Millennial Coaches, Side Hustles, and Breaking into Full-Time Coaching

Millennials aren't young anymore. Depending upon where you look, most millennials are now over thirty, with the birth year ranging from 1981 to 1996. At the time of writing, that makes millennials between 26-41 years-old. As a 32 year-old, that puts me somewhere in the middle. We're not the young up-and-comers anymore. We're now a significant chunk of the workforce. However, millennials receive a lot of condemnation within public discourse as being lazy, entitled, and workshy. That's a misconception that requires debunking.

We're the most qualified and educated generation going. So much so, that a bachelor's degree carries very little weight in the current jobs market. In order to stand out, you need a master's now. And even that is carrying less significance than before, with many graduates simply resorting to postgraduate studies in order to delay entry into very competitive industries, with very few jobs available.

Millennials are lambasted and often ridiculed for not owning their own property, still living with parents into their thirties, or sharing apartments with adult roommates, like an extension of university years. When you see wages relative to house prices, it's completely understandable. I can count on one hand the amount of friends I have that actually own a house (in before I'm trolled in the replies by people saying I can count my friends on one hand). My wife and I, with our master's degrees, barring becoming the benefactors of some rich relative, will never own our own property. And this is the stark reality for many in our age bracket. It's also why jobs overseas are very attractive, because often they come with accommodation provided.

Millennials are also having kids at older ages than previous generations, or just not having kids at all. Marriage is down, property ownership is down, number of kids is down. We have more debt, less wealth, and to add insult to injury, Mark Zuckerberg owns 2% of all millennial wealth. Thanks Mark.

We've seen the rich get richer, pay themselves more and more, and then not had that reflected in our compensation packages. Is it fair that the CEO is paid three hundred times more than the average worker? I don't think you have to be a raving socialist to have problems with the morality of such a ratio.

Despite our relatively short life spans when it comes to competing for jobs, we have had to contend with a lot of issues. Perpetual war, climate change, recessions, inflation, cost of living increasing relative to wages, automation taking away menial jobs, the onset obsoletion of technologies we were brought up with, and now the effects of a pandemic, which will hold back certain parts of society for a long time. The true ramifications of this are yet to be seen.

Great. Now what? I'm not here to slag anyone off, go after politicians, blame it on baby boomers, or suggest we burn down society and start again. I'll save that for my private conversations. My intention here is to paint a comprehensive picture of the current situation facing us.

Millennials are often patronised when it comes to full-time work. The reality is, it's hard to get. Especially in a competitive industry such as football. We're also ridiculed for being educated without experience. All these fancy degrees with no time spent in the field. Well, why do we think that is? We can't get the jobs. And this is where the "side hustle" comment comes in. So many conversations I've had with friends and colleagues in the coaching industry revolve around how many jobs we need to piece together to make a living. "I don't like being back in England, because I have to wear a different tracksuit every day" I joked to one friend. "Every day? I'm often getting changed in the car from one session to the next" he retorted.

The laughter eases the pain. But it's true. One of the best things about working abroad is how you only get one pay cheque, and all that money comes from the same employer. If you're in England, working several part-time jobs, some on zero hours contracts, a lot of time is wasted submitting invoices, keeping track of pay, and also calculating your tax. It's not a dealbreaker, no, but it's added frustration and workload.

At the time of writing, I have several side hustles. It's actually hard to know which is my main hustle. Is it running BFCN? Maybe it's one of my two coaching gigs. Or it might be my part-time coaching job. I've also got refereeing to throw into the mix. Different outfits each day, with a different focus and mindset depending upon the role. And I'm one of the lucky ones. All my time is involving football. Many great coaches out there have had to get real jobs. And this is where the big question comes up, that many have been asking recently;

"Is it time I stopped chasing my dreams and got a real job?"

This question, or words to that effect, has been asked a lot recently by coaches on Twitter. For many, the compensation just isn't there to justify the amount of time, effort, and resources spent on trying to climb that coaching ladder. It's not an arrogance thing, like coaches feeling grassroots or JPL is beneath them, it's simply that such roles don't pay the bills. Coaches are round about their early thirties, married, with kids on the way, and that big break has not yet come. Bills to pay, mouths to feed. You can't take off weeks at a time to go on the next coaching course. You can't spare the thousands needed to pay for the next coaching licence. You can't put in the time and effort required to become really good and get ahead. We take our coaching seriously, and only have a limited time in our lives where we can go all out without the reward.

