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'Premier Skills gave me the confidence to coach'

27 Jun 2017
Marcus McGilvray, Premier Skills

How HIV specialist-nurse Marcus McGilvray has been inspired by a recent Premier Skills course in Durban

As an HIV specialist nurse working in South Africa and Ghana, Marcus McGilvray knew how football could inspire and educate young people. 

But through Premier Skills he has been given the tools to promote how the game can be used to inform about HIV in those countries.

In 2003, McGilvray, co-founder of the Africaid charity, set up the WhizzKids United programme, which uses football to engage with adolescents and provides HIV information, support and treatment.

The 48-year-old from South Wales spends much of his time based in Edendale, in the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal.

"About 46% of that population is HIV positive," says Marcus. "With my football curriculum, we're using the outlying schools to engage young people and encourage them to come through to the health academy.

"We say to the kids 'if you were playing for a big club like Manchester United or Chelsea, off the pitch they have doctors or physios, and that's what this place is for you.'"

By his own admission, Marcus felt better qualified to take a hands-on role with the medical aspect of the operation rather than the footballing side, which he has largely left to staff coaches. 

Premier Skills, Durban, South Africa
Premier Skills has been running for 10 years and has trained thousands of community coaches

But this year, Marcus went to Durban, South Africa, for a week-long Premier Skills course, run in partnership with the British Council, which trains coaches and referees around the world. 

"Health is my speciality. I didn’t know much about coaching and I didn't know an awful lot about football, although I use it,” he says. 

"I thought it would help me know how well my coaches are doing when I’m working with them day to day, and they would probably appreciate it if I went and showed I was interested in their learning. 

"I was nervous and excited beforehand. I was worried about my fitness levels and being totally out of my comfort zone. I had been thinking what excuse I could use to get out of it!"

Despite his early concerns, Marcus soon settled into the course as he and his fellow trainees learnt about how to make coaching sessions fun and engaging. 

"It's really well thought-out, it's really well structured," he says.

"From the very basics of the warm-up exercises to the actual coaching drills, when we used those with a group of kids who came in on the last day, you could see how well they worked."

Premier Skills, Durban, South Africa
Premier Skills uses a combination of pitch and classroom sessions to inspire and teach trainee coaches

After a hard week, Marcus gained a South African Football Association D Licence qualification.

"I was absolutely thrilled, it meant a lot to me," he says. "I smoke and I thought I was going to collapse at some point during the week. So to not just get through it but really enjoy it, it was probably one of the nicest work weeks I've had."

Marcus is now applying the skills he learnt to his work in Edendale and Ghana and is using it, not just for himself, but to help and educate other coaches working on his programme.

"Now I have the confidence to do some of the football coaching," he says. "I can offer the whole package, whereas before I would have always shied away from the football part. 

"I'd think that I needed to walk in and be able to do kick-ups but it’s not about that. It's about knowing how to manage a group of young people with whatever equipment you've got. 

"I've got the teaching manuals and I am now coaching my coaches in Ghana, they are so excited about it. We have only recently started our work there and having this new knowledge and information has saved so much time and effort."

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