Former Madibaz hockey star Jody Paul has used the grounding he received at Nelson Mandela University to carve a new hockey coaching career in Britain.
But the 44-year-old ex-South African player says his heart will always be with his hometown Port Elizabeth and the institution which was the catalyst for his career in the sport.
Recently Paul shared his thoughts in a webinar with Madibaz Sport on his 14 years overseas where he holds the position of head coach at the University of Bath.
He fondly recalled his time at the Port Elizabeth university, then known as UPE and later Nelson Mandela Metro University, where his game developed to a level which took him to the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.
“I genuinely loved my time as a student and coach at UPE and then NMMU,” he recalled. “Those experiences shaped me as a person.
“NMMU allowed me the opportunity to carry on playing international hockey by employing me in The University Shop as a manager and Riaan Osman used me as head coach of the hockey programme.
“My first years as a coach were at NMMU, a time which allowed me to grow as a coach and gave me the foundation for what I am doing now.”
During the webinar Paul spoke about some of the ideas he had developed during his coaching career.
“One of the things I have tried to introduce into my coaching philosophy is to feed information forward,” he said.
“I recall back in my playing days if I did not make a team, I was told only then what was lacking in my game and why I was not selected, which is too late for the player.
“The feed forward option allows the coach tell the players in advance what they need to work on to earn selection.”
Paul added that it was important to avoid any “information overload” on the players.
“It’s necessary for the coaching staff to nail the detail, but you need to be careful that you don’t load your players with unnecessary information,” he said.
“It does depend on your player group because some players operate better with more information, while others are opposite.”
Equally essential, he said, was to create open lines of communication with the players.
“There are times when you may want to put the team on edge in a training session, but you need to tell them of your plans so they understand what you are trying to achieve.”
The Pauls – wife Tracy, children Jack and Jude and a dog – have settled into their life in Britain.
“We live in a lovely village called Farmborough just outside Bath and this is our life now,” said Paul.
“We still have family in Port Elizabeth and were lucky enough to visit them December and January. It is always great to come back home to PE and see friends and family, even though we do catch up regularly with messages and social media.”