Welcome to Team Talk. I always so look forward to writing this column as I get to hear some of the most inspiring testimonies of what God has done and is doing through some really amazing people. One of those amazing athletes / coaches is Andrew Kock. I have known Andrew for some time and have witnessed the fruits of His ministry. A young man truly after God’s own heart. Check out the Q&A session I had with Andrew. It will inspire you, encourage you, motivate you and give you hope.
Tell us a bit about your childhood and family?
I was born and raised in Port Elizabeth and grew up in the Northern Areas in Gelvandale. I am the youngest of three siblings. My dad worked hard to provide for us while my mom left nursing to look after us. Our house was small, in fact it only had one bedroom which we all shared. My brother moved to my grandparents when he was a little bigger.
I attended Gelvandale Primary School and was involved in most sports and cultural activities. My love for sport was really enhanced here. I did grades eight and nine at George Schmidt, the Morovian Missionary School in Gelvandale and matriculated from Chapman Senior Secondary School.
Growing up, we didn’t have much, but we didn’t lack anything either. I remember dressing up to go to town with my mom or grandparents. We would take the bus and sit and have lunch on the square feeding pigeons while waiting for my dad to join during his lunch hour. Only later, much later in life, did it occur to me that the only reason we sat and had lunch on the square was because we were not allowed in the nearby restaurant. My parents never complained and never taught us to hate or retaliate. They taught us to get on with life and make the best of it.
Despite the social ills around me, I had a great childhood. Sport helped me cope with a lot of things and I threw myself into it. When apartheid started to fade and things opened up more, I had the opportunity, with many other greats from the Northern Areas, to compete against other schools and athletes from the Western Suburbs.
This was a sobering time as I realised just how far behind we were compared to these schools. It’s difficult to compete when you are starting on the back foot, but we learned valuable lessons then. I made friends with my fiercest rivals on the track but not before I started beating them in the sprints.
Gelvandale taught me resilience, discipline and to never give up. I worked hard to one day beat my competition but thinking about it now, it was more a victory on behalf of and for my parents. My mom was my biggest fan and supporter and she loved listening to stories about our races.
When did you discover that you had a passion for athletics?
Growing up in Gelvandale you needed a skillset to survive. You either needed to be able to fight, negotiate or run fast! I ran very well but was drawn to sport in general because we played in the street – the whole day, every day. I realised I was pacey through games we played and with it being competitive, we pushed each other. Guys like Ashwell Prince, Robyn Peterson, Garnett Kruger, Alviro Petersen all came through the same “system”.
How did you come to know Christ and accept Him as your Lord and Saviour?
This is a weird story. I grew up in church and always knew about God and thought I had already accepted him as Lord and Saviour, until I met a pastor who was on fire for Jesus — nothing like I’d seen before. I joined his youth group at another church and did outreaches and led worship until we had an outreach to Jansensville. The youth event we were supposed to have was cancelled and we had a time of worship instead. During worship I felt a warmth and a tug at my heart and I knew it was God calling me. Up until this point, I was very religious, but now I had discovered the relationship. I left Jansensville a changed person.
At what level did you compete at and now coach at?
I competed at provincial and national level in sprints and now also coach at those levels.
Share with us some challenges you faced as an athlete and as a coach?
Pressure, expectations and perceptions. As an athlete I felt immense pressure to represent my family, school and neighbourhood well. The pressure of carrying everyone’s hopes was great and the expectations at times unrealistic. Perceptions are more of an issue as a coach. I’m a very private person and don’t give much away of myself. Many believed that I am not strict enough as a coach to achieve results. My upbringing shapes my coaching philosophy and I allow my athletes to fail, to wrestle with life, to find themselves, to grow — I am more interested in the person than in the athlete.
What would you say is the highlight of your sporting career?
I have so many highlights but as an athlete it was winning gold at SA Senior Champs in the 4x100m relay with EP team members Sherwin Vries, Paul Gorries and Garith Roelf. We ran 40.07sec which still stands today! As a coach there were two events: 1) winning Madibaz coach of the year and 2) coaching Saskia Wait to her SA Schools 100m title. This was very special as she struggled with injuries for a while but because we were together for five years prior, we trusted each other and placed our trust in God to see us through. I still get goose bumps just thinking about that race. It was perfect!
Are you married and do you have children?
I am married to the love of my life, Sue-Anne and we have two beautiful daughters named Amy and Zoe. Amy turns 10 this year and Zoe is eight months old.
What is it like juggling being a husband, father, working man and coach?
It is very difficult at times to get to everything and everyone but I have a very supportive wife who gives me the space and freedom to be me and do what I need to do. Being a father is just such a blessing and being able to coach and sow into young lives is also a big blessing. I don’t take it lightly and I’m aware of influence. The business comes with responsibility but I’m loving it.
Tell us about Sparta and how did it come into being?
Sparta started about 10 years ago when I first got into coaching. I had a group of young athletes and I wanted to break the mould in the local coaching scene. It’s only just become official as I felt the time was right to make it official and give what I do some structure. My very first athlete that I coached was an Olympian and it scared me a little but I found courage after watching the movie 300. I also guess Sparta is a cool name so it just stuck.
What are your dreams and aspirations for Sparta and your ministry?
Our slogan reads: At Sparta we turn average athletes into good, good athletes into great and great into elite. This has a few meanings to it. Firstly, we invest time, resources and expertise into athletes to make them better athletes and walk with them through the levels of competition. We also teach our athletes to cope with life and hopefully they will be better human beings as a result of our interactions and engagements. I also want to see Sparta Speed having a national and international footprint. Currently, we have international athletes and we have growing interest.
Mention one of your favourite verses and why?
Habbakuk 3:17,18: — Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour.
This has always been a very special verse for me as I discovered and began to understand it while in a place of doubt with questions in my head that I couldn’t get answers to. I looked at my life what I “didn’t have” where I “could’ve been” and then it hit me. Having everything one wishes for doesn’t mean you have what and who matters. I have the opportunity and privilege to know God – who He is, what He has done, what He will do. He won’t leave nor forsake me, in spite of what my situation is. He is always good and more than worthy to be praised. This Scripture encourages me to focus on the lamb, instead of any situation, however hopeless it may be at the time.
Name two valuable lessons that you have learned in your career thus far?
I got home very upset one day after losing a race. My mom always wanted feedback but this day she didn’t let me talk, instead she looked at me as I approached her, sat me down and said this: ”Dit maak nie saak of jy wen en of jy verloor nie, solank jy eerste kom”. Loosely translated it says:” It doesn’t matter whether you win or lose, as long as you finish first”.
I was very confused – how do you finish first if you lose?? Years later the penny dropped – she was talking about my attitude. It must be the same in victory and defeat, that is what makes one a winner.
If my attitude is right, I can’t ever lose. Attitude is everything!
Thank you so much Andrew. You are an inspiration to me and to so many people. May the Lord continue to move you from glory to glory.
If you are in need of a speed coach, Andrew comes highly recommended. Andrew’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
From all of us at Team Talk, goodbye, God bless and always remember:
Attitude is everything.