BFCN decided to Interview Neil after seeing an inspirational video of his on YouTube. Neil is passionate about helping other coaches and his video ‘How to become a professional football coach’ can be seen at the bottom of this article.
Name, age, where you are based?
Neil Ormond, 28, Dubai – UAE
Tell us a bit about your coaching journey…
I began my journey as a grass routes coach, volunteering at a FA standard Chartered club in Liverpool. From there I gained further experience, coaching different age groups within the grass roots club I was based at, whilst gaining the FA level 1 & Level 2 qualification. During that time, I applied for many overseas full-time coaching roles and was interviewed by Middle East Youth Soccer in Dubai. Fortunately, I got offered the role after an intense week of delivering sessions to their after-school classes, recreation teams and advanced squads.
I stayed as an academy coach for M.E.Y.S.O for 3 years. The final year I travelled back and forth to the U.K. to complete the UEFA B Licence – This was a qualification I wanted to achieve to develop personally and to enhance my coaching knowledge.
Shortly after passing the final assessment, I was put forward for an interview by my FA mentor on the course, for an academy coaching position at Wigan Athletic F.C. Working at a Professional Academy was something I strived towards and was the next step on my coaching journey. Accepting the position and returning to England, I worked within the Foundation Phase age groups at WAFC and also was recruited as an International Coach at Liverpool F.C. During this time, I completed the FA Youth module award and then was invited to St. Georges Park to complete the F.A. Advanced Youth Award. This course offered me a tremendous amount of support, as the WAFC club mentor would view and evaluate my sessions 8 times during the season. This supplemented the various course blocks I attended throughout the year. Both job roles complimented each other greatly, as I was working at a professional club, within an elite environment and then travelling to different countries to coach mixed ability players.
Where are you at now?
I have since returned to M.E.Y.S.O in Dubai as Head coach, overseeing the academy, curriculum and coach education. The age groups range from U6’s – U16’s, all of which have recreation, development and advanced groups.
As there is a lot of competition within this region for independent academies, our aim is to produce the best possible environment for the players to learn but also have fun. Having good relationships with players and parents is something we strive towards. We want all players to look back on these years as the best moments in their lives.
What’s been the best thing for your personal development?
For me, the best way to develop is to learn from other coaches. Whether it be from someone who has just started their coaching journey or someone who has done it for many years, I feel there is always something to learn from everyone. Personally, I learnt a lot from working at Wigan Athletic F.C. - The curriculum in place there teaches the players key principles and encourages the players to be as expressive as possible, within the tactical reigns of the 7v7, 9v9 and 11v11 format. My coaching colleagues were very open minded to the evolution of the game and were never afraid to share their ideas and information. For me, this is the best environment to work in.
Has anything working abroad developed you more than if you were working in UK?
Working overseas gives you a unique opportunity to work with a variety of different cultures and ethnicities. In the past I have coached players who’s first language has not been English. This has made me focus on how I communicate my message to the players, either through demonstrations or visuals. Seeing players apply themselves to practice to the best of their ability in this circumstance, gives me greater job satisfaction. It makes me feel I have communicated the message across sufficiently – however, this takes a lot of practice!
How supportive have your home FA been with you while working abroad?
Honestly, I have found it tough to stay closely connected to the FA and the CPD whilst being abroad. Being a level 4 coach, I’m required to complete the relevant CPD hours in order to renew my license annually. Thankfully I can achieve this online through their web-based portal. However, I have to be proactive to seek any additional professional development. I try to look at this as a positive, as it gives me freedom to search other avenues I may not have previously looked.
Did you feel you needed to move abroad to work full-time in football?
Moving abroad has allowed me to full-fill my ambition of working within football on a full-time basis. Although, I gained great experience working at two fantastic football clubs in the UK, I found it to be extremely difficult to gain a full-time coaching position. There is a high level of competition for every role that is advertised, and the ones who are in full-time roles, understandably, won’t give their positions up easily. I feel It’s all about timing and a little bit of luck. I made a number of genuine friendships with ex-work colleagues in the UK and often check in with them to see how everything is going back home. Staying connected is so important.
How receptive are foreign coaches to British coaches working abroad?
In my experience British coaches overall have positive feedback and are welcomed into the overseas coaching environments. Non-UK coaches have been very receptive to my ideas and thought processes when it comes to coaching. For me, its key to have an open mind and also be receptive to ideas from coaches who are from other countries too. I have learnt a lot by doing this. I believe this is a key element to gaining respect amongst your overseas peers.
What does the future hold for you?
For me it’s important to enjoy what you do. I’m very happy working here in Dubai and have gained invaluable experience during the combined 4 years I have worked here, both as an Academy Coach and Head Coach.
I am fortunate enough to be in a job that could take me anywhere in the world, which is extremely exciting. Having made the initial jump from the UK, I would consider most places around the world to coach.
Any inspiration for fellow coaches?
Along my coaching journey I have had many ups and down. Moments when I have questioned myself on my ability as a coach and also why I am doing what I am doing. I believe that most coaches have gone through a similar experience. However, working in a football is something I have and continue to thoroughly enjoy - developing as a coach, working alongside fantastic coaches, seeing first hand players you have worked with improve and go on to better things, coaching in many different countries, gaining invaluable experience living away from home, making lifelong friends. These are things I can carry round with me for the rest of my career and urge anyone who is having doubts about coaching to keep going. Persistence, along with an attitude to learn and improve will enable you to achieve what you want.