When thinking, considering and eventually applying for this experience of coaching in the US, I was stepping into the unknown and an opportunity that was initially out of my comfort zone in terms what to expect personally and professionally. Naturally when anyone steps and leaps into the unknown they become nervous and anticipate what may occur. I clearly remember the evening driving to the airport on July 3rd, 2014, full of nervousness and at the same time excitement. Occasionally I had moments of reflection, in terms of how hard I worked physical and mentally throughout rehabilitation to recover from multiple slipped discs. Additionally reflecting upon how determined I was to coach and develop personally and professionally from such experience.
The scariest part was stepping onto a plane, knowing full well you’re pursuing a long term ambition and not knowing what was to be expected on the other side. Arriving on the other side, and meeting with a personnel from the company and other new coaches, we were then set on our way to Connecticut (CT). I was displaying a sense of excitement and in awe of the surroundings but inside I was full of anticipation. We drove for a couple of hours to reach a hotel were, all the incoming coaches were to meet before heading out to our summer camps in a couple of days’ time. Checking into our hotel and our room, I sat there thinking “I have no idea where I was or the actual time”. Before I knew it coach’s after coach’s were checking in and I was put back by it all, it’s crazy how tired you can become of saying and hearing “Hi I’m Richard”….
I really enjoyed the well-constructed, innovative and interactive aspects of the presentations that occurred during the weekend. Sitting in a different country, unaware of the time and location and personnel in the room I was anxious to ask any real relevant questions. However, through discussions and interactions with other coaches, my questions were answered. On reflection, I think this method was better suited to incoming coaches, as you received honest and in-depth answers from those on the field and dealing with the players and parents within different programs (Teams). Alongside a theoretical element to the incoming weekend, there was also a practical element allowing us to observe experienced coaches, I was excited. With the various clubs or organizations, I’ve previously worked for, I’ve always been open-minded in regards to observing other coaching, methods, styles and the use of language. Creating a continual professional development (CPD) meetings regardless of the club will more often or not educate or change a coach in respects to one’s coaching. The change might be big or small, yet if it develops a coach then the standard of coaching received by the players will improve. We as coaches must understand not matter our age, experience and knowledge we can still learn something new. Open-mindedness is an attribute we all as coaches must possess.
I was determined to understand and learn the US soccer coaching and sports culture from those that have experience. I was continually reminded by coaches I spoke to via Social Networks and coaches/staff from the US about the high percentage of a “Winning” mentally surrounding youth sports in the States. Personally having strong beliefs about individual and team development I was eager to potentially change their mindset. During the practical element, a different coach was assigned to demonstrate an age specific activity with suitable coaching styles and use of language whilst we participated. Thought this was a very imperative aspect within the introduction weekend, allowing those that were unfamiliar with the US soccer culture to observe different methods and activities. During some of the activities I choose not to participate, this allowed me to stand back and observe the environment in regards to the area size, making the area visible to younger ages, positional movement of the coach, body language presented by the coach and players, number of group/individual interventions, use of language and how progression was implemented. Providing this learning experience for the coaches was so important, also instigated within a very interactive manner.
When beginning a new job in any sector, you occasionally communicate with the owner, It was tremendous feeling and privilege meeting the owner. I was immensely influenced by the owner in the short time I listened and spoke to him, really felt like an individual that I mattered and not a number and/or name on a spreadsheet. When the owner questioned our reasoning behind coaching in the US “What do we want from this experience?” it really made me reflect on my struggle physically, mentally and financially to achieve this experience. The question also motivated me further and prompt me to think more about the ambition and belief I possess to achieve success within the profession of coaching. This experience wasn’t something I’d be taking for granted, of course, I was here to experience life in the US but most importantly I was here to coach and develop soccer players and coaches on and off the field. I really believe in the “Dots Connecting” when you’re looking back, the owner really inspired and motivated me to use the opportunity to develop.
The Sporting Influencer