MCAST graduate Denise Busuttil, 22, is one of the many dedicated athletes in the local handball
community. A keeper for Swieqi Phoenix with three consecutive MVP titles under her belt, and
an MHA certified referee, she is also an aspiring coach who has recently flown back from a
European Handball Federation (EHF) workshop in Poland. Words by Christine Spiteri.

Three years ago, Denise took on the challenge to coach the Swieqi’s U15 handball team. Being still a teenager herself, juggling school and goalkeeper training throughout the week, it was a test in time management and also her character. Little did she know how many doors this decision would open for her.

Recently, she was chosen by the Malta Handball Association to represent Malta as the youngest coach during a workshop in Poland. There, she spent five days living with fellow handball coaches from all over Europe, where she had the opportunity to coach a Polish men’s team and a women’s U20 team, together with a mentor and a mental coach.

“I went to Poland feeling nervous and anxious. I was the youngest coach there. Coming from Malta, I was feeling intimidated because we are so small when it comes to sport , especially handball. I also felt overwhelmed since I’ve never coached a high-level
team before, and my first task was to give a session to a young Polish men’s team,” says Denise.

The course was divided into both theory and practice. The group of young European coaches was also assigned to prepare some tasks before they actually arrived. Her background in sports and fitness, which she studied at MCAST, helped her lay the ground work.

“MCAST has helped build the basics for me in coaching, but there we went into more detail, especially since it is entirely focused on handball. Through this workshop,I learned how to deal and control a team better and how to be more confident. If a coach were to seem weak or unsure, the team will not trust you,” she says.


A coach, like a good manager, needs to be assertive, mindful, and a visionary. She needs to know the ins and the outs of the game, and pass it on to her players. A good coach will motivate and empower her team to think with one mind.

“Coaches are the ones who guide the team. They are the ones players look to when they are unsure about what needs to happen, as well as being the ones to motivate and train the players. I would say the main traits of a good coach are: patient, hardworking, ambitious, motivated, as well as knowledgeable about the game. Players cannot improve without properly thought-out sessions,” she says.

“We also had a mental coach, Bojana Jelicić, who gave us individual feedback. She encouraged me to practise positive self-talk before my sessions, to help improve my confidence,” she adds.

“The highlight of my experience was definitely seeing all the different coaching styles come into play. It’s amazing to see how everyone’s session differs! The way the session is delivered varied for every coach,” says Denise enthusiastically.

The learning experience was also on a personal level. “The relationship with fellow coaches was really good. We got along like family. We were always together from the moment we woke up till the moment we went to sleep. We supported each other during our sessions,
giving each other feedback and new ideas.”

This experience abroad was an opportunity for Denise to gather insight into how handball can grow locally. There needs to be a bigger push for younger generations to get acquainted with the game, with the help of all stakeholders: schools, organisations, ministries, the media. Watching the professionalism young athletes display abroad is a dream many sports enthusiasts on this island share. We have plenty of ideas, but where are the resources?

“I believe the difference between local and foreign handball is the mentality. In Malta, we tend to prioritise education over sports, but I believe both are equally important and should be given priority. Let’s start introducing handball to younger generations — it is where the future lies.”

Denise has taken on the challenge to spread her passion for the sport. The group of young ladies she’s been coaching won the U15 handball league, and she’s not looking back.

“Having players who look up to you, who are improving and growing into young adults under your wing is such an incredible feeling. Coaching brings a sense of joy and satisfaction that playing does not.”
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