Cayman Premier League
Youth module 1 and 2
Bachelor of Science Degree in Sport and Exercise Science
Jack has shown motivation and commitment in starting his career as a football coach, evidence provided by his stints in the Mongolian Premier League, Gibraltar and now the Cayman Islands. Starting with grassroots roles in 2011, his persistence to develop himself has also led to gaining experience as a Youth Coach at Coventry City's Development Center. From the two options mentioned in 'A British Coaches Network', Jack has gone with the latter of making something of nothing and now, as Head Coach in a top tier league of a country, he continues to hone a wide range of skills also coaching youth players for ESM (Excel Sports Management), who offer full-time professional football programmes.
What’s the environment like there?
The players here are technically sound, and are very expressive with their skill in a 1v1 situation. One problem I found is that whilst the players are very good 1v1, they don’t understand how to combine with team mates to break down opponents, creating almost eleven 1v1’s on the field. My first challenge was helping the players to understand their roles within a team and how to then emphasis their strengths within this setup. The youth players are very enthusiastic and love the game however, I feel due to them watching football mostly on TV and not live, they do not understand how the game looks as a whole, and are transfixed with what is directly going on with the ball, and not always what’s around it.
Match wise, we usually play at one of two venues, with 3 competitions to play in; the league, FA Cup and President’s cup. Last season we achieved our highest ever Premier League points total and reached the FA Cup final for the first time in our history. Our youth teams were extremely successful, with the U13’s winning both the league and FA Cup, our U15’s winning the FA Cup and the U17’s and U21’s reaching the FA Cup final for their age groups.
The environment at the club and ESM is one driven towards improving the individual in relation to the team. We rarely train an individual on isolated technique and try to implement all our individual practice into game situations. For the youth, academics are emphasised and in certain situations, players have been excluded from training/playing games due to schooling issues.
Expectations from within the club are to develop young players and progress them either into the First Team or off island into US Colleges or into scholarship schemes or similar in the UK. Last season the majority of our First Team was under 21 years of age which gave me immense pride. This season, expectations are higher after last season’s success and I believe we should be closer to winning the league, which coincidentally, is my target for this year. In the next 2 years I believe we should be looking to win a game in the CFU Championships (CONCACAF Champions League Caribbean Qualifiers).
What has been or is helping you in terms of personal development?
The best thing for my personal development has been coaching day in, day out, with varied age groups, from the ESM youth development programme (4-16 years old) to the Men’s First Team (16-35 years old). Preparation for the First Team games has taught me a lot about the importance of physical and mental stability for all players. For example, physically, how often do we train, what days, how long, how hard, why? Mentally, what players need what treatment, how to coach one player over another, and why?
Being in another country, I have immersed myself in the game, watching most of the other matches in the Cayman leagues every week, learning about players, teams playing styles and how to counter them. With such varied talent on the island, it has been a real learning journey for myself. Secondly, being isolated in a foreign land has helped me grow as a person and become tougher in regards to dealing with setbacks and losses.
What have you found/do you find testing?
The main thing I needed to understand quickly here, was the emotional side of the culture. People get extremely hurt and upset by words here, and vice versa is also true, people can feel extremely special and loyal if you treat them with the respect they deserve. This has been extremely testing at times, as both players, supporters and other coaches can get extremely angry very quickly if you don’t say the things they wish to hear. Their emotional side rules their logical mind and this can cause big arguments, which the next day are forgotten about.
Some of the youth are very shy and getting them to be expressive can be difficult. As a coach, I have tried to make them feel responsible for their own development and to calmly push them towards a growth mindset of self-determination, meaning they understand they have the power over their lives and their footballing development, not any coach.
The final difficulty is being away from your comfortable zone of ‘home’. In England, it is relatively easy to find something to do with friends, yet when abroad, with no/few friends, sometimes you can spend a lot of time alone, which can lead to dwelling on mistakes/errors or even just past games. It is important to pick up a hobby or similar to pre-occupy your mind in these instances. I’ve always enjoyed cooking, but even more so since I’ve been in Cayman. It’s the only time I really stop thinking about football.
How supportive has your home FA been with you while abroad? Have you had to develop yourself through other countries FA?
The English FA haven’t particularly needed to support me, as I haven’t contacted them about any courses or similar since I moved to Cayman. My concern however is that when applying for the next course on the English ladder for myself (UEFA A Licence) is that overseas coaches are the bottom rung of priority for places, whilst secondly the makeup of the course (6 blocks of 3 days), is completely unmanageable for someone such as myself when including flight costs and other logistics.
Cayman’s FA currently do not offer coaching courses higher than the CONCACAF D Licence, which I would like to attend if they ran one in the near future. Instead, I have continued my learning/development in other fashions, like starting a Masters Degree in Performance Coaching (Distance Learning) in September this year, and also being accepted on the New Zealand FA’s OFC A Licence starting in February. This course is over 2 blocks, so it’s much more manageable for the distance learner than the English UEFA A Licence.
What do you feel, could help open more opportunities for development in the UK?
The main issue I feel is lack of recognition of coaches in foreign environments. If I was in England, I would not be working full time coaching a minimum of 3 hours 6 days a week. I would have to do 2/3 different roles to make a living. I believe because of this, my current path possible gives me an abundance of relevant experience, with more varied opportunities to learn, than the coach in England who may need numerous bit part jobs to get by. This isn’t a fault of the coaches in the UK, as I understand how difficult it is to find the ideal opportunity there, and there’s a lot of talented coaches not being utilised.
Working abroad, has there been a time when you’ve heard or faced perceptions of a British Coach?
I have had several different experiences abroad about prejudice or preconceptions about British coaches. Whilst in Mongolia, all local players/coaches were extremely interested in why a British coach would want to come to coach there. In the Turks and Caicos, all coaches and players were extremely respectful and listened to everything you said. Most locals I encountered were extremely inquisitive about England and more so about the football there!
Gibraltar/Spain was difficult, as in Gibraltar most coaches were interested and wanted to talk to you about what club you’ve worked at etc, due to Gibraltar’s tight British connections. However, whilst in Spain playing against Spanish teams, as a British coach I was almost ridiculed at times, both for my broken Spanish and British accent! If I could have understood more I would have been very interested to hear their views on me.
Here in Cayman British coaches are judged very similar to anyone else. I feel as though the local community are accepting me and I regularly get opposition coaches/players approaching me in the supermarket/street asking how am I, and they will always call me ‘Coach’. It’s a respect thing and I very much feel a part of the local football scene now thanks to this small gesture.
The next step for me will be understanding why I would want to come back to the UK and if I decide I do, what the role I am desiring would look like. I am currently very comfortable here, my job allows me to coach every day in a competitive environment with a good standard of players, and the job security allows me to commit to a Masters degree and the OFC A Licence, something which hopefully will open doors to me in the future.
The Future ?