Biokineticist Simone Conley is a God-fearing person and believes her path to success was rocky to better prepare her to be where she is today.
She is currently in Wellington, New Zealand as a biokineticist with the Sasol-sponsored Banyana Banyana squad ahead of 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup that kicks off on Thursday, 20 July.
But Conley was almost lost to football during a period when she wasn’t working – but her faith kept her going.
“It’s a process God put me through for me to understand that His will prevails in our lives. Not my will but God’s will shall be done – and we might have goals and dreams and aspirations, but God wants us to keep pushing, to keep knocking on the door, to never give up but to be patient in the waiting room, and that’s my story,” she said from Down Under after one of the training sessions.
Born in Ennerdale, South of Johannesburg, she has a Masters degree in Biokinetics specialising in football injury prevention and conditioning.
Her Football career kicked off when she volunteered at former Kaizer Chiefs coach Farouk Khan’ Football Academy, Stars of Africa. Her role grew when she joined the Nedbank Ke Yona Team Search as a condititioning coach – working with former Bafana Bafana coach Shakes Mashaba, Owen Da Gama and Khabo Zondo (assistant). This exciting initiative was developed for Nedbank in 2013, and they travelled across the country to unearth some of the best football talent that the country has to offer – to select and train a team of amateur footballers to compete against that season’s winning Nedbank Cup winning team. The programme ran for six seasons, with the inaugural search attracting more than 48 000 football hopefuls from all walks of life.
Her perseverance and hard work paid off and she landed a job at the now-defunct Highlands Park, who were still campaigning in South Africa’s second tier league – the National First Division – and she helped the side gain promotion into the Premier Soccer League (PSL).
Conley did not rest on her laurels and was rewarded with an opportunity to go the 2016 Rio Olympic Games with the South African U23 Men’s National Team as well as the FIFA U20 Men’s U20 World Cup.
“This is more than a job for me. I worked my way up and helped promote a team to the PSL, that’s a blessing. Now here I am seated at the FIFA Women’s World Cup – it’s just God’s grace. It’s God rewarding me for never giving up, for always pushing, for always doing my best, for always working hard, for always knocking on the door,” she added.
But it could all have so easily taken a different turn.
Highlands Park was bought by TS Galaxy and her contract was terminated – leaving her out of a job for a while.
Then Amazulu came calling, with former coach Benni McCarthy trying to lure her to the Usuthu camp, but when he was relieved of his duties the deal fell through.
Next was Kaizer Chiefs who inquired about her services, and she even made a presentation, offered a job but later withdrawn as they had opted to go with someone else.
Pirates also made contact and she went for an interview but was told from the onset that they were waiting for a new coach who could come with his assistants, and that is how it panned out.
It was a difficult time for her, sitting at home unemployed.
“With Highlands Park being sold, and TS Galaxy terminating my contract, I thought of moving back to rugby where I used work with the Lions or just take time out and focus on my practice. I needed time to figure out what I wanted to do, what was going to make me happy. So, I just took some time off and left everything in God’s hands. I prayed about it and waited on God to show me a direction,” she said.
Her patience paid off as she says that God placed her in the ladies’ game.
Coach of the South African U17 Women’s National team Simphiwe Dludlu was roped in by SAFA to lead a young group of Banyana Banyana players at the COSAFA Women’s Championship last year in Gqeberha while the other senior group faced off against Brazil in two friendly matches in Johannesburg and Durban.
It was also during that period that she got a call from Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies coach Jerry Tshabalala to work with the team.
“It’s just the irony of how God works – how the door that is made for you is the door that you will walk through and it just goes to show that the Amazulu door was not meant for me, the Kaizer Chiefs door was not made for me and also the Orlando Pirates door too – in fact it appears male football doors were just no longer meant for me to walk through and God made an opportunity available for me to basically walk through the door and get my foot in the door with female football at a pinnacle time when the game is evolving so nicely,’ said Conley.
“For the record, we took silver at the COSAFA tournament with a very young team working with coach Simphiwe, then went to join coach Jerry Tshabalala at the Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies team.”
