In October 2014 I stood outside Uclan area as a inexperienced, shy coach with no confidence and little academic coaching knowledge awaiting for feedback on what I would describe now as a shocking session and waiting to hear whether I had passed my assessment and would be travelling to America to have the experience of a life time coaching for the summer of 2015…
Somehow I PASSED!! and received the information I would be travelling to Texas for 2 1/2 months to coach children aged 2-16 with a variety of playing abilities, scary right? Before going I didn’t know how I was going to cope, I didn’t think I was a good enough coach to take a group of 20 children aged between 2-6 for an hour never mind a for 73 days straight, little did I know this trip would change me as a coach forever.
Sitting here now reflecting on where I am as a coach now compared to where I was in October 2014, I wouldn’t believe I am the same person or coach. The trip itself was an unbelievable experience, living with a different family each week, spending time visiting places (not that there was much free time), meeting new coaches, tapping into their knowledge and ways of doing things and gathering thoughts on why they do what they do and also giving coaches thoughts and ideas on what I do and why and providing other coaches with the little knowledge I had.
I turned up on Day 1 like a little boy, I didn’t haven’t a clue what to expect, I had been going through my coaching book writing session after session expecting something to go wrong, thinking how do I deal with the kids if they aren’t interested? what will the parents think, a british coach coming over here to teach the game and they don’t know what they’re doing… Wouldn’t be a good first impression would it. Thinking about it now I don’t know what I was scared of, I absolutely loved it. “The pleasure of being able to help the performance of others, irrespective of who I coach, internationals to children, I ensure people get enjoyment out of it” – Thats one statement I followed throughout my time in America, as long as the children are having fun and learning while doing so then thats good enough for me.
Starting on Day 1 and leaving on Day 74 saw me develop enormously as a coach, I remember boarding the plane home with Amersterdam being the first stop and thinking “Wow, I can actually do it” for the first time I started to believe in myself, I gained a form of confidence I never knew I had, I developed a determination, a strive to succeed, to learn, to develop. All from that one small thought it gave me the wake up call that I can do it. Coaching everyday during my time in such an amazing country helped this, learning different cultures, different ways of playing, watching American coaches – some good, some not so good, picking up ideas of things I can use in my sessions, having detailed discussions with parents about their child’s development, gaining feedback from parents, coaches, club organisers on my performance as a coach was an extremely valuable part for me, it helped me to reflect on how I did things on Day 1 to how I did things on Day 73, was there a difference? if so, what was the difference? how have I changed as a coach? what have I changed? there are a trail of questions I ask myself in terms of my development as a coach, I am always looking to improve and without the reflection process you are limiting your own development as a coach.
Throughout the last month of my time coaching in America I was confident enough and fortunate enough to be picked to coach on a Saturday (some would say not so fortunate, as my friends were floating down a river drinking beer all day) at a advanced development centre. These sessions were extremely challenging for me coaching advanced players as throughout my time so far I had been coaching at beginners and early stages of development with the odd advanced player. However, I took to the sessions like duck to water it confirmed to me that I wanted to be in the advanced/elite player environment as a career and as I move forward as a coach. I arrived at each session 45 minutes before start time to set up, my sessions plans had been thought out thoroughly the night before, through the feedback I received I challenged players well on a regular basis, allowing them freedom of play and giving them the chance to put their skills into practice.
My experience overall was a life changing one, It made me think how much I want to succeed in the game I love and gave me the kick to come back to England and work as hard as possible to improve and learn everyday. So thank you America for the life changing opportunity.