(Published - 10 July 2019)
Stanton Smith says his appointment as the Head Coach of the University of the Western Cape (UWC) men’s football team is a dream come true and is a testament to the University’s past, present and future in the Beautiful Game.
Like his parents Arnold and Roberta, Smith is a graduate of UWC. He has played and coached football at a high level and sacrificed an opportunity to become a professional footballer in order to pursue his studies. It is a value UWC continues to instil in its students.
“I grew up with the UWC brand, and many years later I was coaching this brand. Now I’m leading the brand, which for me is like a dream come true,” he says. “I have always wanted to be at the forefront of this University in terms of football development and performance. I have been a football player at a high level and I just love sharing my knowledge with the up and coming players.”
Smith, who enrolled in 2011 for a Postgraduate Diploma in Education, has taken over from Salie Adams. He has been Adams’s assistant coach since 2015 when the UWC team won the Varsity Football competition. Adams has moved to a more Managerial Role within UWC Football to head up both men’s and women's football on campus.
Smith is keenly aware of his duty to maintain UWC’s standing as a force to be reckoned with in the South African university sport arena.
“We are in a rebuilding process. As we all know, players come in to study and graduate or leave for whatever reasons. Since 2015, our team has reached that turnover stage. Many of our senior players have graduated and some have turned professional and are playing in the National First Division”.
Among them are Ronald Learner who has been promoted at Ajax Cape Town, Clint Fredericks who joined Jomo Cosmos, Achmat Ceres who played for Ubuntu last year, and Jay-Dee Adams who is with the newly-promoted Steenberg United.
UWC has retained only five players from last year but has recruited no less than 12 players.
“With 12 new incoming players, we will have sustainability for at least three years, and then we can build a very solid team,” says Smith.
Smith brings a wealth of football experience to the job and is a living example of a successful student-athlete. He was part of the South African National Under 20 team at the age of 19 and was already training with the first team of Hellenic Football Club when he received a bursary to study and play football in the United States.
“That was a turning point in my life. I had to decide to either become a professional footballer or take the avenue of playing football and getting an education. This is why I emphasise to my players today the importance of getting the balance right between football and their studies. If I look back at players who were playing with me at that time, only 10% made it all the way. But if you are realistic in life, you understand that not everybody will become a professional footballer. And if you get the opportunity to study and to play, why not do it?” says Smith.
Smith then went on to obtain a Master’s degree in Education while he played Collegiate Football in Division 1 and PDL in the US. He then became an assistant coach at both the University of Charleston and Marshall University, also in the US, where he played and won numerous awards. Upon his return to South Africa, he spent 7 years at Ajax Cape Town’s Youth Academy before coming to UWC in 2011. As Head Coach of UWC Men’s Football, Smith guided UWC to its Varsity Football promotion in 2012. He returned to Ajax in 2013 before coming back to UWC two years later in 2015, helping UWC become National Champions for the first time.
UWC is one of only three universities to qualify for Varsity Football every year since its inception, and the University has done well in the University Sport South Africa competition too, earning a bronze Medal in 2018.
“We have a good reputation that we have to uphold, and the players are aware of the demands that come with playing for UWC,” says Smith.
Recently, Smith passed his CAF B-licence coaching course and says football is evolving “and it's up to us to stay up to speed with the modern trends of coaching football”.
He says one of the main aspects that has been added to UWC football is a high-performance coach.
“That will make the players complete in terms of being quicker, stronger and less prone to injuries,” says Smith. “I’m very excited to be given an opportunity to move UWC forward and take that next step as a powerhouse in University Football. I urge the University community to rally behind us and help lift the team to perform at the level we know is expected of us, and that we are capable of.”
UWC kicks-off its Varsity Football campaign away at the University of the Free State on 25 July.