But when the opportunity from the Middle East came knocking, she didn’t look back. She was given a two-year deal with an option to renew, and sadly Conley had to cut ties with the Brazilians in May.
“To be honest, it was not easy to leave Sundowns Ladies – and I wasn’t even with the team for a full year, but making the decision to leave them was one of the hardest I’ve had to make in my life because I love the team, I love Sundowns, I had always hoped and wished to work for Sundowns when I got my foot into the door in the industry. On my last day I cried, the players cried, it was very emotional,” she said.
“I hope I made an impact in their lives, and I hope that they’ll always remember me, because I will not forget them. I also want to thank coach Jerry and everyone for giving me the opportunity to work for the institution and I hope to go back there someday.”
After her assignment with Banyana Banyana is done in Australia and New Zealand, Conley will jet off to the Middle East to join her new employers – Al Attihad Ladies, who play in the Saudi Women’s Pro League.
The move came about when an agent asked Conley to share her CV, then told her that a big team in that country was looking to beef up their technical team. They loved what they saw, called her for an interview, and, as they say, the rest history.
“God presented this opportunity to me. I think it’s just a move that was heaven sent to be honest with you. It’s God’s will, His timing and Grace. It’s a blessing from God and I plan to take the opportunity and go there and make the most out of it. I plan to learn more, I plan to grow more as a professional,” said an excited Conley.
“I’m working with a head coach that’s from the USA and just the interactions that we’ve had from May up until now has allowed me to grow in terms of my thinking, in terms of how I do things, in terms of how I plan, in terms of how I structure things. The assistant coach is from the UK and so is the goalkeeper coach. I see this as an opportunity for me to go and make an impact, but also an opportunity for me to learn from some of the people that have been exposed to football in a way that I have not yet been exposed to.”
So how much does she know about the new adventure.
I am hoping to help the team grow, help them to make an impact in the female game in Saudi Arabia. The country is investing a lot, every team in their pro league (men’s) has been mandated to have a female team, they obviously want to invest in taking the female team to a better level, to achieve more, to win the league. Al Attihad ended third or fourth last season, so they’ve gone and sourced international coaching staff to come and bolster their club and take it to new heights and to grow what they’ve already built. So, I hope to achieve with them, I hope to impact firstly the players lives and their careers individually and to help the team solidify itself as a formidable side in the Saudi Arabia Women’s Pro League just like their men’s team where they signed big name players. So, the building process now starts with the female team and I am just really honored and proud to be a part of it.
And what does the future hold for Simone?
I am thinking of entering into more than just biogenetics and conditioning in the future within the game, unless God has a different plan and I do decide to move away from the game after two years. I don’t know what God’s plan is, but we are living for the now. I think the opportunity to be at this World Cup is just also such a huge blessing. I thank coach Desiree for giving me this chance. And just to clear something – I am a biokineticist and not the conditioning coach, we have Ridhaa Allie who performs that role. Previously, in other teams, I have undertaken that dual function – wearing two caps. It’s such an honour and it’s been a pleasure working with this group of Banyana Banyana players. They are so talented, so humble, so down to earth. They are also so hungry and ready to represent the nation and to change the face of women’s football in South Africa – and the first start was winning the CAF Women’s Africa Cup of Nations in Morocco last year. Just to be in their midst and play my part is a great honour.
What exactly does your role entail?
As a biokineticist my role is to rehabilitate the injured players and get them ready for action. I work very closely with the coaches, the conditioning coach as well as medical team to ensure that all our work is aligned. Injuries are part of the game, and if we were to work in silos, we would perhaps not achieve our goal of returning the players back to the field of play.
Working in a foreign land…
That’s going to be interesting. This will be the first job abroad and I think it’s going to be a huge adjustment that I’m going to have to make. My living conditions have always been comfortable and settled in South Africa, but I’ve always been I’ve been working with teams my whole career. I was previously with swimming, rugby, been to the Deaf Olympic, travelled with my sister who was a 100 meter and 200-meter athlete. I also played sport and we were traveling all the time, so I think the fact that I was constantly travelling throughout my life with sport will help me settle in well to work in a foreign country. This time, however, it’s a permanent move so it’s slightly different so I’ve got to be in the right space to adjust to my new living space and my new way of life, but I think that it’s going to be an adventure. It’s exciting, it’s a new opportunity, it’s a change and they say change is always a good. This is a change that will challenge me, will allow me to grow, will allow me to meet new people, will allow me to make new connections, which I’ve already done. I’m not even there yet and the club has been so amazing by allowing me to come to the World Cup, which was not easy for them because they wanted their full technical team to start up the offseason together leading to the pre-season. But my new employers have just been so great by granting me this great opportunity.
