Twelve questions

Sarah Stuart poses 12 questions to well-known faces

Twelve Questions: Mike Hesson

His daughter learned to speak Swahili in Kenya. He learned Spanish and how to tango in Argentina. But Black Caps coach Mike Hesson - fresh from a one-day series win over India - says he has faced real challenges in his career. None more so than spending 311 days of the past year away from his family.

Mike Hesson says cricket coaching may be the most un-family-friendly of all careers. Photo / APN
Mike Hesson says cricket coaching may be the most un-family-friendly of all careers. Photo / APN

1.What did you do to celebrate the win over India on Friday night?
By the time we got back to the hotel it was close to midnight. My wife Kate was there which was nice so we swung down to the bar and met up with the other partners and had a couple of drinks. We've got two young daughters (Holly, 7, and Charlie, 3) so I'd only had about three hours sleep when they got me up at 6am and it was back to reality. I'm not the type of guy to go out and celebrate and jump around like a mad man - my wife will tell you I'm no party animal - but there was definitely some quiet satisfaction there. We try to be as stable as we can. The nature of the game means there's plenty of highs and lows but if the players can see the support staff are generally pretty stable, it helps I think.

2. Have you answered your critics over the one day series, do you think?
The World Cup is still a huge thing for us and turning our test team around. [The one-day series] was just another tick in a box. Don't get me wrong, it was really exciting and pretty intense. But the one thing you learn pretty early on is no matter what you do you'll have people that will support you and you'll have people that won't.

That doesn't change a lot with your performance.

3.Where does your self-belief come from?
I come from a broken family. My parents divorced when I was 3. My brother is 18 months older than me. My mum went to work fulltime and was really successful as a management consultant around the world. So we travelled a lot with her. We were pretty self reliant from a young age. That certainly helped in that you have to find a way to make things happen. You have to be integrated into different schools and different countries. We lived in Australia and Denmark and the UK. My mum was a very driven woman and that rubbed off on us. I was always allowed to do what I wanted to do and for me that was cricket. I could find cricket pretty much anywhere we went. I captained sides from a young age. Cricket certainly helped me make friends.

4.You travelled in childhood and you travel all the time now for work. Would you ever survive in an office job?
I'm not sure. I quite like the idea of when I finish coaching, relaxing at home and having a normal family life, if there is such a thing.

5. Is yours the most un-family friendly of careers?
Yep, I think so. I think it's right up there. We did the numbers and worked out that we were away 311 days last year through the three forms of the game. Was Kate aware of what she was getting herself in to? I don't know she was totally aware. When I was coaching in Argentina she had the pleasure of living there. We Skype every day when I'm away. But it's hard when you're away and something happens with the kids and you feel a bit useless. She's a lawyer, too, but thankfully her boss lets her be a bit flexible.

6. What new life skills did you pick up in Argentina?
We had eight months there. I learned to speak Spanish. Yeah, I did a bit of tango. Kate's more the dancer but I gave it a crack. I would hate for anyone to watch me do it though. One of the great things you learn living in other countries is their values. Argentinians work really hard but are also very family orientated. They never seem to sleep. The guys I coached would finish work and start practice at 9.30pm then at midnight they'd be home spending time with their kids, who were still up, then at 6am they'd be up again for work.

7. You moved to Nairobi to coach the Kenyan side three years ago, but came home early after your family was involved in a carjacking, and bombs went off near your house. Was that move a mistake, do you think?
No. Now that we are back I don't think so. We loved it for 10 months - did safaris, Holly started school there and learned Swahili, I was coaching a great bunch of really hardworking players with very limited facilities. It was a completely different life experience which we and our children will never forget. But those things happened - once when I was touring in Dubai - and it was a life decision. When it's your family's safety, that always comes first. Kate's pretty tough, she was saying we could hang in there and we'd be alright. But there was more touring coming up and things didn't look like they'd get any better. It was all too close to home. It gave me a bit more perspective on life, to be honest. Now if things aren't going so well from a professional point of view, I just think "oh well, things could be worse".

8. You did have ambitions to be a Black Cap, but moved into coaching in your early 20s. Any regrets?
The coaching thing just happened. I came back from England after a really good season as a player and was offered a coaching role in Otago. I needed a job and needed money and found out pretty quickly I loved it. I stayed playing with Otago for a few years after that but I was a fringe player and there were some great guys in the side then. No regrets. But every time you turn up and see a flat wicket you think crikey, that would be nice to have a bat on.

9. What have you learned about mental toughness?
You have to understand yourself. The ability to become self aware is critical and know what makes you tick, what are your motivators, what do you really believe in. The ability to self reflect and learn from that when things go wrong is crucial.

10. You were coaching players older than yourself from a young age: why did anyone listen to you?
I've got no idea but they did. I'm only five foot six (1.68m) - I'm short. Coaching people that are older and bigger than you, you get over that pretty quickly. I've always been very respectful of everybody, even when I was captaining teams at school. It's not about me, it's about helping the player get to where they want to be.

11. Which coach do you admire most?
Barry Milburn was one of my first cricket coaches. He'd played for Otago and was a wicket keeper for New Zealand. He was an incredibly passionate guy. I learned a lot from Alex McKenzie in the High Performance Sport New Zealand coach accelerator programme. I was in the inaugural course with some great coaches - Steve Hansen (rugby), Dayle Cheatley (cycling), Dave Thompson (rowing) and others. We keep in touch. The more time you spend together the more you realise how much our jobs and the challenges are the same.

12.What do you want to teach your children?
To back yourself and believe that you can do anything you want to do if you put your mind to it. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

- NZ Herald

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