'In my time at Notts County we had 10 permanent managers, 5 caretaker managers, 5 Academy Managers and 2 owners, so things were always changing...'
Name, age, where are you based?
Dan Leivers, 36, Bodø, Norway
Current and past Roles:
My current role is as “Hovedansvarlig and Spillerutvikler”, the equivalent to the YDP Lead in a UK Academy, looking after the boys at FK Bodø/Glimt from 13 to 15, taking the U14’s last season and the U16’s this season in the National League. I have been here for over a year, after time as Academy Manager at Barnet FC and a number of different roles at Notts County FC.
I have my UEFA A Licence and Advanced Youth Award (PDP). Also a degree in Economics and Business and some teaching qualifications.
How did you get into coaching and what has your path been like?
I first started coaching when I was 16, helping out in the local club I played for, Loughborough United. For some years after this, it was just a hobby and worked with other grass roots clubs in the Loughborough area. After University, I continued to work within grass roots up until 2007, when I decided to spend some time coaching for MLS Camps in the USA.
This confirmed to me that I wanted to pursue a career in coaching. I spent some time with Coerver Coaching as well as running my own coaching company until my persistence paid off and Notts County gave me a chance to coach their Under 12’s squad in 2011. As this was a part time role I continued working within my own business before I got a teaching role within the Football in the Community programme at Notts, as well as Video Analyst for the Under 18’s. Working closer with the leaders in the Academy meant I was then able to secure my first full time role in an Academy as Lead Foundation Phase Coach.
I then made the step up to Lead PDP and Head of Coaching, as well as standing in as Academy Manager on two occasions. It was extremely difficult to leave Notts County as the club and the staff and players there were, and still are, so close to my heart, but I knew that it was better for me to gain experience elsewhere and that the Barnet FC Academy Manager job was going to be that experience.
Anything you would like to highlight?
I would say all of my biggest achievements would be watching players stepping up to the first team, during both my time at Notts County and Barnet. I still take real pride in the work I did at both clubs and seeing success stories after I left still makes me feel good and proud of the players in question.
At Notts County I was fortunate to move up with a particular group of players from 12 to 18 so that’s always special when you know the person so well and they make their debut or move on to one of the big clubs. But I also believe that there are a lot of people in a player’s journey and that the player them-self is the one who does the hard work, so I’m not one to take the credit.
Biggest name I coached is probably Hamza Choudhury at Leicester City, but again he was only 8 when he left my team for Leicester!
With over 7 years at Notts County, how did the club and academy evolve across that time and did any of your roles and expectations also change?
In my time at Notts County we had 10 permanent managers, 5 caretaker managers, 5 Academy Managers and 2 owners, so things were always changing. This meant that standards were different year to year, or even month to month and it does become a very turbulent place to work. There were dark and difficult times over the years.
Looking back, I wouldn’t change any of it, having met and worked with so many good people and being able to learn from different people has been great. I also think that those experiences brought me closer to the good people within the club and made me a better person and coach. The Academy was a very different place when I left to when I started. In particular the continued work on our APP and the Audit process had a huge effect on this and was something I enjoyed.
Did you need to adapt in any way when taking up the Academy Manager role at Barnet, and how did your experiences at Notts County prepare you for the role?
Becoming the Academy Manager at Barnet had a number of challenges and it was not an easy job. I felt confident in going there, due to being at Notts for some time and relying on the experiences I had gained in the day to day running of an Academy. I was lucky to start working with some very talented people, who were willing to work hard and stick together in tough times, especially since the period before I arrived for them had been a tough one.
Notts was always a well run Academy and I felt I had a positive impact on the Academy at Barnet because of this. Having worked across the spectrum of players at Notts was also a benefit and made me hungry to work with all the players at Barnet. I would coach the Under 18’s with Dan Senda in the daytime and coach in as many sessions as possible in the evenings with the younger players.
