Name, age, where are you based?
Lola Ogunbote, 31, Beijing China.
I’m currently Head of Soccer at Beijing Royal School in Changping. I coach the U16 and U18’s. I also coach a Senior Women’s Team midweek on behalf of ClubFootball, the team is comprised of expats and Chinese nationals who enjoy playing footy. They compete weekly in a local league that I helped establish and sometimes travel to different parts of the country to play competitively.
In my spare time, I run the website www.chinesesuperleague.com. Previously, I was a full time Football Coach for China ClubFootball and Arsenal F.C. within its community Football Department.
I have my FA Level 2 in Coaching and aim to begin my UEFA B in a few years time. I also possess an Undergraduate and Postgraduate in Law and I am a qualified Barrister (Lawyer) in the U.K.
How did you get into coaching?
My passion has always been Football orientated. However, I didn't always have the support I felt I needed at a young age. I was strongly encouraged to pursue my academics and ended up studying Law, but continued playing Football during my leisure time. Eventually, having practiced law for over 8 years, I figured life was too short not to pursue my dreams.
I found the courage to quit my job and researched coaching pathways. The week I quit, I saw a job ad for a coaching programme with Arsenal Football Club, and I knew it was meant to be. I interviewed, got the job and was taught how to coach the basics in Football. After a year I worked for Arsenal and travelled to Australia, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique coaching on the clubs behalf. I received a coaching award after my time with Arsenal which was presented to me by the players (and as an Arsenal Fan this was a dream come true) I definitely made the right decision and haven’t looked back since.
What is your training focus with your current teams?
Football as a School Sport is relatively new in China and so focusing on the fundamentals and basic skills are essential. Dribbling, shooting, passing and maintaining a formation throughout the game is essential. More recently, I have introduced several possession SSGs to help create more of a team dynamic to prevent the more dominant players excluding others. China as a whole is very academic focused/driven, which means that sports sometimes takes a back seat. Therefore, one of the most important things I focus on is ensuring that my players have fun and enjoy the sessions.
What’s been the best thing for your personal development?
Learning and observing from others. I’m fortunate that I have excellent mentors around, who are willing to share experiences, answer questions and engage in debates on the game and various coaching styles and methods. It has been crucial to my development and has impacted my own journey in becoming a coach
Working within a predominately male environment (as a female) can be challenging.
Fortunately, I encountered the same as a Lawyer and this was good practice for my career path now. I quickly learned how to navigate around certain issues and grow thick skin. The game is constantly changing and I’m pleased to see more women pursuing Football in general and coaching pathways. I think there is more onus to prove yourself as a woman in Football and some individuals still believe there is no place for a woman in the Men’s (or indeed women’s) game. I have always been an advocate for empowering women in the workplace (irrespective of the career) and so where possible, I try and encourage more females to participate in Football. T
his summer I volunteered for an American organization called GoalsForGirls. Its mission is to use Football as a tool to teach young women (from often disadvantaged backgrounds) life skills on how to be agents of change in their local communities.
Has anything developed you more than if you were working in UK?
As a recently qualified coach, my view is that had I remained in the U.K. It would have taken me much longer to secure a position as “Head of Soccer” within a School or Academy. There is validity in the argument that the duration of coaching, makes you more able to perform at a higher level. However, I also feel that sometimes it’s not just the quantity (i.e. amount of years) but rather the quality (actual hours of coaching, match experience, coaching style/philosophy etc) that adds to your overall coaching ability.
Has your development as a coach been hindered by not being in the UK?
The only hindrance is not being able to use any of my coaching experience here in China towards my FA licences back home.
Do you feel you need to move abroad to coach, to work in football?
I think it depends on your overall objective as a coach. I think it helps broaden perspective and observing different coaching “cultures” around the world is a cool experience. However, I do not think it is absolutely crucial. I love travelling and Football and so I really do feel like I have the dream job.
How do you feel British coaches abroad are perceived?
I think British Coaches are perceived positively abroad. That doesn’t mean we know it all, but we have established a good global reputation. Several coaches want to complete their badges in the U.K. which is an indication of how well we are regarded. I do think we can learn a lot from other FIFA/UEFA governing bodies around the world.
The future -what’s next for you?
The dream (other than the one I’m living now) is to create my own Football Academy for girls in West Africa. The aim would be to attract the best talent and offer education in addition to a football pathway that would allow players to apply for scholarships abroad e.g. in the U.K or U.S.A. Short term though, I’d like to secure a Female Football Development role either at home in London or abroad.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Mostly I get my inspiration from early female pioneers of the game. I grew up with a Mia Hamm poster on my wall (She is an all-time American great). I met and had a training session with Rachel Yankee in London another fantastic female player and coach in the U.K.
It may sound weird, but I never miss MOTD (Match of the Day). I love the post-match analysis and commentary. I also read a lot of football auto/biographies. Non football related wise I’m inspired by Nelson Mandela and was fortunate to visit the home he grew up in during my time coaching in Johannesburg South Africa.