This Coach Q+A comes from Ash Civil, a British coach currently working in Finland. Ash is ever popular on Twitter and is doing a fantastic job, building on his previous role in Iceland. Enjoy!
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
“Those who can’t do, teach”. Coaching had always been my passion, so after deciding I wasn’t good enough to play football, I focused on coaching. I started out by coaching after-school clubs when I was 18 and continuing that through an apprenticeship with Brazilian Soccer Schools where I could coach more regularly.
I left England to coach in New Jersey, which gave me plenty of time on the grass coaching multiple teams and working with some great coaches – some I’m still in touch with today. I decided that I wanted to become more qualified, so I returned to the UK and finished my UEFA B. After working in schools doing PPA and after-school clubs, I worked at college programs. The football program at Brook House College took off and has continued to grow. It was fantastic to be able to coach a team every day starting with the development group in 2014, and ending with coaching the Elite group which had many youth internationals – including two players who played in the U20 World Cup for Nigeria.
I decided I wanted to coach in Europe so I left to go travelling around South America, which was a fantastic experience. This leap, coupled with my 8 years of travelling and visiting clubs as a player, landed me the role of Head Coach at Einherji—a club in a small village on Iceland’s east coast.
After the season ended early due to covid, there were no guarantees of the role continuing, so with that in mind, I started hunting for openings. I started working for TPV in January 2021 as Head Coach of their U20 and U17 teams and in November 2021 became the First team Head Coach as well as leading the U20 and U17 programs, which is my current role.
What is it about your role that you love?
In my current role, I get the chance to work with players from the 17s all the way up to our first team—and it’s great being able to build a pathway for those guys and make sure there is opportunity. The players I’ve worked with have been great: we have a really open-minded group that’s receptive to some of the different things we’ve tried.
What have you found different from coaching in the UK? Are there any challenges that you currently face or have previously faced from coaching abroad?
The biggest difference is the culture: here in Finland players are more reserved, so it can take a while to get an answer if you ask them a question. There is also not as much small talk to me asking how everyone is doing, how school was and what their favourite subject. I think for them too has been different. One challenge I face is that in Finland, males are required to do 6-9months of National Service. This means losing players for half a season or longer—which has been difficult.
In Iceland, the eight-hour drives to away games in Reykjavik were a struggle, but luckily it was made easier with the midnight sun.
Are there any countries that you would love to coach in? If so, why?
I would love to coach football in Germany. The country’s culture and passion for the game are something I’d like to experience first-hand.
Do you have a preferred style to coaching?
I like to play to my players’ strengths, and that helps build our team’s structure. I have some basic principles that fit most systems, but mostly I focus on playing to the strengths of my players.
What is your next step? What is your long term aim?
My contract runs until October 2023, so we’re focusing on improving last year while also looking to progress with the 17s and 20s in their leagues. Long term I want continue traveling as a coach and work at the highest level that I can.
Any tips for other coaches out there in regards to coaching? What about tips for coaching abroad?
My Tips for coaches:
•Keep it simple
•Ask yourself whether you’d enjoy participating
I think it’s easy to overcomplicate things for the players, by all means, have a big picture, and have complex ideas. But the key is getting that across to players which takes time and trust.
Tips for Coaching abroad:
The best thing to do if you want to work abroad is to travel and make connections. If you have specific dates in mind when you’ll be visiting, then people will usually be happy to meet. It’s a big difference between saying “I would love to come visit” and “I am visiting—would you be free to talk?”
Second, burn your boats, be able to move abroad. If you have lots of things tying you to the UK, you probably won’t be taking a job in another country and it’s easy to retreat.
Third, invest in yourself. If the dream is to coach aboard one day you need to be willing to invest in that. Not all clubs will be able to afford to fly you out, pay your rent, and pay for your visa. You might have to invest in those things yourself. Realistically a lot of clubs have a tight budget and it’s easier to hire locally than from abroad.