Please introduce Yourself…
I am Ryan Shah, living and working in India, in a city called Pune which is near Mumbai. I was born in the UK, in Ashford, Kent, but have lived most of my life in different cities in India, including Mumbai, Kolkata, Devlali and even lived in Bahrain.
How did you get into coaching?
As with most football people, I have some fond memories as a player playing for a few Mumbai-based clubs, Air India, Kenkre FC, Mumbai United and Mumbai Tigers.
However, I think I have always been destined to end up as a coach because I remember as a player, apart from doing my job which was playing, I had a tendency to observe coaches in great detail, with things like how they conducted training, how they did their team talks, how they managed the players, how they dealt with pressure situations, etc, etc, etc.
I was fortunate to have had the privilege to play under some very good coaches and two coaches who have been a massive inspiration are Mr. Marcellus John, my first coach when I was in school and an AFC license holder. His energy, man management and motivational skills were right up there. The other coach is Mr. Bimal Ghosh, who gave me my first opportunity of playing for a club, and he was and still is addicted to football and his biggest challenge is to get off a football field!! He was brilliant with spotting players, training unknown players and making them play for the country and a tactical genius. I have even played for Brooke House College Football Academy in Market Harborough, Leicestershire for a year and a bit, under two fantastic coaches Daniel Bale and John Cross.
My first coaching assignment was in the MDFA Mumbai League, at the age of 16 and without any coaching badges, and we did pretty well in the league. A few years later, I decided to get onto this FA International Foundation Certificate course which was conducted in Pune, India, by the English FA and the qualification is equivalent to the FA Level 1. I also did the Indian AIFF 'D' license, which is the Indian version of the FA Level 1. Thereafter, I took up my first formal coaching assignment with The Kalyani School, and my job was to coach children between the ages of 6 to 9 and most of the players from that group improved their technical ability and in general as players.
I then took up a paid coaching assignment with a government school, catering to children of low income families, the team was called Sonba Raiders. Here I coached the Under 12 boys, Under 14 boys and Under 14 girls. The teams had won only 4 games between them in two years. One of the boys teams went on to win their regional championship and the girls team won the national championship. You will see me boast about results because I have this arguably politically incorrect belief that winning is important in youth level because that is the best sign that the players are developing.
Other roles include coaching a men's team called Sirfkeval FC, a Mumbai League club. We finished Third in my first season as coach and won the league in my second. I have also coached at an academy called Kenzos Football Academy. I have been fortunate to have always had paid assignments.
Where are you at now?
Two months ago I decided to run my own academy called Mega Pro Football Academy. In two months of activity, we already run training centres at two locations. We have our own club that plays in the Mumbai League Division 2, have a contract with a school to coach their students and also coach underprivileged children for free.
You recently went to the UK for some coaches education courses, tell us about it…
I was really keen on doing the FA Level 2 course to climb up the coaching license pyramid but I found out that they run their course in three blocks over a period of nine months and that is not really feasible for a coach like myself who works outside the UK. I then spoke to Mr. Vinny Rodham, who is a Director at BFCN and by nature, is always happy to help. He told me about the Welsh and Scottish Football associations running intensive C license (Level 2) courses and after further research, I found out the FAW course was a five day course and the Scottish FA Level 1 and 2 combined was a 10 day course. Fortunately for me, both these courses were happening one after the other and I signed up for both.
I also very interested in scouting and to my good luck again, the Professional Football Scouts Association were running their Level 2 and 3 course and the dates were coincidentally right after my Scottish C license. I signed up for that too.
How were the courses?
The FAW C certificate is a part of the UEFA Coaching Convention and involves both theory and on-field learning. Their on-field activities were focused on getting us to learn and implement the coaching process, different ways to give feedback, emphasizing on 'mechanics' (coaching points) and self reflection. The tutors were UEFA A licensed coaches, some of whom were former professional players themselves, like Lee Kendall, a former Crystal Palace goalkeeper and former England women's national team goalkeeping coach. I had to deliver a session on Passing and received some positive feedback from Lee and another tutor Lawrence Badman. The day would start at 9am and finish at 5pm and on two days I stayed back from 6pm to 9pmto do my First Aid and Safeguarding course. I did this course from the 9th to the 13th of July in Pontypridd, Wales.
I then went to Edinburgh to do the Scottish FA Level 1 and the C license at the Oriam National Performance Centre. The Level 1 is broken into three parts. The Level 1.1 focuses on running development activities for young children, the Level 1.2 focuses on coaching children over the age of 13 and the Level 1.3 which is to assess if we have the adequate skills to deliver a training session.
