This Q+A comes from Liam Arkley, a Scottish coach currently working in Japan and has embraced the language and culture. In here, Liam provides some good tools and advice for coach development. Enjoy!
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
I’m a Scottish coach of 7 years. In my coaching journey I have coached children of all ages from as young as 18 months to 18 years old, and players from 18-22. At the moment I work with a middle school team as their main coach, and as an assistant coach at a university. I currently work in Osaka, Japan.
What is it about your role that you love?
I love that every day I can impact people’s lives in a positive way. It is my responsibility to ensure that it is positive, and that I can pass down some experiences to them that they can then think/ act/do in a different way, or at least to consider to, than before. It is important for me that players I
work with might seek to think in different ways after I have finished coaching them. This is as football players, and as people.
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 Scotland meant that as a young coach with limited experience, I had to work voluntarily. While this is how it is for most people, I wanted to get more coaching hours, and do so while being paid for it (so I could focus on football, and not the 2/3 other jobs I had patched in around football).
So, I looked to go abroad to get that. This comes with challenges, of course. One of the main challenges is that you often don’t know what you are walking in to. Once you are there, it feels it is too late to turn back. For this I would always think: “give it a couple months” as you can often judge things too early.
Another challenge of living abroad is that you may assume people have the same attitude as you do, and quite often they don’t. Employers, for example, may not understand your passion for your profession. Some actually take advantage of this. Some simply don’t get it. It is important then to have clarity on that before you even start. If standards and expectations are not aligned early on, you can quickly find yourself being heavily frustrated while trying to deal with all the testing moments that simply living in a new place brings.
Are there any countries that you would love to coach in? If so, why?
I’d love to coach in a few regions, with specific countries not really something I focus a lot on. One country I will look to get work in the future however is Australia. It would make sense for me to start coaching in English again as I progress. As still a developing football nation, it would be a good fit for me at this stage in my career.
Australia aside, however, I’ve always had an interest in Scandinavia. While each country in the region will undoubtedly have its own unique qualities and differences, I’ve always had respect and intrigue for how they develop players and how societies work in this region. I’d definitely love to coach in Finland or Denmark for example.
Through my growing interest in languages, and life goal of becoming fluent in Spanish, I’d be interested in coaching in South America or Mexico. Mexico has always been a place of interest of mine. Again, working in South America in general would give me an idea of how football is coached in a different way than in Europe or Asia. As I would like to keep my options open, I wouldn’t narrow in on any country in particular.
Do you have a preferred style to coaching?
I love asking questions and using the game to broaden understanding in players. I spend a lot of time coaching through GRPs, SSGs and conditioned games. We do spend time on repetition practices, but I place a huge emphasis on pressure being applied early in the session. I think this gives us more opportunity to coach the game. Players can see the picture better, understand
better the reason for the training, when we give realistic contexts to our practice.
What is your next step? What is your long term aim?
I hope to complete and attain my UEFA B license in 2023. From there, I hope that I can use my experiences to push on into better roles, with more challenges and more opportunities to learn new things. I am keen to put into practice what I’ve been learning from different courses, consolidate it, and then carry it through into my next opportunities.
Any tips for other coaches out there in regards to coaching? What about tips for coaching abroad?
A few things I have learned over my time as a coach so far:
Seek to achieve clarity. Clarity in communication, clarity in understanding. When we have clarity in our approach, we can with players, align our approach better, and therefore hopefully be more successful.
With regards to on the field approach: own your session. Players feed off of you. Go and put your time to good use. This is again in your clarity; in your tone; in your body language; quality of session design; appropriateness of the practice; timing of your points; adaptability in the session, self confidence in what you are trying to coach.
Always reflect, even when you really don’t want to. Even when you have had the worst session of your life, and the last thing you want to do is dissect it, go and find your positives and areas for improvement within it. Often we lose context as coaches. Simply reflecting gives us a better understanding of how something actually went in its context.
Try to not be protective over what you think you know. It is easy to shut off what others say. It is easy when we feel competency in something that not everyone is doing, to get defensive over what we think is the right way to do it. This inhibits learning. It is valuable to lay everything you think you know out on the line, and have it challenged and questioned. Then we can think
differently. Then we can adapt, tweak, and develop our methods. This is how we can push on as coaches.
Coaching abroad is not for everyone. My biggest advice- learn the language as much as possible. The possibilities for you will open up greatly if you can culturally integrate. This helps to then network and build connections in the country. This then opens up more people and more opportunities. This all makes you more relevant. It is hard as a young coach to gain good
opportunities. Give yourself a chance by opening those doors through assimilation.
Thank you Liam!