This weeks Q+A comes from Chris Blake, currently working as Coaching Manager at IF Gnistan in Finland, following spells with UK clubs including Carlisle United, Blackburn Rovers and Sunderland.
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
My name is Chris Blake, I hold the UEFA A Licence and FA AYA and I’m currently the Coaching Manager (U12-Men’s Reserve Team) at IF Gnistan, a professional football club in Helsinki, Finland.
I have been coaching since 2003 and during that time I have held YDP and PDP coaching roles at Carlisle United, a Sports Science internship with Blackburn Rovers Men’s First and Reserve Team and analysis positions at Sunderland as Lead Academy Analyst and First Team Match analyst.
Aside from coaching and analysis positions I have been highly involved with the E.P.P.P. process at Carlisle United and Sunderland since it’s inception in 2012.
What is it about your role that you love?
The opportunity to collaborate with a range of people on a daily basis. From coaches, players and adult helpers to board members and the national associatation, each interaction gives me an opportunity to support the club’s progress in different ways.
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?
Everyone’s experiences and perceptions of the world are different. So what you believe to be true or the right action might not necessarily be the case. Coaching certainly isn’t a “one size fits all” activity.
As a manager, the immediate challenges were clear. Understanding the culture of the football club and communicating with people who weren’t fluent English speakers. In my role clarity is key, so I had to find different ways to deliver the same messages effectively.
Are there any countries that you would love to coach in? If so, why?
I have had the opportunity work with players and coaches from all over the world. So, it’s not so much a country to coach in but more where I would like to find out more about how they work.
You can’t help but be excited and intrigued by South American football. The skill of players from Brazil and the tenacity of Argentian players makes you fall in love with football over and over again!
Closer to home, the strength in depth of the French squad is something that can’t be ignored. I love to know more about their player identification and development processes.
Finally, in 2016 I visited FC Nordsjaelland and was very impressed with their clarity of vision and the intentional way of working. I had always hoped to go back to observe how that had materialised. There is clearly some positive things happening there.
Do you have a preferred style to coaching?
I try my best to use a behaviour that suits the session/ situation. Recognising urgent and non-urgent situations and acting accordingly.
Over the last three/ four seasons I’ve been working hard on the use of Q&A and explorative styles. Trying to connect players with the context and content.
What is your next step? What is your long term aim?
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of the last two seasons and am looking forward where we can go at IF Gnistan.
Overall, I enjoy the bigger picture work. Bringing different aspects of the programme together for the progress of players, development staff and club. I’d like to continue in this type of role.
Any tips for other coaches out there in regards to coaching? What about tips for coaching abroad?
For general coaching…. put the players first. Where are they on their development journey? What are their needs? If you can work from from there you generally can’t go wrong.
Coaching abroad… try to understand their sporting history, culture and language. It will give you some context around behaviours and expectations and make your future action plan a bit clearer.