The real challenge is the Scottish C license which is a 5 day course and nearly every bit of it is on-field. In those five days I can hardly recollect being in a classroom. On day one, the tutors deliver a few sessions related to individual training, drills, game related activities, conditioned games and shaping (including topics like back four attack/defence, front two attack/defence etc). On day two and three, we were given our topics which we had to deliver and these two days were classed as mock exams where the tutors would observe our sessions and give us feedback. I remember struggling on day two and three purely out of nervousness because I was still getting used to delivering the Scottish FA wa
The real nightmare for me was day four and five, where the tutors would just observe our sessions and not give any feedback and said we would know by email after a week whether we passed or failed. For the real exam, my topic for individual drill was 'shooting', for which I had 5 minutes, topic for the training session (drill, game related activity and conditioned game) was 'control' for which I had 25 minutes and my topic for shaping was 'back four attack', for which I had 12 minutes to deliver. The tutors assessed our confidence, knowledge, vocal skills, ability to spot errors and make corrections, bring up the suitable coaching points, time management, realism of the session and general ability to coach a session. This course has been the toughest coaching course I've been on so far, but I have to admit, it can improve a coach's knowledge and understanding massively. One week later, I got the dreaded email I had been waiting for -which to my delight said I passed. The Level 1.1, 1.2 and 1.3 were from the 16th to the 20th and the C license was from the 23rd to the 27th. During the two day break between the Level 1 and C license, I went to Aberdeen on the 22nd to do my Scottish FA Goalkeeping Level 1 license, which I thoroughly enjoyed, being a goalie myself. It trained us on basic handling, footwork and diving techniques and some interesting drills that we could use back at our clubs.
And you also squeezed in some scouting courses?
After completing the C Licence in Scotland, I then rushed the same night to Manchester to do my Professional Football Scouts Association Level 2 course, a two day course covered by former Bolton goalkeeper Mark Westhead and current Man United scout coordinator Gerry Luczka. The venue for the Level 2 course was the well-known Hotel Football, which is a football themed hotel owned by the Class of 92 and the PFSA co-founder Mr. Purves Ali, who has worked as a scout for Manchester United. The course was really helpful and the encouraging and they were very hospitable and they made sure all our needs were taken care of throughout both the Level 2 and 3 courses. I did the Level 2 course on the 28th and 29th and that focused mainly at talent ID, safeguarding and protocols. We had former Man United scout Derek Langley come in to do a talk on day one. On the 5th of August, Mark tutored us on the Level 3 scouting course which was all about report writing. People on the course included ex pro Andy Preece and a scout at Manchester United and former Everton scout called Darren, who’s Surname I didn’t pick up.. This course really got me thinking about differentiating objective and subjective opinion and how to structure one's opinions. I'd definitely recommend this course to all the aspiring coaches and scouts out there.
It sounds like a busy month of learning, was it worth it?
This trip was hectic but highly informative, with me picking up a billion pounds worth of knowledge and none of it would be possible without the support of the family, who have always given me a green signal with anything to do with football.
Hopefully, I can take the knowledge I've picked up here back to India. I am envious of the facilities in the UK compared to India, but then that's the beauty of coaching, isn't it? Making the most of the resources available to you. On the other hand though, coaches in India get more freedom to do their job, without as much interference from parents as there is in the UK.
I am really happy to see the Scottish and Welsh FA and also the Irish FA too, making provisions and opportunities for coaches based abroad. I hope one day the English FA also work on delivering courses that can be feasible for coaches working abroad, something similar to the FA International Foundation course that I did a while ago.
What are your plans for the future?
It has always been on my wish list to coach in the UK but then realistically speaking, unproven coaches need to start off with voluntary coaching, which wouldn't be an easy decision to make when you're already getting paid to coach.
I plan on getting onto the FAW Welsh UEFA B license course within the next couple of years and the aim is to one day hopefully, reach the top of the coaching pyramid, an inspiration fuelled by my craze for football and the desire to gain constant knowledge in the game.
In the meantime I will continue to use ‘The British Football Coaches Network’ forum to get insights and information from coaches around the world on what the football structure is like in the countries they are based in. I notice Vinny doing a lot of behind the scenes work to ensure that BFCN members get the best value for their money, although the membership fee is peanuts. The reason I say it is peanuts is because Vinny and Matt somehow get information on paid job vacancies around the world and they share the information with their premium members. They post new jobs every day, and it is definitely easier to catch the employers eye if the reccommendation is through the BFCN.
Any inspiration you can share with other coaches like yourself?
I am of the opinion that football is a tough world where only the talented few make it, be it as players or staff, and if coaches have the self-belief that they have something different and unique to offer then they should never give up, despite the hurdles they may face and keep going until they reach where they desire. The willingness to learn should never stop.
I hope Vinny and Matt carry on the good work with the British Football Coaches Network in supporting coaches around the globe.
BFCN Says: Thank you for the kind words Ryan and a great read!