We want to be the first to arrive, the last to leave, spend hours planning, hours watching game tape (if we have it), and be the absolute best we can be. And for what? £15 per hour a couple nights a week? Maybe you can do this in your early twenties, but eventually it's not viable, and you begin to feel you may as well get a regular nine-to-five, and just work with your local U12s team once a week. The dream fades away.

This is why I so frequently see start-ups online. Many of which reach out to me for advice. Dave's Coaching Ltd or whatever, so that Dave can operate as a sole trader or business owner to legitimately charge for private sessions. Steve's Soccer Academy, a glorified grassroots team that runs development sessions on a Friday night in matching tracksuits, running through a series of ball mastery drills with the kids of overly ambitious parents that think Little Johnny has what it takes to make it in a real academy, just nobody has spotted his talent yet. Instead of letting him be a kid on a Friday night after a long week of school, they drag him to one of these sessions. No offence if there is a real Steve's Soccer Academy or Dave's Coaching Ltd out there. The names often aren't very creative.

If it's not coaching, it's podcasts, session plans, PDFs, mentoring, and even notepads. Twitter has become saturated with large groups of people, doing pretty much the same thing, all with generic and similar names. This is the reality of having some extremely talented and knowledgeable coaches out there, who are doing what they can to make ends meet. The part-time hours are topped up with a side hustle. Another objective here is to stand out relative to other coaches when it comes to job applications and applications for coaching courses.

"Why should I get the position? Not only am I a level X coach with Y years of experience, but I also own my own coaching company ABC Coaching! I have Z thousand followers on Twitter, because they like my..." you get the picture. As a consumer, it's all becoming a bit samey. What differentiates Dave's Coaching Ltd from Steve's Soccer Academy? They all offer a lot of value. We're encouraged as coaches to find our unique selling point, and yet, ironically, many of those USPs are becoming the same.

Similar to needing a master's now, as a bachelor's has less shine, the UEFA B licence has also become less impressive. It's great for us as a nation to have more qualified coaches, but it does mean from an employee perspective that you are less special, because more and more coaches have them. And then there's a large group of coaches stuck on their C licence/level two, unable to get on the next course. Exacerbated, of course, due to pandemic delays, and the backlog that has caused. You wait, and you wait, and you wait, and now you're older, unable to progress, and you've been on the same underwhelming wage for years now, because you just can't get onto that next licence.

British coaches are battling with the Sunk Cost Fallacy. You've spent years of your life working hard for this goal. You've sacrificed, dedicated yourself, and spend a fortune on education. It just doesn't make sense to give in and think that all the above has been done... for a hobby? No way! You have committed, it has become your image, but at what point does it start to hurt and inhibit you as a person? Let's look through the steps.

  1. Avoiding pain over gain. It would be painful to admit full-time coaching, that senior pro job, that academy job is beyond you. Self-efficacy and reputation are on the line. You're a coach. To not be a coach would cause emotional distress.

  2. Quitting is for losers. It may be tough now, but it will be worth it in the end! If you're going through Hell, keep on going! The toxicity of grind culture shares much overlap with coaching. Did you not get up at 5:00am today to run your 5K PB before a breakfast of kale, and then read the entire works of Jorge Sampaoli before your protein loaded lunch, followed by intense session planning, match analysis, turning up an hour early for your session to sniff the corner flags and be at one with the grass, and then after the session dissecting it piece by piece for two hours, and then recording your thoughts on a voice note on your phone to listen back to as you drift off for your evening power nap to aid session reflection? Well, if you're not doing all that, can you really call yourself a coach? That's the mentality that permeates some areas of coaching, and that peer pressure of such expectations can reek havoc on your brain.

  3. Admitting mistakes hurts reputation. When coaching is part of who you are, any loss, setback, or criticism can be taken really personally. Especially when in front of crowds (or just overly involved parents.)

  4. Past success deludes future investment. Well, I already paid for that course, and I'm still working at the same level. Perhaps I just need to pay for this other course? How about that book or CPD event? Still nothing. Maybe I should go over to Spain for a study visit? That will surely set me apart from the other coaches!

  5. Information bias. We don't know the full picture of football, coaching, the competitiveness within the industry. I'm certain most readers would have applied for a job in which they tick all the boxes, and fancied their chances, only to be completely ghosted and not even receive an acknowledgement, let alone an interview. We can all be guilty of thinking we are better or more regarded than we are.

