Malawi may be one of the lesser Known footballing African Nations, but the south-eastern African country is where British football coach Joe Hesketh, has currently laid his hat. Having spent time working for Bristol City F.C, Joe made his first coaching move abroad to New England, U.S.A in 2013. He is now ‘Head of Coaching’ at Chigoli Football Academy, an academy in place to develop footballers and better people. After selected players are proven to be of good character, they are placed into private schooling to ensure they receive a fully rounded education on and off the field.
Name: Joe Hesketh
Location: Chigoli Football Academy, Malawi
Role: Head of Coaching
What was before your move to Malawi, and what are you doing there now?
Three years prior to moving to Malawi I was working at Bristol City Community Trust as a sports lecturer and U18 futsal coach. Alongside my work at Bristol City I also coached Yate Town's U18 and U16, during which I completed my UEFA-B Licence. I then began a role as assistant coach with Bristol City Women’s U16, in conjunction with my work at the trust and Yate Town.
I’ve always wanted to coach football full time and to have the opportunity to test and refine my own coaching philosophy. Knowing this would be very difficult to achieve in the UK, I looked further afield. These aspirations resulted in my current adventure to Malawi, where I am currently Head of Coaching at Chigoli Football Academy. We have 60 players who have been scouted from all regions of the country and have five squads; U17, U15, U13, U11 and U15 Girls. The majority of players are on scholarships, meaning we provide support for their education (pay school fees) and nutrition on top of their football training. The environment here is incredible as the players love football, they are very talented and are extremely vibrant during training and matches. This in turn makes my job very enjoyable!
What’s been most beneficial for your own development?
At the age of 25, this role is incredible for my personal development as I have the freedom to develop my coaching methods. I am responsible for the curriculum and session designs which enables me to test my own knowledge. As a result, each week I learn about my own approach and coaching methods which gives me the chance to self-evaluate. Whereas, when coaching in England in my previous positions, I had little involvement in the curriculum design. One thing which I do miss about coaching in the UK is being able to receive feedback and learn from higher qualified coaches than myself. This is very important for all coaches, even if it’s just to bounce ideas from each other.
Any difficulties over there?
Coaching in Malawi does come with its fair share of hardships and frustrations. The lack of youth development within the country is disappointing, with all Super League clubs classifying their youth teams as U20 and U17, clearly not youth football. Consequently, there is little competition for our players, which is essential effecting their development. FIFA did run a U16 regional league in 2017 and there are plans for a U15 league funded through FIFA for 2018. This would be fantastic if it gets the go ahead.
The language barrier has been a challenge, as forming positive athlete-coach relationships is not as simple. Moreover, a coaching point which might take one explanation in the UK could take 5 here. Because of this, I’m beginning to make more efforts to speak the local dialect Chichewa. In addition, due to poor schooling and previous experience in football, the large majority of our players are not problem solvers. They experience school in classes of around 100 students to 1 teacher. Football is usually one ball (homemade) and many players look to just keep possession of the ball. This has had drastic effects on their playing style and value of learning. Developing a style of play that is based on keeping possession but using it for a purpose, will be essential for their future development. In addition, the players see mistakes as problems rather than valuing them as part of learning. Breaking these beliefs will also be crucial for their development.
What are your views on coaching opportunities in the UK and has your development been affected whilst being abroad?
I believe there are opportunities in the UK for non ex-professional players. You will need to work hard and be patient, grow your network but opportunities will eventually open up. However, I do understand it can be frustrating as the ex-pro player pathway can be much quicker regarding the gaining of qualifications and their access to jobs. That’s nobody’s fault, it just means some coaches need to be more creative in their coaching career approach. All my previous experiences with the English FA have been positive, regarding the accessibility and quality of my coaching courses. I understand these experiences largely vary on who is delivering the course. I’m aware that when I feel ready for my UEFA A, this will be very challenging if I continue coaching in Africa. For the meanwhile, I still feel I’m putting into practice the lessons learned through my UEFA B course meaning I am in no rush to attain my A Licence.
Having completed some research into carrying out some coaching qualifications through CAF, it doesn't appear many courses actually run (with very little information on their website). I will keep digging as it would be interesting to find out the way in which the federation approaches coaching. Therefore, the majority of my development/ learning will be carrying out independent research which fortunately is easier with technology these days.
The future for me is Malawi for now. Chigoli academy is an amazing opportunity and presents a real challenge for myself. We are hoping in 2018 we can raise funds to travel out of the country to participate in tournaments which would present real competition for our players. There is a lot of work for me to do here and until I no longer feel challenged, my future is here. I would love to get
involved with 1st team coaching and one day I dream of being a national team coach. Who knows
which Nation this could be?
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