Aged between 14 and 17 years old, the future champions who have been enrolled in Grades 8 to 11, will be exposed not only to great facilities and world class coaches, but also excellent opportunities to further their education. On the back of the success she enjoyed coaching in America at the Coastal Carolina University where she guided Adriaan Wildschutt to 27:48.89, which was the fastest 10 000m by a South African in 2021, Budd now heads up the programme's middle distances.

"The most important thing is to get them healthy and to get them in the shape that they can train continuously and then just let them decide what they want to do in a race," was her answer when asked about her approach to coaching. The 55-year old former 5000m world record holder thinks the key to getting the best out of junior athletes is to get them to understand the process of training and find their own motivation for why they run.

Budd and Meyer pose for a photo after completing the 2021 Sanlam Cape Town Marathon. Photo Credit: Elana Van Zyl Meyer.

"I think it's very important to get their views on why they wanna run. If I'm just another coach out there telling them what to to do then I'm jus contributing to the absence of motivation. It's very different in the way you approach your running. In the actual application of it, I give a lot of power of making choices to the athletes," she concluded.

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