April 28 2020 – Dr Suzanne Ferreira is no stranger to guiding South African athletes to Paralympic glory and has some valuable lockdown advice for athletes through this time and beyond.

Ferreira completed her PhD in sport performance management for persons with cerebral palsy and has helped prepare athletes for the last 5 Paralympic games. 

Dr Ferreira is currently the coach of 5 para athletes who have medaled at international competitions, four at senior level and one junior athlete, she believes that empowering her athletes as human beings is more valuable than gold. 

She says her coaching philosophy is about the trip not necessarily the destination “you are on a journey with a human being, it’s a journey of transformation in the context of sport.”

On the 30 March 2020, the International Paralympic committee (IPC) announced that the Tokyo Paralympic Games will now take place from the 24th of August to the 5th of September 2021. Ferreira says the key for athletes to make the most of the extra year of preparation for the Games is, “One of the biggest things is that we are uncertain when competition will resume so it’s best to keep the bigger picture in mind. Do the best with what you have now and don’t get lost in what you can’t control. “ 

Ferreira says that athletes must stay active, “Everyone will de train at moment but you want to limit that as best as possible to avoid injury when to return to full training. It’s also a good time from a prehab point of view. If you struggle with your shins, now is a great time to work on those small exercises and get stronger on your weak areas. For whatever weaknesses you have, from a physical conditioning point of view. If you work on your weaknesses now, it will mean you spend less time on that when you get back to training. “

Although competition is halted because of theCOVID-19 lockdown, athletes should keep their competitive spirit fueled. Ferreira says, “Even if you find a plank challenge … stay in contact with your training partner and challenge them. If you feel like you are lacking motivation, call a friend and train together.”

South Africa will move to eased lockdown regulations from Friday and Ferreira’s advice to young athletes is patience. She says, “It is something I value highly. The other thing I encourage a person to do is find your “why”. There are always ups and downs in life and sport so you need patience, purpose and perseverance.”  

Ferreira has won numerous awards and been nominated in the coach of the year category three times at the National Sport Awards. This is her advice to other coaches, “Hold onto the bigger view that it is a journey and not just that outcome for the moment. If you win or lose, there is a growth moment in the journey. A coach is first at heart a developer, you want to see a person grow.” 

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