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Jaymee Highcock - 10 Years In The USA

Name, age and where you are based?

Jaymee Highcock, 30 years – Head Mens and Womens Soccer Coach at William Penn University.

What is your current position?

Currently I am the Head Men and Womens Soccer Coach at William Penn University in Oskaloosa, Iowa. We are a NAIA intuition that competes in the Heart Of America Athletic Conference. 

I am going into my fourth season as head coach for the mens program and in that time we have achieved our highest national ranking, qualified for the post season play offs every season, and in 2017 we were one win away from being the most successful team in school history. 

This will be my second season as head coach for the women’s programme. In my first season, I lead the team to 9-8-1 record which was the best winning record they have had in 17 years. 

During my time at William Penn, I have overseen a new stadium, changing rooms and weight room being built, and helped secured a long term contract with Nike. I have transformed the program into a nationally recognized soccer organization.

Tell us about your previous roles and experience before William Penn University..

Previously I was the assistant coach at Avila University in Kansas City , Missouri. At Avila, I helped guide the Womens team to the most wins in program history and helped steer the mens team to the post season playoffs for the first time in the school’s history all in a two year time frame.

In November 2016, I shadowed and watched Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle United for a few days. Deandre Yedlin who is the current right back for the senior team is a good friend of mine and he housed me and took me into training for a few days. I gained access to all the facilities and held multiple individual meetings with Rafa, who also showed me the academy set up and put me in touch with the Spanish Football Federation. It was a fantastic experience and something that helped me grow enormously as a coach.

I have also worked and coached alongside the national programs in Barbados, Antigua and the US Virgin Islands. In Barbados, I helped organize and run youth clinics to promote and empower education for youths in there. Along with this I coached the U23 mens national team and the Barbados female national team and also did some coaches education, coaching the Barbados Football association coaches. 

On this trip I came into contact with the Caribbean directors from FIFA and the head of CONCACAF. This enhanced my profile and more Caribbean islands got in touch with me to acquire my services. In Antigua I was named the head of scouting analysis and asked to be a member of their staff for their FIFA world cup qualifying campaign in May 2018. In years past Antigua had never won a game in World Cup Qualifying and they were placed in a hard draw with St Lucia, Curacao and St Vincent’s. We managed to lead the team to 3 wins in 3 games and helped them advance to the next round of FIFA world cup qualification. After the success of the first round of games I was asked to be assistant coach for the Antigua National team for the next qualification round in Jamaica. Unfortunately, due to my College season and commitments I had to turn down the role. 

In June 2018 I was flown out to the US Virgin Islands from the USVI Football Association to help implement and start a new youth coaching program. I oversaw a new training program from the youth up to the full national team. I helped promote scholarship opportunities and grassroots level football on several islands in the US Virgin Islands.

What coaching qualifications do you hold?

Currently I have just completed and passed my first part of my UEFA B license in Northern Ireland, Belfast. I have completed my USSF D license and received a distinguished pass in my United Soccer Coaches - Premier Diploma which is the highest license you can hold with them.

Was it always your ambition to become a football coach?

My aim has always been to become a head college in the United States. I was lucky enough to achieve that goal at only 26 years old. I am still a young coach now and I know I have much more learn if I am to reach the highest level possible. 

To become a college coach, I recognized early that you had to get a degree, a masters degree and to work as many collegiate soccer camps as possible. During the summers I have worked at some of the biggest NCCA soccer programs in the nation such as Creighton, Akron, San Diego State and SMU. The more you expand your college network the easier it is to get into the college coaching circle. Obviously, there are different avenues but this is generally considered the most effective route if you want to be involved in College Soccer in the USA.

What is the ability/standard of the players at the University?

The ability of players can range in various ways. We have guys/girls that are solely at the University for academic purposes. We also have players that are training with professional teams in the MLS and USL, then we have full international level players – who travel away to play for their respective national teams.

What has been the best thing for your personal development?

I believe that being open minded has been my best strength for personal development. I think that you are never to good to learn from anyone or any situation. For example, I have sat in Rafa Benitez’s office for hours and picked his brain about things and I have also watched and observed a Dad who was the coach of a local youth football team. In both instances I have learned key elements that have helped improved me as a coach. 

