He was one of the shining lights in the German wheelchair basketball scene. He was emotional, demanding and perhaps not always the easiest player on the court. After his return to England – together with his family – Joe Bestwick took the time for a very personal, in-depth and honest interview. The Brit talks about his most beautiful and bitterest moments, the newfound time for his family and the fight for the next contract.


Joe, in April you announced that you and your family were going back to England. What has happened since then?

In short, a lot.


Go ahead.

We’ve moved back now of course and we are living with my family at the moment as there are tenants in our house. It still feels like a holiday here as the weather has been so warm and my parents have an enormous and gorgeous garden in the woods, so we’ve spent a lot of time in the paddling pools and visiting friends that we haven’t seen in far too long.


What else?

Well, my grandparents also have a house here on the same piece of land so we, especially the girls, have spent a lot of time with them. That’s really special to see, how close a relationship a 4-year-old and an 18-month-old can have with their 90+ year old great-grandparents.


That sounds wonderful. I can picture it in my mind. What about the job?

I have started working part time hours – so I can have maximum time with the family – for a really great organisation who work in the area of disability access, Dana is applying for different things at the moment, Robyn is meeting other kids in the village and getting ready to start school in September, and Isla is getting ready to start nursery. So, a weird mixture of busy but also pretty relaxed.


Anything I have achieved is because I have worked as hard as I could, and consistently, for the last 18+ year


If you were to stand in front of a group of kids and teens and they asked you what wheelchair basketball has taught you, what would you say? 

I think the two biggest things are about the value of hard work and what it takes to be part of an elite team.


Can you elaborate on that?

Of course. I’m pretty sure I’ve said it a few times in interviews, but I have definitely not achieved anything in my career because of some innate natural ability! Anything I have achieved is because I have worked as hard as I could, and consistently, for the last 18+ years. That is also a part of being in a elite team, the mentality to want to, and to genuinely enjoy working hard. Basketball has definitely taught me that, combined with the right mixture of complementary talents and personalities, is key in building a successful team, and I don’t just mean in a basketball scenario, but in most areas of life.


You were a very emotional player. Emotions are part of the sport. Where do you think those emotions come from? What is their origin?

I think they come from a number of different places to be honest, and I think that despite them being a negative for me in certain moments, I think that without that edge I would have been far less successful. I think part of it comes from, in most teams at least, me not being the main guy, so really feeling I had to push myself as far and as hard as I could to prove that I deserved to be a part of that team. Then in teams where I was more of a main player it was maybe the pressure and responsibility, I felt to be the best I could to allow the team to be as successful as possible. Not to mention times where if we hadn’t been successful then we would have been relegated and I wouldn’t have had a contract, which would have meant my family and I having to move or that I could no longer provide for them.


Joe Bestwick in Hannover United kit against Zwickau – Photo: Bert Harzer (www.fotoharzer.de)


What did that entail?

That definitely adds a pressure to the games! And I have wanted to take on that pressure and responsibility as I always felt that was the best thing for the team, that I could take the responsibility off other people, that I could risk being the one to miss the shot or make the mistake as I felt I could handle that, but it had an effect on my emotions too of course.


And what about emotions and feelings?

Emotions are also a part of how I enjoy sport generally, I think. I have always preferred watching the fierier or more emotional athletes compete compared the those who seem ice cold all the time, be that preferring Nadal to Federer or someone like Rooney instead of Messi. That’s not to say that I don’t rate those cooler athlete’s but for me the passion adds something.


With a little distance: What was the most beautiful moment in your career?

I can’t give one answer I’m afraid as I have three, but for different reasons.


I am quite curious …

Well, the bronze medal in Beijing, winning a medal in front of a 16,000-person crowd – including my parents – at the biggest sporting event in the world was really special.



For similar reasons the European Championships bronze medal in Frankfurt was special as that was the first and only time, I won a gold medal at a major international tournament.


And last but not least.

After that I would say the whole of the 2012-13 season with RSV Lahn-Dill.



We were a pretty new team, rebuilding after losing some really legendary athletes, we definitely were not favourites for the title that year, and it was the first time I had had real responsibility in a team at that level before. Despite some really tough losses along the way, to win the German double that year, especially the Playoff Final in front of the most incredible home support, was something I’ll never forget.


And the most bitter?

I think the toughest moments to take have been the times I haven’t been selected for a tournament. That is one of the hardest things as an athlete, working all year, or for four years, with the aim of this one tournament, then being told you didn’t make it, is really hard to get over. I think it’s particularly tough in our sport as it is so subjective, with so many factors for coaches to consider.