At Al Attihad Ladies Club, Conley will return to wearing two hats as she will be working as both a biokineticist and a conditioning. And this is how they view her role:
Simone Conley will be bringing a fresh perspective and dynamic approach to player wellness and physical preparation. Her involvement with the South Africa Women’s National Team at the World Cup showcases her ability to operate at the highest level of women’s football. Working with elite athletes and participating in major tournaments has allowed her to fine-tune her skills in player conditioning and performance optimization. Conley’s exposure to the international stage and her familiarity with high-pressure environments makes her a valuable addition to the Ittihad Women’s team. Her appointment as Biokineticist and Conditioning Coach is set to have a transformative effect on Ittihad Women’s team. Her expertise in biokinetics, combined with her ability to design tailored training programs and optimize player performance, will undoubtedly enhance the team’s physical capabilities and overall fitness levels. Her role will be crucial in minimising the risk of injuries, accelerating recovery, and maximising the team’s potential on the field. With Conley’s guidance, Ittihad Women’s team can expect a comprehensive approach to player well-being. Her expertise in biokinetics will enable her to identify and address specific areas of concern, optimising players’ physical condition and reducing the likelihood of injuries. Additionally, Conley’s conditioning coaching will focus on enhancing endurance, strength, and agility, ensuring that the team maintains a competitive edge throughout the season. Her holistic approach to player well-being, physical optimization, and injury prevention will undoubtedly have a positive impact on the team’s performance. As Ittihad Women’s team continues their journey, Conley’s presence promises to elevate their fitness levels, resilience, and overall success on the football pitch.
DEGREE: Mphil (Biokinetics specialising in Injury Prevention in Youth Development Football (University of South Africa)
DEGREE: B.Com (Biokinetics) Hons. Cum Laude
(University of Johannesburg)
DEGREE: B.Com (Sports Management) Cum Laude
(University of South Africa)
- Certificate in Sports Massage
- First Aid BSL2017
- Netball Coaching Level 3 qualification
- Spinal Rehabiliation Course
- ETA Pilates Mat Course
- Clinical Solutions, Ultimate Taping course
- Functional Movement Screening Certified Practitioner
- FIFA Emergency Medical Care Course 2014
- Nike Training Club Trainer 2014 – 2015
- Discovery Vitality Fitness Assessment Certification- 2015
- Captain of u 13 districts Netball Team
- Captain of U18 Badmington First Team – won School SA Championhips
- Captain of u 18 School Netball team
- M a n a g i n g the Biokinetic Clinic in the UJ Health Training Clinic
- Practical Lecturing – University of Johannesburg
- Head of Medical – Nedbank Keyona Team Search
- Volunteer as a Biokineticist and Sports Massage therapist at the Stars of
Africa Soccer Academy
- Voluntary biomechanical screenings for the Transnet SAFA school of Excellence.
Work Experience: Conditioning Coach and Biokineticist at the following:
- Swimming South Africa Junior World Cup- Lima PERU
- Deaf Olympic Games – Sofia, Bulgaria
- CHAN 2015 – Angola (football)
- Golden Lions Rugby Union
- U23 CAF-2015 Team South Africa Olympic Qualification U23 Men’s Football Olympic Team Brazil 2016
- Nedbank Keyona Team Search Development
- Highlands Park FC National first Division
- Highlands Park FC Premier League
- Royal AM FC National First Division
- TS Galaxy FC Premier League
- Nike Training club Trainer
- 2019 U20 FIFA Men’s WORLD CUP – Poland
- 2022 – COSAFA WOMENS CUP ( SA National Team)
- 2022 – CAF WOMENS CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
- Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies
By Matlhomola Morake