Culturally it was very different at Barnet, I have never worked with so many different players from different backgrounds, who came from all over London to play for us. This was one of the things I really enjoyed about the club and it is a place that gives opportunities to so many different people. I felt we did a great job there and it’s sad to see that they are struggling again in the current situation.
What main take-aways have you took from your time in English youth football and what experiences have enabled you to settle into your current role in Norway?
I probably developed most as a coach at Barnet, as I became in a position to influence my beliefs on the other coaches and was very lucky to be supported in this by Lee Johnson, Head of Coaching and Dan Senda, Lead PDP Coach.
I felt really lucky to be working with like-minded people and from a coaching perspective it was my most enjoyable job. I have also been very lucky to have been on good courses with the Enlgish FA and the Advanced Youth Award in particular reaffirmed my beliefs in how I want to coach and these experiences made me fully prepared to come to Norway and be myself as a coach. I felt it was also important to be able to have a positive impact on the club when I arrived at FK Bodø/Glimt.
The Norwegian system is in a very good place and developing rapidly, however, there were a number of opportunities for me to do this, bringing in knowledge of coaching and the development of players from England, which I feel is where the most depth and detail goes in to the development of players and coaches.
What are the main differences between youth development principles between the two countries (England and Norway) and have you needed to change any of your coaching methods?
The biggest difference for me in this role is obviously the language, but English is spoken so well here that it has not been too difficult. The other big difference is the size of the country and also the City of Bodø and the County of Nordland, which offers a different challenge. The city itself has only 50,000 people and 250,000 in the county, a county that is spread across 38,000 square kilometers!
We have players that represent us who live up to a 6 hour drive away north and south, or a few hours on a boat from the islands, so recruitment here is on a completely different level to that in England. We fly to all our away games in the National series, to Oslo, Bergen and the other big cities.
From a development perspective it’s very similar for us, we have an English Academy Director, Gregg Broughton who has brought in a lot of experience from the English system. Also the people here are very interested in developing the individual and there is a shared belief in the way we coach, so there has not been any differences for me in the way that we coach here to England.
What’s been best for your career development so far and what are to you do to keep upskilled?
I owe a lot to my development to those who have had faith in me and given me the chance in the roles I have had. Mick Halsall was and still is a great mentor to me and gave me the opportunity to work with the Under 18’s at Notts County, which for a long time was my dream job.
I have also had the pleasure of staying in close contact with people I have worked with in the past, Craig Gordon at Notts County and Matt Alexander in particular from Notts. Also some colleagues from my A Licence, Simon Cooper and Tony Taylor in particular have been a huge influence on me and my career direction. I have also had great FAYCD support from the likes of Mark Kearney and Tom Curtis over the years.
Having a network of people around you who you trust is so important and being able to just call them any time has been invaluable. It’s the shared knowledge and practice from all these people that I think has been the biggest support for me as a coach. My advice to any coach is to use these types of people as much as possible.
What have been the biggest challenges you have faced and how was you able to overcome them?
I’ve dealt with some tough times in my career, but the only way to overcome them and become a better person for it is to keep pushing at what you believe is right, as hard as that can be sometimes. But if you do it in the right way, often when the challenges are over I feel relationships are stronger and the respect you gain from your peers is much higher.
I’ve learnt that I’ve not got a job I was going for within my own club via SkySports News, before my final interview the next day, which was difficult! But I had some great people around me who helped me to deal with the situation and I was better for it in the long run.
Living in London away from my wife and two children was the most difficult, especially with the demands of being Academy Manager at Barnet. Again it was the strength of my family and the friends I worked with there that got me through it. “Control the controllables”, that has to be my life’s motto!
How’s the future looking, what’s next?
Right now I’m enjoying my life in Norway with my family, Norwegian culture and living in a small City has allowed us more time together than I could ever imagine working in football. I really enjoy my job currently, although I feel my specialism is working with older players, so my next job at some point I would see being back in the Professional Development Phase with Under 18 to 23 players.
I’m also ready now for another qualification, so part of my development goals I work on with my Coach Developer here in Bodø is looking into what is next from this perspective.