Also, I have always had confidence in asking for advice if I am struggling with a certain aspect. Football is a game of opinions and there is no right or wrong way to play the game. Getting as many opinions as you can is critical to making the right decisions for you.

What things have been a hardship or testing?

At the collegiate level, you rarely find a programme that is based on winning games or finishing in a certain league position. You have to monitor grades, be a role model, recruit vast amounts of kids, improve GPA and make sure that the kids are going to class in the morning after a long bus ride. So the testing time comes when it is not always football or soccer based decisions. At the College soccer level, I would say that only ten percent of my job is actual soccer coaching.

Has anything developed you more than if you were working in UK?

I moved to America ten years ago and I have certainly became a more well-rounded, educated and independent individual. This has made me become more confident in myself and has shaped me to be the man and the coach I am today. 

Whenever I return back to the UK, I quickly grasp and remember why I am British and I add these elements back into my personality to make myself an ever stronger person.

How supportive has your home FA been with you while abroad?

To be honest I have never reached out to the English FA, so I can’t comment on them. The majority of my licensing has been attained in the USA. The United Soccer Coaches have been fantastic with me and I have completed over 5 coaching courses with them. I have gained strong relationship with Ian Barker who is the director of coaching education for the United Soccer Coaches. He has helped me immensely as a coach and without his help and recommendation I would not have been able to recently completed my UEFA B license in Belfast. I would say that the Northern Ireland FA have been fantastic with me and the course I recently completed was of great detail and helped immensely to advance as a coach.

How do University sports in the USA compare to that of the UK?

University sports are huge in the USA, so it is difficult to relate to the college or university system back in the UK. Some College sports in America are getting over 100,000 fans to come watch their games that are viewed by millions of people on television around the nation. I agree with the scholarship system in the USA where if you are a talented athlete you can receive a scholarship to help fund your education. This can only be beneficial for any young student–athlete. It would be great to see this promoted in the UK to help educate and improve young people’s lives.

Did you feel you needed to move abroad to coach to work in football?

If you have not played professional football at the highest level then I believe the answer is yes -you do need to move abroad. 

To get a full time job in football in the UK is extremely difficult and competitive, opportunities can be very limited. The University and College system in the USA has created more full time positions in soccer and there are a large number of British based coaches at the collegiate level. 

Also, In the USA soccer is a “pay to play” sport so there are numerous opportunities in youth or club soccer due to the fact that the sport generates such large incomes.

How are British coaches viewed in both the USA and other places you have coaches?

I believe that British coaches are perceived in a much more positive way than past years. This is due to the recent success of the England national teams both male and female. At various youth levels England have been hugely successful in the last few years with our U17s, U20s and U21s all winning major tournaments. The female national team did fantastic in the last World Cup and they are currently in their highest FIFA world ranking. Obviously this summer with the senior men’s national team reaching the semi-finals in Russia it has highlighted that we are doing something right with our coaching education and our ideas and philosophies. 

I believe we learned as a nation and as individuals on what we were doing wrong on how we perceived the game of football. I think we studied and observed multiple organizations around the world and implemented these ideas with our own philosophies and we have now created a group of players and coaches who have a successful blueprint to work from.

What’s next for you and would you consider going back to the UK?

I am not sure if I would ever have a career coaching back in the UK. I would not be against the idea but I understand the reality of the situation. If the right opportunity arose, then I would definitely consider it. However, I started my coaching career in the USA and I’m extremely happy in how that is going at the moment -but in football you never know!

My aim right now is to be have the most successful mens soccer team in William Penn University’s history and also to improve on the winning record from the womens team from last season. I don’t really want to look too far ahead from the current challenge in front of me, otherwise you lose touch with your short term goals. 

As I mentioned earlier, I have been introduced to international football this year and that is something I would definitely like to consider at a some point. I have helped and developed several Caribbean nations and that is something I would like to do possibly on a full time basis in the not too distant future if the opportunity was there.

I am not too sure what the future will hold but I am looking forward to improving myself as person, as a coach and making sure that whichever organization I am working for will be successful in everything it does. If this happens, then I am sure big things will happen in my coaching career.

Do you have any inspiration/advice to other coaches?

Never stop learning and networking. Always be nice to people because it leaves a lasting impression on everyone you meet. My inspiration is to always be the best version of yourself.

BFCN SAYS: ‘you can contact Jaymee below’.

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