This interview comes from Kevin McGreskin, a hugely experienced coach at youth, club and international level who is also a published author based on his fantastic work around Soccer EyeQ and how to improve awareness. His book can be found here
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
I’m a bit of an old one now but football has been great to me and I’ve had some amazing adventures and experiences over the years. I started coaching early when one of my mentors, a guy call Bobby Jenks who was coaching at Hearts in Scotland at the time, and was also one of the SFA coach development officers, asked me if I wanted to get into it and got me on the courses and doing some youth coaching and the community stuff at the club. From there, I’ve coached in both the men’s and women’s professional game, coached women’s and men’s international teams, been the technical director of a youth club with 7000 players, and been the National Technical Director for two countries. I’ve also been involved in coach education and have delivered on the UEFA Pro/A/B Licence courses for a number of associations, including the Irish FA and Croatian Football Federation, and have been a featured clinician at the NSCAA (now USC) convention. I have also done a couple of DVDs and had coaching book published about Scanning, which is one of my passions, and have been lucky enough to have been invited to a variety of places around the world to present on that too. So, as I said, football has been great to me!
What is it about your role that you love?
Currently, I’m back in the Bahamas working on a project here and there are two components to what we’re doing here. We have an academy, where we deliver training sessions and have travel teams that go to the US to play in tournaments. For this, we partner with schools here and we ensure, as much as possible, that we are not competing with the clubs here but complementing what they do. The other component our YESI programming, which is a charitable foundation, which is where we work with the public schools and local communities to facilitate access to the game, through programs & camps, to kids that wouldn’t otherwise get to play. It’s really rewarding to feel that you’re giving something back and offering the kids something positive to engage with and look forward to each week.
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?
Football, the game, is the same all over the world but there are definitely other challenges that you face around the world. Language and culture can certainly have an impact but there are also socio-economic factors to consider, depending where you are. Often, we take for granted the facilities and equipment we have available back in the UK and it can be a shock to the system when you need to go out and deliver a session with 30 -plus kids in a cramped, uneven, marshy field, with the kids mostly playing barefoot, you’ve only got 4 or 5 balls (of different sizes and conditions), a random assortment of cones & bibs (if any!), and maybe even no goalposts! I think if you choose to go abroad to coach you need to be willing to embrace all of these challenges, embrace the language (even if you’re not great they’ll appreciate the effort), embrace the culture (enjoy the differences and don’t try to impose your own), and enjoy the fact that you’ll be positively impacting people in their lives.
Are there any countries that you would love to coach in?
Japan. I would love to coach in Japan. I’ve always been fascinated by the country and it’s truly the country at the top of my list to visit, never mind work there. I have a good friend, Tom Byer, who has lived there for almost 40 years and he never stops telling me how great it is. Now the pandemic is over, and borders are opening up, I’m definitely planning to visit Tom sooner rather than later. But, saying that, coaching there would be something I would love to do.
Do you have a preferred style to coaching?
I think I am now a more guided discovery and Q&A type of coach but I feel I try to have a blend of different styles to suit the group and the session, I don’t think it’s a one-size fits all and different groups need different things. I have to say that has been an evolution for me though. I was certainly a “command” coach in the early stages of my journey and, through time and experience, added other strings to my bow. You never stop learning though and it’s always cool to find new ways of doing things, even when you’re an old ‘sod’ like me!
“Short and sweet” – done! Thanks Kev! You can also check out Kevin’s book here