"It's important when being a technical director or coach development manager like I am now, that you can empathize with the clubs and coaches within those clubs and the challenges that they face..."
Name, age, where are you based?
Chris Adams, Sydney, New South Wales Australia
Coach Development Manager – Football New South Wales
FA Level 2
FA Youth Modules 1,2,3
FFA/AFC B Licence
FFA/AFC A Licence
FFA/AFC Level 1 Goalkeeping Licence
FFA/AFC C Licence Instructor
FFA/AFC B Licence Instructor
How did you get into coaching and what has your path been like?
Growing up as a kid my parents always said that I was destined to be a teacher or coach, because I was always the boy organizing the other kids into a game of football on the street or on holiday rounding up a group of strangers to play on the beach.
I think sports leadership was something that was in me from a very young age and I always enjoyed organizing people into football. Coaching properly started when I stopped playing grassroots football when I was 17, due to an ankle injury which saw me have rounds of surgery. In that time my then girlfriend's Dad was a president of a local grassroots club Maldon Saints, and he asked me to take on a U7 Mini soccer team.
I went for it to stay connected to football and from there I did my Level 1 and other FA courses, then turning into something I wanted to do as a career. At Maldon Saints I was lucky enough to have two terrific role models in Roger Causaker and Syd Wells who were “legends” of the grassroots game in Essex, and they passed onto me several pieces of advice I still abide by today. Unfortunately Syd passed away a few years back but whenever I am back in the UK, I always connect with Roger and we talk football and I always give him a bag of the latest FFA kit from Australia.
From there I then got the opportunity to join Chelsea FC Football in the community in Essex, delivering after school clubs and holiday programs. That was when coaching turned into a career for me and I knew that it was what I wanted to do with myself. Like most coaches, the path to “Full time” Football hasn’t been easy and it's been long and windy with several bumps along the way. At times I have had to juggle 3-4 coaching jobs to get a full time wage and it wasn’t until I was around 25, that I was self sufficient with one full time income from football.
That’s a real life lesson I try and pass onto younger coaches who ask me how they break into the game, saying you need to be patient and bide your time until It comes, but ensure that when the time does come you have the skill set and experience to be first pick.
Any achievements or experiences you'd like to mention?
Two Volunteer coaching trips to Gambia in West Africa in 2010 and 2012. Myself and 10 other football coaches from Essex visited Gambia to coach in the local villages and schools. A fantastic experience to see just how powerful football is, seeing kids and families with nothing, but still infatuated with the game we all love, talking about the EPL and just living and breathing football like we all do. Before the final games in the trip, the game was suspended as the local chief let his goats roam across the field!
Through delivering C and B Licence courses for the PFA here in Australia, I have had the pleasure of delivering courses for some of the best players Australia has produced. Some have represented Australia at the World Cup and in the top leagues in Europe, players such as Luke Wilkshire, David Carney, Mark Milligan, Lisa De Vanna and, Chloe Logarzo.
At first, day 1 morning 1 It was quite daunting being in front of these top players but it was such a rewarding experience, knowing that you are playing a small part in helping these players stay connected to the game in Australia. It's also helping to ensure that their knowledge can be passed onto the next generation of Socceroos and Matilda’s.
What skills did your Community Coaching role help you develop and how did you put them to use in future roles?
I think every coach at some point in their journey has experienced coaching at community grassroots level and for me, it can be the most rewarding. The biggest skill I took from this experience was learning to be flexible and adaptable in your training session. You turn up for an after school club or a PE lesson and have been told to plan for 14 kids, you design this great session and suddenly 30 kids turn up and the teacher has only got 6 balls to play with!
You need to be flexible as to how you can ensure that all of the players have a positive experience and are all fully engaged. That’s something that I have taken with me in my coaching career and now when coaching other coaches, I focus on the importance of planning for the “What if?” what if a player is late for training? What if the first grade coach needs 4 of your players? How can you think quickly to modify your session or even in the design phase have you thought about some of these scenarios so that you can still run your session to the outcomes you want.
How did the move to Australia come up and how was it settling into your new home?
I had just decided to quit university in London, the cricket club I played for in England always had an overseas pro come and play for the club and we became good friends. He moved back to Perth in Western Australia with a good friend of mine from England, and they encouraged me to come out and give it a try for a year in Perth.
I packed my bag, slept in their garage for a few weeks before eventually getting on my feet. I headed over with the intention of trying to get into football in Western Australia and sent a few emails but nothing really concrete. I then came across a local National Premier League club called Cockburn City Soccer Club and I managed to spend some time with the president. I began coaching the Women's Team as well as running some junior clinics.
The Women’s team ended up getting promoted to the State League for the first time and then the club offered me a full time position, as Technical Director as well as coaching the U18 side and the Women's team. From there, I then completed my FFA B Licence in Perth and became good friends with another Englishmen, Garry Church, who worked for Football West the State Federation.
Garry then got me into coach education, delivering the grassroots courses and over time, a position with Football West became full time as a development officer and I progressed from there. I then moved to Manly Warringah Football Association and now Football New South Wales.
Settling in was always hard and the distance from home is obviously substantial, but I think the beauty of football is that it is a community in itself. Everywhere I have gone, people have helped me integrate, be it families at Cockburn City taking me in and helping me find my feet in Western Australia, to Warren and other colleagues doing the same in Sydney and now I am married to an Australian girl with a fantastic family, which has really helped.
