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Building Experience Through the Levels - Derry Creighton

'Visiting different clubs has given me a wide scope of how things are done within the football world from the daily running of the club, the club’s ethos as well as the style of coaching philosophy they adapt'....

Name, age, where are you based?

Derry Creighton aged 21 based in Burton-Upon-Trent.

Current and past Roles:

Currently, I am working as a 1st Team coach with Crewe Alexandra Women Football Club, as well as co-owning and running Exclusive Elite Coaching which provides 1-2-1 and group coaching to ages 5+. On top of this I have a role at Premier League club as an International Academy coach, with opportunities to coach abroad. Previously, I have held roles with Burton Albion Community Trust as a community coach working in the local area in sports as well as roles with Burton Albion Football Club Academy as a pre-academy coach and academy scout, additionally with the Burton Albion Ladies as a 1st team coach.


My current qualifications that I hold are;

- FA Level 2 in Coaching Football

- FA Level 1 in Coaching Goalkeepers

- FA Level 1 in Coaching Futsal

- FA Level 2 in Talent Identification in Football

I am looking to gain a place on the UEFA ‘B’ License course this year to further my experience.

How did you get into coaching and what has your path been like?

The way I got into caching came from quite a miss fortunate event, it happened when I was in year 9 at school. I ended up breaking my wrist prior to the football season at school so that ruled me out from playing. Typical me. I didn’t want to just stand around, so I offered to help the coach with planning for sessions and games and he allowed me to help. The coach became a slight mentor for that period of time and managed to give me my first taste of coaching.

Since then, my path has been one of sacrifice and hard work. There has been many a day where I haven’t got back until late in the night or I have come in absolutely dripping due to the great British weather once again living up to its name!

The key thing for me was that I knew this was going to be involved. I also knew the path I was on wasn’t going to be the smoothest, and it hasn’t been. There have been many ups and downs which have taught crucial lessons, not all through any fault of my own but the nature of the beast that is the footballing world.

Any achievements you would like to highlight?

One of my major achievements is the overall progress I have made so far in my coaching journey. To be 21 years young and have the experience at working with some top professional clubs, as well as the opportunities gained through these avenues has been truly brilliant.

One of my most memorable and powerful experiences came in 2019, when I took to a volunteering trip to Ghana in as a sports coach. The trip aimed to give those less fortunate a chance to have a taste of what we take for granted. Before I could think about boarding the plane to Accra, the Ghanaian capital, I had to attend a small task of fund raising £2500 to fund the trip of a lifetime. In just under 7 months, I managed to raise the money learning the world of sponsorship as I went along.

I am ever grateful to the sponsors that helped me and all those that donated clothes for us, enabling us to take a suitcase each to donate to the people of Ghana. Once out there I had the opportunity to coach the local community sports, as well as meeting and sharing advice with a girls side who are the regional champions. We tried to explain the tactic of ‘park the bus’ to their coach to which he got the keys out to the minibus and proceeded to park it in the goal, literally parking the bus!

How has visiting and working with different clubs helped you in your coaching journey and why do you feel it’s important for a coach to get themselves out there?

Visiting different clubs has given me a wide scope of how things are done within the football world from the daily running of the club, the club’s ethos as well as the style of coaching philosophy they adapt. I have been fortunate enough to visit and work at some big clubs not just in England but abroad in Europe visiting the likes of Club Brugge and Hamburg, seeing how their facilities are spread out while observing sessions.

One of the main things to take away is the contacts you can build up by visiting different clubs. This all adds to the experience pot that helps shape your future, as if you need advice or help getting into a specific position, these contacts may just be able to help - more than likely once they were in a similar position.

The last part of the question is a big one, getting yourself out into the coaching world and learning. Football coaching is an industry that is built upon experiences, that help shape the coach that you are. Therefore, the more experience you can gain for yourself the more of that rounded coach you are becoming. No one is the perfect coach, but as a young coach I want to give myself the best possible chance of becoming the best I can be.

Putting myself out there helped majorly in my recruitment to the latest role at Crewe Alexandra Women. Not only has my experience given me a head start over some candidates, but my willing and desire to show an interest in the club by contacting the 1st Team Manager myself, goes a long way. Getting yourself out into the practical coaching world opens so many doors and I can’t recommend it enough!

In your roles, what have you found best for your development?

I love to learn and pride myself on the motto that you never stop learning. Some of the best ways to continue to develop for myself have been observing sessions, picking the minds of the people with experience and reading books.

In my opinion you can have all the qualifications in the world, but that doesn’t guarantee you being the best coach you can be. The very best coaches always go above and beyond with their development, it’s almost like the best exam candidates reading around the subject and not just doing the core work. This is what I am attracted to with football and coaching, there is so much to learn and different ways to put your own philosophy into it, that it makes you continually develop not only your core skills but your overall coaching ability.

I would highly recommend books written about other country's football federations and their take on coaching, for example ‘Mensch Beyond the Cones’ is a fantastic insight into the German Football Federation (DFB). Books like this help me stay innovative and help my coach development in such a positive way.

What differences have you found moving from a community coach role to being an active coach in a Senior 1st Team?

The biggest stand out for me is adaptation to the players that you have to coach. They act, speak and learn in a completely different way so therefore the way you have to coach has to adapt.

To begin with the concept of coaching open age groups that have players more senior to myself was a challenge. However, I pride myself on taking challenges and developing through them. It was vital for me to grow into the role and learn the best ways of coaching these players as quickly as possible, to provide a positive coaching experience for both myself and them.

It is a fantastic change I have had and it has had a positive effect on my coaching, as well as my development. I am very happy with the progression at a young age to get into Senior 1st Team Football. SO far so good, I'm pleased with the way things have turned out so far at a senior level.

What advice would you give to other coaches, who are looking to develop their career from grassroots football to working within professional club setups?

Be proactive not reactive. Why? The football coaching world is one of the most cut-throat and competitive industries to get into. If you can be one step ahead of the people trying to beat you, then you give yourself a better chance. You also have to be very willing to learn and put yourself in the right situations. Don’t be afraid to contact people and if you have the chance of meeting a big name, make sure you have the desire to want to learn from them.

One other piece of advice I would give would be relating to which club you are coaching for. Don’t take a job/experience role on the basis of what the club is called. The most important thing to take is that your coaching and learning time is high, so you are always continuing to develop. It is better to be coaching at a lesser known club than to be a so-called water bottle carrier at a huge name club.

How’s the future looking, what’s next?

Bright and exciting. As previously mentioned, the position I am in for the age of 21 is very good, and the next step for me is to enroll on the UEFA ‘B’ License. I want to continue my football coaching journey, building up my experiences as I go along. Currently, I am very happy with the coaching projects I have going on and I hope to continue to grow these. Finally, I am trying to grow my network and coaching profile as I see this an important thing to do in the modern era,

If you want to find out any more about my journey or want any help contact me on Twitter (@DerryCreighton)

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