Marek Majewski

Team Behind The Team - Marek Majewski

Continuing our series profiling the staff members who give the West Ham United players the tools to perform at the best on the pitch, today we talk to First Team Soft Tissue Therapist Marek Majewski...


Marek, unlike most members of our backroom team, you grew up outside the UK, so how was that?

"Completely different, I expect because when I was a kid we still had Russian soldiers based in Poland, and they were leaving during my time at university.

"When I was starting university in 1990, Poland was in the process of becoming a Republic, so from my childhood to when I reached maturity it was like two totally different Polands.

"I come from a village, so we didn’t have much when I was a child – not many toys, no television – but we could go outdoors and play, so we went to the forest to collect mushrooms and rode our little scooters and bicycles. I had a very happy childhood.

"My parents kept me away from politics and all the stuff that was happening in Poland."

 

The Pole enjoys being part of West Ham United's backroom team
The Pole enjoys being part of West Ham United's backroom team

 

Did spending so much time outdoors as a child give you your interest in sport?

"In the town where I’m from, Bolesławiec, volleyball is the top sport, but I did martial arts when I was a boy – karate, boxing and kickboxing.

"I studied physical education for five years at university, so we did a lot of sport on our curriculum.

"I always wanted to help people. I started doing soft tissue therapy quite early in my career and I could observe the positive changes I could make and start help people to feel better, more lively and pain-free.

"That’s one of the best things about my job – I can notice the improvement."

 

So, what did you study to become a soft tissue therapist?

"I studied biology, chemistry and mathematics to A-Level at school, then I studied physiotherapy and rehabilitation at university and have a Masters degree in rehabilitation science.

"I have always been fascinated by how you can affect the body. This could be by using acupuncture needles, other tools to achieve a positive outcome or other types of modalities – touch, pressure, movement, mobilisation exercises, lasers, ultrasound, electricity or hot and cold temperatures.

"We have a slightly different education system in Poland to England, so we have something called ‘medical massage’.

 

With fellow soft tissue therapist Craig Mazur during pre-season training
With fellow soft tissue therapist Craig Mazur during pre-season training

 

"In most European countries, if you have pain, your GP can refer you to the ‘medical masseur’, which is a recognised medical profession, so I started my career in a hospital neurology department providing soft tissue therapy and was working with patients with back pain, shoulder pain, sciatica and who had undergone brain or spine surgeries.

"It’s a slightly different perspective because they are teaching you to provide massage for a variety of medical conditions."

 

What exactly is ‘soft tissue therapy’, then?

"Soft tissue therapy is using sport massage but also joint mobilisation or manipulation, taping, stretching, muscle energy techniques, acupuncture, electro therapy and other techniques, so it is not only a massage."

 

So, you started your career in a Polish hospital, but are now working for an English Premier League football club, so how did that come about?

"It’s not that easy! I arrived in the UK in 2001 when Poland was not part of the European Union, so I had no right to work in this country unless I was self-employed. So, because I had no right to work in my profession, I started working as a motorcycle courier, delivering packages all over London.

"I came to England for a better life and to continue my personal and professional development. My daughter was born here, and London is now home.

"It only became possible to work in my profession in 2004, when Poland joined the EU. Because my qualifications were slightly different than those in the UK, I did an extra course in soft tissue therapy at the North London School of Sports Massage and Remedial Therapy in Tottenham.

"Then, I started working, first with Enfield Ignations Rugby Club and at Lee Valley Athletics Centre, then I started volunteering with West Ham United’s Under-23s in 2010.

 

Majewski previously worked with Enfield Ignatians Rugby Club
Majewski previously worked with Enfield Ignatians Rugby Club

 

"Alex Dyer was the head coach and my opportunity was given to me by Tom Smith, who is head of medical at the Academy. I had a different accent and different background, but Tom gave me the chance to come and do pre-match work with the Under-23s, then five or six years ago I started to come as an extra pair of hands to help with the first team on recovery days.

"I think my opportunity came about by luck, but what I mean by luck is when opportunity was met by preparation. I was prepared, I knew the Club and I was working with the Under-23s and I knew the first team staff so when the opportunity came, I was ready to take this job."

 

So, what does your job entail with the first team?

"I follow the first team schedule, so I’m in every day they are in and travel wherever they travel, home and away and on pre-season trips.

"I use my experience, knowledge and physiotherapy skills to provide the best soft tissue therapy I can – manual therapy, manipulations and also remedial work to prevent injury. It is not only massage and rubbing people, but we do do that, too!

"My motto is prevention is better than cure, so I am trying to use all my knowledge and skills to help players to perform to their best during the training and games.

 

Marek Majewski moved to London from Poland in 2001
The 49-year-old moved to London from Poland in 2001

 

"I also use my knowledge to help players to recover and help in their rehabilitation processes if required.

"I apply my techniques specific to the individual person and to their situation, because everybody is different. It is very complex. This is possible only through a team effort, though. We have a very good medical team at the Club, and it is always about teamwork. What is good in our department is that we have people with different experiences, different backgrounds and different approaches, so we complement each other."

 

What advice would you give to anybody who would like to follow in your footsteps and work as a soft tissue therapist for a Premier League club?

"If you were asking for my advice to someone who wants to work in the Premier League, I would say you have to be passionate about the work, keep learning and getting better at your job.

"Do internships and voluntary work at any level to get hands-on experience and feedback from athletes. Try the Academy environment as in my experience they always appreciate an extra pair of hands.

"And like everything in life, you need luck. My definition of luck is when opportunity meets preparation, so be ready and you never know where you might find yourself working!"

 

Watford General Sale