The British Football Coaches Network have teamed up with ‘UK International Soccer’ to provide opportunities for coaches to gain experience coaching abroad. Learn more about living and coaching in the USA in our article with 22-year-old British coach, James Johnston. Be sure to check out his YouTube video, ‘Living in America’ in the link at the bottom of the article!
Where you are based?
I am based in the USA for nine months of the year and the other three I spend in the UK, back home in Newcastle. Most of my coaching is either in California or Connecticut, but in the summer, I travel state to state running week-long camps.
Since I was young I was into traveling and wanted to go to the USA. As a kid my biggest dream was to see the Hollywood sign, so to be living in and around that area is a dream come true. So far, I have been to 23 out of the 50 States and I’m looking forward to seeing the others!
How did you get into coaching football?
I first got into coaching when I studied the ‘Football Excellence Programme’ at Tyne Met College in Newcastle. The Principle at the Tyne Met College, Warick Stephenson, is a family friend. He invited me to come along to Wideopen Soccer Skills to assist and learn from him in the football sessions that he runs. Eventually I became a Lead Coach and was running my own sessions. Wideopen Soccer Skills is a fantastic platform for young players aged 4-10 years old to learn football before moving into a more competitive environment.
I was then lucky enough to get the opportunity to coach at the Newcastle United Foundation. It involved coaching different ages, abilities and genders. Whilst there I ran my own special needs class which was very rewarding. As well as this, I also coached my own freestyle football session in my local primary school.
One day, out of the blue, I received an email from Warick with information about coaching in the USA with UK International Soccer. Warick has helped me a lot with both my coaching and life choices and thought I would be interested in this opportunity. I applied and was contacted by the UKIS Recruitment Manager, Niall Marshall, and was very quickly on my way to the USA. I’m now on my third year coaching in the States.
Which coaching qualifications do you have?
I have my FA Level 2 coaching licence at present. I’m currently studying the first year of ‘Football Coaching and Administration’ with the University of South Wales. At the end of the course I will have a degree and the Welsh C and UEFA B Licence. It is a three-year course and projects are done online as well as a week-long practical when I’m back in the UK. Most students on my course are working for UKIS, it’s a great chance for us to gain coaching qualifications, experience coaching abroad and earn money all at the same time.
Tell us about working for UKIS..
The work is split into three seasons, spring, summer and fall.
In the spring season, which is March to June, we train our assigned clubs’ teams on weeknights, usually three hours of coaching a day, 5-8pm roughly. On a Saturday our teams play matches, and Sunday is a day off to enjoy ourselves. We are based in one location and stay with a host family.
In the summer season, mid-June to September, we run summer camps which are either half-day, 9am-12pm, or full-day 9am-3pm. These are great fun and fantastic for seeing different parts of the USA. We do a camp for a week in one city or state, then move to a totally different one the next week. An example might be coaching in New York one week and then the next week we head to Chicago.
Fall season, September to November we go back to the same schedule as the spring season where we coach at a club. Working only evenings is ideal for the coaches that are at my University to do our course work through the day. If we aren’t studying, it gives us a chance to explore the area. In my spare time I enjoy making YouTube videos, shopping, sightseeing as well as keeping fit in the gym
In my opinion, the standard of ability is lower in the USA than it is in the UK. I think mainly this is because of the variety of sports played in the USA, whereas in the UK football is dominant. Soccer is definitely gaining popularity in the USA though and I’m seeing an improvement in the standard since my first year out here.
One thing I really enjoy is that the parents are so appreciative of us coaches coming over from the UK to coach their children. They always make sure their kids say ‘thank you’ and give us a high five before they leave.
What has been the best thing for your personal development in the USA?
The best thing about working for UKIS is that they employ coaches from all over Britain, as well as other parts of the world. Most of the coaches are young but I met a 43-year-old coach and learned a lot from him. We all travel across America sharing our coaching ideas. It feels like a big family community and you get to know everyone and we make friends for life. I’ve learned so much about coaching football working for UKIS.
I have also become more confidence since I began working out here both at work and outside of it. I’m more comfortable working with younger kids and like to be goofy around them which I didn’t three years ago.
How did you find moving to another country?
As I was only 20 the first time I came out here it was difficult leaving my family and friends in the beginning. I had to learn to live with host families which was a bit daunting at first, but you soon get used to it. They treat you like part of the family and some say I’m like the son they never had which is a nice feeling. One family even owned an aeroplane and took me around the Florida Keys in it! The incredible weather in California certainly helped me adjust quickly.
I received great support from UK International which made things easier for me too. The owner, Gary Gamble, is always checking in on me to make sure everything is ok, he’s a very humble guy who looks after his staff.
Would you recommend coaching in the USA?
I’d recommend joining UK international, especially if you are a young coach as moving to another country makes you grow up fast both as a person and as a coach. My advice would be to go out and do it! You will not regret it. Make the most of the opportunity and enjoy it. Working for UKIS has really built my profile both on and off the field. I moved here because I saw it as a better opportunity for me to stand out. In the UK every coach is British but as a British coach in the USA, you are like a celebrity.
The Future -What’s next for you?
I will complete my degree and UEFA B qualification through my university and then decide what to do. If I was to move back to the UK I’d try to get a job higher up in the Newcastle Foundation, but right now my mind is set on enjoying the USA.
One day I’d love to start my own academy in the USA, but that would be more of a long-term goal. Maybe I would start with running my own summer camps to begin with and take it from there. I have nothing holding me back in life right now, so the possibilities are endless. My older brother is in Dubai coaching, maybe we could start something together one day.
I was speaking to a friend who had worked for UKIS and he said to me ‘Just do it, and you’ll thank me later’. Those words pushed me to move to the USA to work and I would say the same to anybody else that is thinking of doing it.
I also believe that if you surround yourself with positive people they will push you to achieve more!
UK International Soccer are recruiting coaches throughout the year. If you are interested in experiencing coaching in the USA, you can apply by sending your to: firstname.lastname@example.org
or apply directly at the website here: https://www.uksoccer.com/UKCoaches/UKCoach_welcome.php
Below, you can check out James’ YouTube video ‘Life in America’ which includes some of the States he has worked along with some of his tricks involving a football and a hat!
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