MEET WERNER PRINSLOO, THE MAN BEHIND AKANI SIMBINE’S SUCCESS
Photo by Charles Jnr Photography
His interest in athletics, and more so coaching, started in high school after attending a coaches’ training clinic back in 1992. After reading a training book he received at the clinic, he started spending most of his free time, even school holidays, reading and studying sprint training and its components at the local library. He fell head-over-heels in love with the sport, and 25 years later Werner Prinsloo is one of the most respected coaches in world sprinting.
Born and raised in Benoni, Prinsloo attended Hans Moore High School. Although he was an average sprinter in his heydays, he was a permanent member of the school’s athletics team. ‘I was an average sprinter competing in the 100m and 200m until standard 8, then I moved to the 400m. I did so because there were faster sprinters in the 100m and I wanted to stay on the team, so I tried the 400m. I competed against the likes of Riaan Dempers during those years.’ Unable to study at university, he completed an N-Diploma in electronic engineering before starting to work in the private sector. During this stint his athletics took a back-seat, but little did he know his return a few years later would turn out to be extremely special.
‘My return to athletics and coaching came as a result of what I would describe as a divine intervention. I collected my old books and notes and continued my research. After about two years I decided to put theory into practice and in 2007 I joined the Kempton Park Athletics Club based at the Barnard Stadium, which we still use as training base today.’ Three years later a young Akani Simbine started working under his tutelage and the rest, as they say, is history. ‘In early 2010 a young Akani Simbine joined my group and so started our journey. As he progressed and improved year after year, so did my hunger for knowledge and also an urge to always be a step ahead of him in terms of training. It also created an environment of trust and respect.’ ‘My main goal is to help and guide Akani to be World and Olympic Champion in the next 2-3 years, a feat that is certainly possible given his current position’ added Prinsloo who guided Simbine to two fifth position finishes in the 100m at the 2016 Olympic Games and 2017 IAAF World Championships.
Prinsloo is currently working with both junior and senior athletes from various schools and different levels of training- from beginners to elite sprinters. ‘Although I enjoy working with top athletes, I also find it very satisfying guiding young sprinters through to senior level and beyond, perhaps onto the world stage’ said Prinsloo who only started coaching full-time three months ago. ‘In October 2017 I was given the rare opportunity to fulfill a life-long dream to coach full-time. Needless to say, this allows me to spend more time on what matters to me and the athletes.’ And not all coaches get the opportunity to coach full-time, but the Prinsloo believes that the key to becoming a successful coach is self-investment. ‘There are many young talented coaches working at schools or clubs that are doing great work. My advice to them is to invest in themselves through continued learning and research, connecting with other coaches and a mentor. You cannot coach without that inner drive fueled by passion and enthusiasm.’
Prinsloo is also conscious of his responsibility to South African athletics as a top young coach. ‘As a coach it is also my duty to find new talent. I believe there are athletes waiting to be discovered and connected with the right coach. Rural areas and even private schools that do not have athletic programs may be some of the over-looked areas.’
Written by Reggie Hufkie