In the first part I covered how I got into coaching and the coaching and qualifications I undertook during my undergraduate degree. At the end of the year I had a big decision to make- what to do next?!
I decided to do a masters degree in sport psychology. Reason being, as a young player I was a perfectionist who couldn’t handle making mistakes. Sadly, none of my coaches were able to help me with this so I vowed to ensure no players I coached would suffer the same fate. Alongside this, I was head coach of a U14 national league team and a newly formed senior ladies team. Working with these two teams was the best year of coaching I’ve ever had! I learnt so much through experimenting with new ideas, logging all of my methods/ideas, and writing A4 page reflections on each session.
Towards the end of the year I was on twitter and saw a job pop up with Arsenal Soccer School in Kuwait. I successfully navigated the interview process, during which time a mosque had been blown up in the country, and set off for Kuwait four days after completing my masters degree. This was brilliant working for such a good organisation and immersing myself in a new culture. Things were going well in Kuwait but seven months in a coach and coach educator job popped up in Beijing. Being a coach educator had always been one of my main goals which my head coach was well aware of from our performance and development reviews. I knew the assistant director of coaching there through networking on a coaching course and it was to be my next move.
China was a real culture shock initially but provided a brilliant example of how culture influences development and a national team’s style of play. It was also good for my profile which led to interviews with a national newspaper in Ireland and other websites. It provided me with great contacts as a number of my friends who I worked with ended up at professional clubs and I was able to develop a 28 week life skills booklet, which has been used by 121 coaches worldwide. All in all China was a great experience.
I left China at the end of the season, having spent eight months there in total. I contacted an African academy on social media having seen one of their tweets. I enquired about opportunities as I’d always wanted to see and experience life in Africa. The Chigoli founders were excited for me to come and spend a number of weeks leading academy sessions and coach education workshops with local Malawian coaches. It was a great experience and it would have been nice to stay for longer but I’d already decided to do a PhD in New Zealand, which would begin the month after I left Africa.
I was very excited to be leaving for New Zealand to do a life skills PhD, with the aim of informing national coach education courses, and to coach on my fifth continent. This surpassed my goal of coaching in five countries and has enabled me to see the world while enhancing my CV at the same time, you couldn’t beat! This excitement soon faded upon arrival as within a short period of time I realised this isn’t what I wanted to do for the next four years. I hadn’t been able to get a scholarship which meant I had to self-fund myself and I couldn’t afford to sit in an office for four years when I should be out experimenting and gaining further experience in the field. This was the first real setback in my career, and I’d flown to the other side of the world to do it, but sometimes you need to put yourself into these situations to gain clarity. I was blinded by my career plan which had been going perfectly and realised I don’t need a PhD to achieve my careers goals, although I may well return one day on a part-time basis.
I decided to stay in New Zealand and have spent the last number of months as head of coach development at a local premier league club which involves advising and educating coaches in a number of different ways. I’m also working with a number of national and international level athletes outside of football as a performance consultant, which now means I have been employed in all four sectors of the 4 corner model. My time is also made up of delivering workshops in schools, coaching a high school seniors team, and developing coach education materials.
I have just returned to New Zealand from South Africa where I had a great time leading a weekend orientation at a full time academy that’s launching in 2018. I have a few other projects in the pipeline and this hour I’ll be having a skype meeting about running football in a small country, which is something that excites me very much. I tried to explain my current nomadic career situation to someone yesterday which left them very confused. It’s similar for me when someone asks me what my home address is or asks for one of my many phone numbers. Anyway, I’m close to securing my next move which will take me through to the end of the year with some travels along the way. This new stint will tick another box on my career goals and should satisfy my wanderlust as I look to settle down into a permanent post for a prolonged period in 2018. That being said I will one day conquer my sixth continent, although number seven may be a step too far. Never say never!
Advice to young coaches:
Mentor: find a mentor to assist when first starting out who you can learn from, bounce ideas of and who may be able to provide useful contacts.
Set goals: decide where you ultimately want to be and devise a plan that will lead you to that role. Reading job descriptions and contacting people currently in the role are great ways to find out what’s required to get there.
Club selection: like a golfer, if you select the wrong club it can be troublesome. Find a club that is in line with your footballing beliefs and is well respected within the area. Clubs/teams that are well respected for their philosophy and playing style generally have better coaches, which means you’ll learn more throughout the process.
Experience: get as much hands-on experience leading sessions at various levels which you can reflect on and learn from.
Document: write down your coaching vision and philosophy alongside the methods you’d like to implement. You can have all the knowledge in the world but it’s easier to apply if you structure it. It’s also good to record and categorise all of your session ideas to build up a library you can work from.
Qualifications: I’d highly recommend getting a sport related degree as it’ll massively increase your knowledge base and help to get visas when working abroad. It’s also very important to begin getting yourself up the coaching ladder. I’d recommend getting minimum level 2 before beginning to apply for decent jobs abroad.
Network: connecting with as many people on social media as possible, attending events, emailing football people higher up the chain can all be invaluable ways to get yourself noticed. See my previous blog on how to grow your network.
Hope you found some of this useful. If you have any questions, fire away!
Thanks for reading,
Originally posted: 23rd June 2017.