Jess Ibrom is a British football coach with a busy passport. Having previously coached in the U.S.A, Mexico, and New Zealand, he can now be located in the Cook Islands, with the responsibility of being their FA’s Technical Director. With experience as 'Head of Academy' for Wellington Phoneix behind him, Jess has another string to his bow as Coach Educator for OFC (Oceania Football Confederation).
Name: Jess Ibrom
Location: Cook Islands
Role: Cook Islands FA Technical Director
Qualificatons: UEFA A, USSF A
The Cook Islands is a nation in the South Pacific, with political links to New Zealand. The CIFA (Cook Islands Football Association) was founded in 1971 with their headquarters and academy opening in 2004. The CIFA became a member of FIFA in 1994 and although one of the smallest nations, the Cook Islands itself covers a size equivalent to that of Western Europe.
How are things over in the Cook Islands?
Great and challenging! The challenge being; our National Men’s Team are currently ranked 192 in FIFA and the population on the main island is a mere 14,000. This makes us one of the smallest FIFA ranked teams in the World. We are realistic and know we will most probably never qualify for a World Cup, however we can achieve our own level of success. This comes in the form of trying to bridge the gap between ourselves and nations around us, attempting to be more competitive on the International stage. We’ve started this process by developing six elite youth academies on the main Island of Rarotonga, with the intention of aligning ourselves with future FIFA and Oceania Tournaments in and around 2021.
What’s been the best thing for your personal development?
Coaching at the Asia Pacific Football Academy in Association with Chelsea FC. This was when I first went over to New Zealand in 2011, under the guidance of Giovani Fernandes (Director of Football) at the time. I was able to develop individually daily as an elite coach, working with elite level youth international footballers in an elite environment. Another huge point in my development, was during the UEFA A License process with one of my mentors Paul Smalley (Currently Technical Director Bangladesh FA). Across a 4-year period he mentored me not only in the UK but also New Zealand through the whole process.
Like many coaches abroad, being able to experience different cultures and footballing environments throughout the World has been a big benefit. This includes; coaching Pachuca youth academies in Mexico, to observing A League Clubs in Australia, MLS Clubs such as San Jose Earthquakes and the Houston Dynamo in the US and observing Singapore S League Clubs and International teams in Europe. Going through the US Coaching Framework to obtain the USSF A and USSF B Licenses, have also been invaluable experiences for me personally.
Any challenges along the way?
Moving abroad has been the biggest challenge itself. This includes the daily adversity you will encounter as an British Coach abroad, whilst among different environments and cultures.
Was it your direction to end up where you are?
Yes. I had previously coached in the United States for 5 years and wanted to coach abroad again. I applied for roles globally for two years before receiving two offers, one in New Zealand and one in Vancouver. It has always been my long-term ambition to coach full time overseas. I believe there are more opportunities to develop not only a profile for yourself, but also develop your knowledge as a coach and gain some great experience along the way. I’ve been fortunate to of had the chance to coach where I have.
Has anything developed you more than if you were working in the UK, How’s your development been as a British Coach overseas?
The main thing would be the exposure to different footballing environments while working abroad.
If anything, I feel my development has increased as I’m constantly being exposed to opportunities I feel I probably wouldn’t get back in the UK. The English FA and also United States Soccer Federation have both been hugely supportive. They have both always been available, with valuable advice via email or over the phone. I think by UK based coaches continually taking up coaching roles abroad to broaden their experiences, this will eventually help to build global relations.
What do you feel is the global perception of British Coaches?
I think it’s varied dependent upon the country and how well that coach adapts to the culture and environment. There has been much success with the likes of Gary White, Stephen Constantine and Anthony Hudson, all flying the flag for British coaches working abroad. It’s difficult to be judged or labelled as coach, as I feel roles and expectations vary and are not always comparable between different countries.
What’s next for you?
Who knows! For me personally, continuing to work at an elite and international level is a must. Someone once said to me you need to see coaching like you’re a professional footballer. You’re always looking at your next contract. This is a hugely important thing to be aware of when you are coaching abroad. As an ultra-competitive industry, it’s so important to have your pathway continually planned out from year to year. It’s certainly not easy.
What inspires you?
Alex Ferguson constantly achieved success over 26 years winning 38 trophies. That’s unreal!
Nowadays I follow the likes of Jose Mourinho who has won trophies in four different countries – an incredible feat.