Joe Bestwick (second from right) after winning the European Championship 2013 in Frankfurt with Team GB – Photo: Uli Gasper


Other topic: Englishmen and Germans or “Tommies and Krauts” have a very special bond. You know both sides. What is typically English and what is typically German for you?

I think the topic of emotions is a pretty good example here. The typical English athlete, in my experience at least, is usually more emotional and fiery, whereas the majority of German athletes are a lot cooler. There was a German generation with players like Lars Lehmann, André Bienek and Sebastian Wolk where that definitely was a little different , and I used to love playing against guys like that, but on the whole I would say most Germans play less emotionally.


I have massive problems pronouncing the English word “strengthen”. It doesn’t work at all. Do you have a German word that you curse or that will stay in your memory forever?

Nobody really corrects me anymore so I don’t know if they’ve just given up trying to correct me or what that means, but Dana always laughs at me saying “unverscheinlich” rather than “unwahrscheinlich” (editors’ note: unwahrscheinlich means unlikely in English) though, or years ago I would always say “übergestern”(editors’ note: In Germany, “the day after tomorrow” is called übermorgen. And the “day before yesterday” is called vorgestern)  thankfully I get that right now though.


Besides your children, it is above all your wife Dana who supports you. How are she and the kids doing in the English environment?

They’re loving it for sure. Of course they miss friends and family in Germany, as do I, but for the kids having their friends and grandparents and great-grandparents all just here is really amazing, not to mention the space they have here to just play freely. And for Dana I think the biggest plus is that we are finally settled now and we have a home. No more one year contracts, no more risk that the season could go badly and we’ll have to uproot our whole lives and move again, we are just here. And of course, that she isn’t alone at home with the kids at least 5 evenings every week, and then for weeks or months at a time in the summer is important to her too, Although I’m sure it won’t take long until she wishes that I would be out training and giving her some space again (winks). She has had to take over a lot of the family responsibility while I was training full time so it’s great that that is more equally shared now.


“I loved all the support that I have felt from fans around Germany, during good times and tougher times.”


Finally, I would like you to answer the following questions spontaneously:


This coach had the biggest influence on me because …

Murray Treseder. Although there were a lot of situations where I felt I was treated badly and it was really hard for me to deal with, he also taught me to push myself to my limits if I really wanted to make the most of my ability. And despite having just dropped me from the World Championships team in 2010, he was one of the first to come and visit me just a few weeks later in hospital after I had my leg amputated. Most coaches wouldn’t have done that and it’s something I will always appreciate.


This opponent challenged me the most because …

André Bienek. He was that bit too fast for me, that bit too heavy that I couldn’t knock him out the way, just tall enough (and smart enough) that he could effect my shot, and played with a level of aggression that matched mine so was never intimidated. He was probably my favourite opponent in that respect, and it is one of my regrets that I didn’t play a season with him before I retired.


My favourite roommate was …

… probably Gaz Choudhry, as we spent way too many hours analysing games and players, or talking about anything from music to politics to psychology, but when he was done talking he’d fall asleep in (it felt like) less than two seconds!


For me, Cologne is …

… a fun city to visit and home to some special friends.


I associate RSV Lahn-Dill with …

… the place where I felt most at home in Germany, where Dana and I met some incredibly special people, where I had the chance to play with some of the most talented guys I’ve ever met, where I was instantly made to feel really appreciated and welcomed by the incredible fans, where we won a lot of titles, where we had the most amazing wedding, and where we found out we were going to have Robyn.


Wheelchair basketball in Germany should definitely …

… invest as much time and effort as possible developing the next generation of talent. It feels like, from my perspective at least, like there are a lot of guys who are of a very similar age, and the risk of that is that if they all leave at the same time there is a big hole to fill. Of course Thomas Reier has made the step up to the national team now, and the fire and edge that he plays with is something I think Germany has lacked at times, but there need to be more younger guys challenging for spots if Germany are to consistently medal at tournaments.


Wheelchair basketball world champion will be (woman and men)…

… Holland women and GB men


I would like to say to the fans in Germany that …

… thank you for twelve amazing years. I loved all the support that I have felt from fans around Germany, during good times and tougher times. I have also really loved the times where I have had a loud opposition crowd who have wanted to see my team lose. It has been one of my favourite motivators, playing in front of some negative crowds who are booing, that kind of atmosphere has helped push me to some of my best performances, so thank you for those too. It’s been something I will never forget, playing in front of passionate and knowledgeable crowds who care so much about their teams and their sport. It’s something I don’t see in other countries to that degree and something you can all be really proud of. So thank you for taking me and my family in, for making us feel at home, and I’m sure we’ll be seeing some of you at tournaments or games somewhere, sometime in the future.


Thank you very much, Joe.


Interview: Martin Schenk | Photo: Hannah Schrauth

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