I think Australia historically is a migrant country and it's almost a case of the last one in, helps the next one in sort of thing. Both Garry and Warren were both English migrants themselves, so they knew how I was feeling and could empathize.
Technical Director roles are an important part of Australian football. How did your previous roles prepare you for such a role, and what was your main focuses in the role?
I think the wide experiences I have had across the game from working in 2 state federations both in Western Australia, to working for a Grassroots association and an NPL club, prepared me nicely. They all gave me experiences at many different levels of the football eco system here in Australia.
It's important when being a technical director or coach development manager like I am now, that you can empathize with the clubs and coaches within those clubs and the challenges that they face. This allows the support and guidance you give them to provide context to the environment they are working in. From experiencing this first hand myself, I feel I can relate to those experiences and challenges they face and pass on some solutions and support their development.
The main focus of my role is to improve the standard of coaching, the FFA have a saying of “Better Coaches, Better Football” and that is my mantra that if we improve the standard of coaching, we will not only improve the player but ultimately that players experience in the game. For me the coach is at the heart of a player's experience, it isn’t the club, the association or the federation, it is the coach. A coach has the power to inspire a player, but also the power to kill a player and their enthusiasm for the game.
Are there any noticeable difference between development in the U.K and Australia?
I think the major difference between Australia and the UK Is just the sheer size of the two countries. For example, New South Wales as a state alone is twice the size of the UK as a country, and I am servicing that whole area as the coach development manager. This obviously leads to challenges both player development and coach development wise, as we cant regularly have our elite kids playing against the best in the country due to the financial costs of travel. Getting around to support all of those coaches can also be a challenge, however, we still find our ways of working efficiently.
What’s been best for your development so far and what challenges have you had to overcome?
Formal coaching courses are always a key part of any coaches journey. They have provided a framework and a process for me in my coaching, however, the real development has taken place within the environments I have been placed in and the key people I've worked closely with in those environments. From my time in Western Australia being at Cockburn City, I was fortunate enough to spend a large amount of time and became very good friends with Scott Miller (former Socceroo and Perth Glory Legend).
Scott taught me the importance of having good values and morals when you are a coach, and ultimately ensure that you are a good coach on the pitch but an even better person away from the pitch - he is someone I hold in the highest of regards. Then my move to New South Wales to Manly saw me work alongside a fellow Englishmen in Warren Grieve, who took my football knowledge to another level through challenging discussions and constant football conversations both in the office and out of the office.
Warren supported me as I took my first steps into the Advanced Coach Education pathway as an instructor, and has supported me along the way and still does in his current role as TD for NSW, where we work together now.
The challenge will always be that I have never been a professional player, but I think that stigma is now starting to fade away, as there are so many people involved at the highest level who have had very small playing experience. I have looked to overcome this by not being shy in admitting that I wasn’t the greatest of players.
I was your typical grassroots Sunday morning player, playing with my mates and I have always admitted that to those who I meet in Football. I think that gives you credibility for being upfront and honest, often people try to mix the truth with their experience but they quickly get found out and quickly lose their credibility.
Is there anything that has developed you more overseas than if you were working back home in the U.K? How does the availability of opportunities differ?
I think being exposed to a different approach to Football from a different country's perspective has aided my development. I was lucky enough that I was still in the UK just as the England DNA was launched and the Youth Modules around that, so I had a great platform from some fantastic instructors.
Then moving to Australia, I then developed along with the National Curriculum and the coaching process here, which I think is up there with some of the best in the World. It has enabled me to have experience of two different national approaches and you then as a coach, take the best from both to sculpt your own coaching beliefs and behaviors. I would encourage any coach to go overseas and challenge yourself to adapt to a different country's approach to football, and their cultural approaches.
I don’t think that I would of got into coach development at the age that I did if I was in the UK, due to the larger pool of potential instructors in the UK game. I started delivering my first FFA community courses when I was 23 and then the Advanced C and B Licence courses when I was 26. I don’t think that would have been the case if I was in the UK.
Any advice of how coaches can differently tackle Coach Education courses?
When you walk into the room on morning 1 day 1, enter the room with an attitude of wanting to improve yourself rather than prove yourself. Lots of coaches enter a coaching course and spend the entire course trying to showcase themselves to the floor and prove themselves, rather than having a mindset of being there to develop yourself into the best coach you can be for your players.
Secondly, don’t look to the course for the answers and the vehicle to make you a great coach, a course will support you and challenge you, however, your destiny and what coach you turn into is down to you as an individual and how you apply the theory of the course into practice in your own environment.
What’s next for you, any thoughts on the future?
Who really knows what the future holds? If you would of asked me 3 years ago would you ever leave Western Australia, I would of said no and then an opportunity came up in Sydney which was right for me. My situation is now slightly different in that I have a fantastic wife who supports me in what I do, but I will need to consult her on any future moves!
Professionally, my ambition has always been to be involved in coach development. When I did my first FA Level 1 at Colchester United’s training ground, I left the course not only inspired to be a coach, but inspired by my instructor to be like him and inspire others and change the game. I think if you want to change a life, you become a coach, if you want to change a culture you become a coach developer.
That is what I love doing, helping coaches to make our game better for the players. The next step for me would be to work for a National Federation and be a part of designing courses and content for coach development, which is something I would love to do and put my mark on the future of football.