This weeks Q+A comes from Dylan Barrett, a British coach currently working in Canada at Burnaby FC. This is a club that has grown close to me due to working with them in their previous name of Mountain United FC having developed a game model with their TD, fellow Brit, Lee Tregonning (still waiting for your Q+A, Lee!!!). The club then merged with local clubs and I was also fortunate enough to be a part of that with a coaches manual creation, so it’s amazing to have a member of the club do this Q+A and explain their own role and experiences, something of which Dylan has in abundance. Enjoy!
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
My football journey has led me to coaching here in Canada, but my love for the game goes back to the playground and streets of Bolton. Growing up I loved having the ball at my feet, always playing outside with friends, and creating new street games.
Whilst I was a strong youth player, I understood from being a teenager I wasn’t quite at the level to make it as a professional football player. When I was 16 I found interest in being a coach after completing a Leadership Award in High School led by Bolton Wanderers. I worked out this was my way to stay in football and follow my passion in a different direction.
I then enrolled at Myserscough College in Preston where I completed a BTEC National Diploma in Sport (Football) Performance and Excellence, and then furthered my education at University completing a Foundation Degree in Football Coaching and a top up year to gain Bachelors Degree in Sports Coaching at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan). I had an amazing time here, not really appreciating the tutors and coaches I was learning from until I left.
During my time at University I gained some experience assisting in the Preston North End FC (PNE) Academy, and later landed a role as a Community Coach in the PNE Sir Tom Finney Foundation. Here I gained valuable experience coaching after school sessions and Spring/Summer camps. During this time at 19 years old I had my first experience working abroad in the US, coaching summer soccer camps stationed in Tennessee, the Carolina’s and Atlanta. This was eye opening as I met so many different people, worked some tough days in the sun coaching players of all different ages and abilities and travelled to many new places. The hours spent on the grass really developed my coaching skills, content, patience, and problem solving.
After some time away from coaching working different jobs and time spent travelling, I retuned back to the US in New Jersey with a large youth soccer organization, this time in a full-time position coaching and working in sports management/development. My time here over 2.5 years were incredible, I gained lots of experience on and off the field and found coaching mentors I keep in contact with to this day.
I then got the opportunity to transfer to California, starting off in Palm Desert where I was a Director of Coaching running a small club of 12 teams, and assisting with the central office in Los Angeles with operations. I soon then moved to LA to work out of the office regularly assisting with state-wide programs whilst holding my DOC role.
After returning to the UK due to COVID, my next challenge took me to Vancouver, Canada where I currently reside. I’m the Head Coach of two fantastic High Performance Girls teams at the U15 and U16 ages, also managing some U10 Boys teams and coach in the Club Development Centre and a School Program.
What is it about your role that you love?
I love to work with passionate and enthusiastic players who have a real love for the game and drive to better themselves in every session. I love working with talented players and allowing them to express themselves playing to their strengths. I also really enjoy working with players who may not be the most skilful but are very motivated to improve, this is a mindset that all people possess, so I appreciate young players with the drive to be better.
The most rewarding part in my role and what I find the most exciting, is helping players overcome adversity on and off the field. The game of football is life just in another facet, with challenges, approaches, tactics, and opposition, amongst other things. To work hard and see success overcoming different obstacles are the real trophies when all is said and done.
The staff I work with are incredible, from the management down to the young coaches just coming through. We look out for each other at my club and want to see everyone succeed.
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?
What I have found during my time challenging over time working abroad is adapting my mindset to the different culture around football. When I was growing up, most of the time I was playing it was unorganized practice. We managed ourselves, we made up rules, we held each other accountable. This created an environment where we developed our creativity and learned how to be adaptable in different situations.
Most practice now is organized, especially in North America. More often than not when a kid is on the field playing football/soccer they are being managed by an adult. So, because of this, they ask and receive answers to questions instead of finding out the answer themselves which are missed opportunities to develop creativity.
We as coaches can provide a creative environment with our session planning and coaching style, but this will never replace an experience that youths will get from playing with their friends and managing themselves.
The culture is also different in the fact that most kids don’t watch the game on tv. They play the game because they enjoy playing, but most players don’t have that same passion to watch others. With so much to be learned from watching the best players in the world, this is a huge learning tool missed and something I advocate for regularly to the players I coach.
Are there any countries that you would love to coach in? If so, why?
I always found the opportunity to coach in Africa for a short time very appealing. The amount of incredible players that are developed in the continent with on average such little resources and opportunities I find astounding. I’ve seen clips of a number of different coaches travel there, coaches I’ve heard from have all said it was an amazing experience and was so rewarding. I feel these types of trips humble you, but also motivate you to have more purpose away from the grass.
Maybe this is something I will get to experience in the future.
Do you have a preferred style to coaching?
“I’ll give you the map, but you have to find the way” is a quote I follow when coaching players. I’m very Q&A/Guided Discovery driven as I want the players to have as much input as possible to come up with the answers to questions posed on the field.
My approach using this technique developed over time. I now coach with a Command-style more often than I used to, but typically with new topics and points that I know my players don’t understand. With this approach I’ll provide them the details and information initially but will leave it to them to answer in the future through Q&A and Guided Discovery.
Giving autonomy to players I’m very passionate about as I want to empower them to speak up and solve problems. I will always hold high standards, so players continue to push themselves and never settle, so frequently move the bar higher and higher. When standards drop, I keep a firm but fair approach to keep my teams in check.
What is your next step? What is your long term aim?
My ambition is to work my way up the youth levels to the National teams. I am always striving to improve my abilities as a coach and grow by challenging myself, so am excited of the thought to be able to work with the best youth players that Canada has to offer.
Past this, I aim to return back into a Technical Director role where I can provide my knowledge and experience to support not only teams and players but coaches too.
Any tips for other coaches out there in regards to coaching? What about tips for coaching abroad?
Never stop learning is the best advice I could give, and spend as much time as possible on the grass to develop your skills. Coaching can be split into two main areas – Content and Connection (to quote Justin Cochrane). To learn as much content about the game and different approaches on the grass is vital if you want to educate the players. But you also need to build and grow connections through learning about your players who you’re working with; personality types, what motivates them, their home life. Knowing these things will guide your approach to get the best out of your players.
If a coach is thinking about coaching abroad, I’d say do it. Whether it’s for a month or a year, you’ll learn so much about yourself as not only a professional but as a human being too.
There are so many companies and clubs that provide international coaches opportunities to move, so it’s important that you choose the right one. So many of these say they’re about development with their program, but then have little evidence that backs that up. Integrity in a club is key if you want to long lasting positive experience.
If you wish to follow Dylan on Instagram, check him out: @DylanBarrett_Coach