  6. Emotional connection over a rational one. We love coaching. We love football. It's brilliant. And the best coaches genuinely care about their players. After a good session, a good game, or seeing genuine progression within the group, there is no buzz that can top it. We live for that high. When my team has played well, when the training session has gone smoothly, when the players are laughing or joking, I feel like I could fly. Although, to be fair, I also feel like that on new kit day.

  7. False sense of hope. Maybe you're one job or one licence away from making it. Maybe you just need another year. You've seen others like you do it, so why not you? A guy from your level one went over to Sweden, got married, and is now an assistant coach in the second division over there. That could easily be you, right?

Millennials change jobs more than the previous generations. So many factors contribute to this. One being that we have lots of part-time jobs, that we try to fit around other jobs and commitments. If your priority job changes, or a new commitment comes up, it can edge out one of your side hustles. Many want a full-time job, having to settle and make ends meet with a web of part-time jobs and study commitments. Another is our needs and expectations of jobs.

Why do I need a flexible work schedule? To fit around my other jobs and commitments. Professional growth is also huge for coaches. When I go abroad, I need to know there will be support, within house CPD, and opportunities to take coaching courses. Millennials are always looking at self-improvement and how to climb ladders, so it helps to either have that as part of the job, or work in a job that allows you the flexibility to do it off your own back. Company culture is huge as well. I have left a handful of jobs within days due to the culture being completely wrong. When you realise you're working for someone who you find abhorrent, it's hard to put the effort in each day, wearing their logo, and working hard to make them richer. I feel this is because as a generation, we were conditioned to not tolerate abuse from authority figures. Our parents regale us with tales of being scared stiff of their teachers, who would beat them within an inch of their life. Or steely, unrelenting bosses, who were Hell to work for. We're a more democratic generation that expects respect, and will not tolerate abuse from aggressive zealots. We've all heard the accusations of millennials being soft, being called snowflakes, yet ironically these are brandished by people who were too scared to share water fountains with black people back in their day.

We've also seen all the memes about how millennials are lazy, entitled, and are killing industries.

Millennials spend less on dining and entertainment now than past generations have. As such, many restaurant chains, shops, foods, and hobbies are losing significant amounts of business, and are having to close.

Some say it's our shift in values, in that we're more liberal, more conscientious, and care more about the environment and sustainability. Perhaps. But I feel this graph makes a stronger argument...

We're skint. Across the developed world, we're seeing a trend, being that Millennials, despite having more jobs and being better educated, are the first generation to be worse off financially than their parents. Perhaps we'd like to go to Applebee's, but don't have the money left over in our wallets. Plus, after spending several hours as an Uber driver, then coaching, and maybe catching another shift at your other job, you might not have the energy left to go to Applebee's.

Some say it's because we're lazy and workshy, however...

Millennials actually work quite hard, and are very productive, yet aren't compensated fairly when compared to other generations. So we are educated, hard working, but have our pay stifled by CEOs who make 300x our wage, resulting in less disposable income, and then without a hint of irony, are blamed by those bosses for killing their businesses.

The likes of Jeff Bezos are heralded as being financial geniuses, yet their empires are built on undercompensating and overworking, and even abusing their employees. And then people have the audacity to claim millennials are workshy and entitled. Too many "back in my day" stories are offered, completely unsolicited, neglecting the fact that life is now very different. The odds are stacked against us, and we're given advice by those who are completely out of touch. Have you ever been looking for work and told to walk down to the high street with a bunch of paper copies of your CV, handing them out in every shop? That's not how it works anymore. And the person offering such advice will likely have echoed many of the following statements from the below "Old Economy Steve" memes.

Someone who, without an education, got a job right out of school, worked a consistent nine-to-five, could afford a house on their average salary. We don't begrudge the generations who went before us. I'm young enough to not have to have suffered 80s music. When I say we have the odds stacked against us, it really feels like millennials are losing autonomy. Millennials in the US voted overwhelmingly against Trump in the 2016 election. Back here in the UK, Millennials voted overwhelmingly against Brexit. So the odds are stacked against us, and we can't even vote in the politicians that we think will help. The median age in the UK is 40.5 years-old. That's now in the millennial bracket. Yet this is not reflected in the old farts who govern us within politics. They can't relate to millennials. They haven't experienced this, and any solutions they provide are based on outdated values and insight that isn't always appropriate to the needs of modern day issues.

Then they have the absolute cheek to tell us the reason we can't afford things is because we spend too much money on iPhones, avocado toast, Starbucks, and Netflix.