from DION HENRICK in Cape Town
CAPE TOWN, (CAJ News) – IF he is not safeguarding local youth from the ravages of violence in schools or shielding communities from crime plaguing the area, Sergeant Jason Rhoda spends his time sharpening the skills of future superstars of the beautiful game.
In both his role as a law enforcer and youth coach at Stellenbosch Football Club, he is committed to the empowerment of youngsters.
Add to that his position among those in the frontline of the war against the raging coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak, with the Western Cape Province being the epicentre of the health crisis.
This is the extraordinary life of a man who has as much passion for football as he has for the safety and security of his community.
On the day CAJ News managed to secure an interview with him, Rhoda, who turned 38 on June 6, was on his way to his local police station to work a nightshift as a colleague had been infected with COVID-19.
“Therefore, I’m standing in making sure the public or rather community are getting the services from SAPS Stellenbosch as they are entitled,” he said.
In his dual role as a cop and coach, he works the night shift fighting crime and securing the community. He can then spend his afternoons coaching the ‘Stellies’ Multichoice Diski Challenge (MDC), the latter role however having been impacted by the lockdown around COVID-19.
That way, he has two ways to reach out to the young people of his community and help them make good decisions about life, including football.
“I work in the social crime prevention field and, therefore, I deal with youth. So, my day-to-day job coincides with what I do at Stellenbosch as both involve youth development and uplifting communities and young people,” he said in the exclusive interview.
In the police force for 17 years, he spearheads the Safer Schools programme.
For his dedication to the sport, Rhoda has been named Stellenbosch Coach of the Year. Other rewards have come from coaching his previous team twice to the ABC Motsepe League title.
He grew up in the Idas Valley neighbourhood and credits his coach-cum-teacher at primary school, Sam Mezichel (late), for instilling discipline and work ethic.
“A history teacher, he was a disciplinarian and a strict guy with heavy family morals. He was on our neck every day,” Rhoda said of the man he played under from the age of 11 until 16.
“There weren’t many academies back then but Idas Valley was run and structured professionally like one, in the sense of the quality of the training. We were only allowed to play two-touch football with Mezichel and another coach Peter Fischer (also late) whose son is also actually a coach also and ambassador Stellies.”
Another Fischer, Lucky, also played professional.
Rhoda’s late father, David, also played a role in moulding him into an acclaimed youth coach.
The younger Rhoda recalled how his parent would on Sundays take him to an open field to work on technique.
“He was very much on technique,” Jason said.
The budding coach is imparting the same weaponry to the Stellies youngsters.
“I’m very big on that too, making sure there is good foundation in place, making sure the starting point of every player that those things are in place for them to progress to the next level.”
The Stellies MDC side was having a satisfactory debut season- lying seventh- until COVID-19 led to the Premier Soccer League abandoning the reserve league in March.
Had it happened that the married father of two daughters was lost to coaching or law enforcement, youth were still going to benefit because his dream profession was teaching.
“I always had it in me and that love of explaining and making sure the next person understands.”
Rhoda, who played in the amateur ranks for Victoria Swifts and the famous Maties and Nelson’s explained how he quit playing the game at an age when most footballers are peaking.
“At the age of 28, I realised that this football career of mine was going nowhere, so I might as well start coaching,” he said.
– CAJ News