Coach Lydia Dumond talks about being chosen as the head coach for South African Men’s team of differently abled athletes, ahead of the 2019 Vodacom Wheelchair Basketball Challenge Finals taking place on November 16. Add to this that she is also a police officer, and it becomes clear why not even her husband and captain of the team wants to get on her wrong side!
“I’m a police officer, so I know how to speak to people who sometimes don’t want to listen. I’m firm on discipline. It’s mostly about trust and respect for me. If they respect me as a coach, I’ll respect them as a player. I think we all understand each other in this team,” Dumond says with a smile.
There is no doubt she is more than up to the challenge and the pressure of being not only the head coach of the national team, but also of a North West Province team that has won two of the last three finals in the Vodacom Wheelchair Basketball Challenge, the country’s top provincial competition.
“There’s a lot of pressure in being the first woman in a role such as this, because sometimes people are just waiting for you to fail. But I just put my mind to the task at hand, and I enjoy proving people wrong.”
Dumond’s interest in wheelchair basketball came through her husband Cecil, the captain of the national team.
“I started out as a spectator just watching Cecil practice or play. Then later I was nominated as water boy for his team. I became more involved and achieved my coaching level 1 and 2. And I just enjoyed spending time with the players and around the sport.
“I’d never even watched able-bodied basketball so I was totally unaware of the rules when I started watching the game. But just by being a part of the practices and watching the matches, I picked up the game. And it’s like I just know what they need to do. I can see on court what they need to do, and it’s just a matter of me being able to get that across to the players.
“In the beginning it was a bit difficult having my husband in the team and me being the coach. I would shout at him on court and then we’d drive home in silence. But now we’ve learnt. He’s my captain and I respect him because he’s got more experience of the game than me, but he also gives me the space to learn and grow as a coach.”
The Challenge plays a key role in Dumond’s own preparations of her national team for the ultimate goal of not just qualifying for the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo, but heading there with a mindset to be competitive.
See also: SA’s Success At The 2016 Paralympics
“It’s a great opportunity for the players, and with the prize money that Vodacom offers it really raises the standard. Overall, I’m really happy with this national team. The players all play their hearts out for each other. This is not a disabled sport. It’s a way of life for these players. If everybody stays on the same page, I think we’ll go to the Paralympics and compete. We’re not focused on going there and saying, ‘Yay we’re at the Paralympics’. We want to compete.”
The 2019 Vodacom Wheelchair Basketball Challenge Finals will take place on Saturday 16 November at Mandeville. The U23’s will play at 10h00, the Women’s Final at 11h30 and the Men’s Final at 14h00. The Men’s Final will be broadcast live on SuperSport.