Can you tell me a little bit about yourself? (Prompts – what is your football journey? What is your current role?)
My journey has been quite unconventional to say the least, I was coaching in Asia before I arrived to Spain, I had a straight decision in my mind at the time, head back to the UK or spread my wings in another European country.
I chose Spain because of the challenge it presented. The idea of going from Korea, where I was coaching at the time, to come to Spain with zero Spanish, with no knowledge of the Spanish system, how things worked…all of those made me think, ‘Well, I could go back to the UK or I could go to Spain and really, really push myself’.
The sheer number of coaches here is incredible. In 2017, I think there were around 17,000 or 18,000 UEFA or UEFA Pro licensed coaches compared to something like 1,700 in the UK. There are so many people vying for the same place and that competitiveness drives performance.
Coaches are constantly asking questions about how they can improve themselves, ideas on different things, and there is a culture of self-improvement and wanting to be the best to reach the top.
I arrived in Spain, was hired by CD Castellon and then was hired full time by Villarreal CF which still feels incredible to this day.
My current role is Coach/Psychologist, I work with the U17 and U19 teams. You’ll see me on pitch as you would any other coach, however I am focused on elements such as cognitive periodisation and collective coherence as well as tactical/technical points.
What is it about your role that you love?
My role is quite unique within world football as I have one eye on football and the other on psychology. My role enables me to see if there players are misunderstanding or are limiting themselves due to other factors. I love my role because it allows me to connect with players, to create an environment where they take autonomy of their own learning, driving themselves forward whilst feeling empowered. I think that the biggest shame in football is when a player doesn’t fulfil their potential, it’s something that quite literally keeps me up at night.
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?
Coaching in Spain at a high level is quite different, they have the majority of the small issues the other clubs concentrate on such as training intensity, communication, collective responsibility, tactical flexibility and more completely covered. They are masters at creating high standards within trainings to push the players both mentally and physically. In this regard I would say that I have learnt the importance of these details and then the next step which is the finer details that can be fixed upon once the macro is covered. Overall the level of training is hugely impressive.
Are there any countries that you would love to coach in? If so, why?
I am very happy where I am, however I do believe that new environments will challenge a person, give them the ability to reflect and proflect. I would love to be involved in a forward-thinking nation such as Denmark/Norway/Sweeden in the future, as I believe that I would be able to concentrate on the next evolutions in football that are beginning to show themselves in ideas such as cognitive periodisation. As I now have a Spanish passport, anything is possible for the right opportunity.
Do you have a preferred style to coaching?
My style is scienced based, it is always based around important factors that are relevant such as the culture of the club, country, community and player. Of course there are aspects such as standards that should never be lowered, however studies have shown that when a player feels that you care about them as a person, they will work harder in difficult moment for the coach. People are people first and foremost and must be treated that way.
Coaches can quite often look at the different styles of coaching but not understand some core elements such as enthusiasm and discipline which are incredibly important, that in combination with clear explanations in multiple languages at once gives the players the ability the view the session for what it is, a competitive learning experience in which they need to support one another.
What is your next step? What is your long-term aim?
My long-term aim would be to work in the premier league; however, I am in no rush. I believe that I have learned a lot in my short time but the process is important as a coach, seeing the path clearly is something I focus upon every day. I believe that I have something very different to most coaches, but I still need to put in the hours to improve myself in many different aspects so that when I arrive at my next challenge, that be the next season or the next club. I am ready.
Any tips for other coaches out there in regards to coaching? What about tips for coaching abroad?
MY first piece of advice is learn a language, many people ask me the best way to learn a language, this is not my area of expertise. Then be interested in other cultures and visit other clubs. Forget the lads holiday and send a few emails to some coaches asking the go and visit a training complex to see what the top looks like.
Apply for jobs but improve yourself in as many ways as possible, I have just finished my second masters for example. I didn’t need it but I knew that it would give me a different vision that is incredibly valuable in the world of football.
Most of all, ask questions, you would be surprised the amount of times I have asked specific questions only to receive no answer from a person, and that is fine, they have their life, their family. But once in a blue moon a person gives back and its worth all the effort, ask deep questions and hope that they share more than the basics. Quick tip – Most trainings are the same, same exercises, same drills, it’s the other stuff that’s the gold.