The top hockey school in South Africa will be bidding farewell to arguably one of the most astute coaches – if not the most astute coach – in South Africa. Morné Odendaal will be greeting C&N Sekondêre Meisieskool Oranje in August following a tremendously successful tenure as the school’s first team hockey head coach over a period of ten years.
Odendaal has been offered a once in a lifetime opportunity to further his coaching career in the USA at the Ivy League school, Wake Forest University, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
There Odendaal will serve as an assistant coach at an institution that places a lot of emphasis on providing the men’s and women’s hockey programmes with the same budget.
During his tenure over the course of a decade Oranje lost just nine games in close to 400 matches. In this time Oranje went 1007 days without a defeat, recorded a 127-game unbeaten run, and were the number one hockey school in South Africa for ten years in a row. Odendaal is also the only coach to win St Mary’s Tournament (Johannesburg) and the Super12 Series (Bloemfontein) in the same year. He achieved this feat on five occasions and will be targeting a sixth ‘double’ before he leaves.
To find a coach to replace Odendaal won’t be hard at all – but to find one of his calibre will be the difficult part. Speaking to Bloemfontein Courant, Odendaal said that the school will do everything that it can to find someone who will continue the success he has achieved.
“I know that the school will do everything in their power to find a good replacement for me. I want them to keep succeeding and building on the platform that I have left. I am going to be the biggest supporter and watch all of their games. Luckily, we live in a time now where we can stream everything. So, I will support them whenever I can.
“It is just very pleasing to know that the players and myself are leaving hockey at Oranje in a much better place than we found it. We set the standards of South African hockey very high.
“I’m very proud of all the players who I’ve coached over the years. Not only as players when I coached them, but also as young adults. They are all terrific people and they are all conquering the world. It’s very pleasing to see how they progressed, not only as human beings, but also in their jobs and as life partners.”
Odendaal also shared the secret to his success as a coach, and key to that is being able to learn, adapt and always put the player or players first.
“It’s very important to learn as much as possible from other coaches. Don’t copy-and-paste by stealing their ideas and making it your own. It’s also very important to not only coach the x’s and o’s. You need to coach the person as well. A player-based coaching style will get you a lot further and put them into a culture of excellence and make them a part of the end goal.”
Odendaal’s tenure will officially come to an end on 7 August at the Super12 Series at Oranje.
His departure is not only a big blow to Oranje. Bloemfontein, the Free State and South Africa will be losing a true servant of the game.
A coach that touched and changed lives and lived and breathed for the sport. Odendaal will leave as a legend of the sport in the city and one can only hope that one day he will return to South Africa as an even better coach. – MORGAN PIEK