Turning a dream into reality - Joe Kirkland
“...the most important thing for me when coaching is how you make the players feel. Can you give them confidence? This is more important than knowing how to perform a certain skill, or play a certain way.”
Joe, 22 has coached on 3 different continents, more recently he’s coached a top tier ladies team in Ghana, and is currently living and coaching in California. This is Joe’s 2nd BFCN feature when previously back in 2020 he was coaching in Spain, Portugal and talked about his experiences around why he coaches and what he set out to achieve. This feature predominantly talks about his experiences in Ghana, the U.S. and what’s next in his coaching journey…
- FP Academy Coach
- Burton Albion Ladies Development Team Coach
- Secondary/ Primary School P.E Teacher
- Owner of ClubFootball
Tell us about your experience with coaching in Ghana?
Coaching in Ghana was one of a kind and probably my most enjoyable experience. What stood out to me most was the extreme gratefulness of the Ghanaian people and how buzzing they were with every interaction. It wasn’t ever just a simple ‘Hello’, and that was it; they’d be bursting with energy and try to do a different handshake with you with each day that passed. I found myself just walking around smiling most of the time; the energy which they give off is incredible.
Regarding the football, I didn't know what to expect. Firstly, the team were very appreciative of me being there and it was also quite humbling to see how grateful they were just to have the opportunity to play football. I think I went through the entirety of my 1st session, which was nearly 3hrs altogether without any of the players saying anything negative to each other, they had constant support for one another and drove each other to be the best that they can be.
The pitch was hard rock with no grass to be seen, but I felt that this was an advantage to them all. Every pass they played was bouncing all over the place, which was the reason as to why they all had such a fantastic touch of the ball and could all control the ball unbelievably well.
Coaching them was also really easy; if I asked them to do something they’d be no questions asked. ‘Yes, coach’ was the answer most of the time, they just got on with it and gave their best. You also wouldn't find any of them speaking over you when trying to explain something, they had the ultimate respect. Something else quite unimaginable is the time they spent training, they’d train from 6 to 7:30 in the morning before school/ work and then come home, and train for another 3hr’s that evening for most days of the week. Can you imagine that in England?
Although the coaching part I, of course, loved, It was also an experience living with children who were once living on the street and hearing so many incredible stories from people about their lives and the struggles they had gone through.
How is life in America treating you? Would you encourage other coaches to go over and coach in the states?
I’d have hoped to be in the U.S. 2 years earlier if it wasn't for Covid, but I’m here, and it’s been worth the wait. I’m currently in my 3rd week living in California, where I’m directing soccer schools/ camps to a different variety of players in different locations every week. Some players are advanced, while some are just starting out so as a coach, you get quite a mix which varies what you deliver.
What shocked me in my first week was that, in my opinion, football out here is incomparable to how it is in England. I was expecting it to be that way, but not as much as it is, to say that only one player out of 22 kids in my first group knew who Cristiano Ronaldo was, for me that was hard to get my head around. You don't see many football shirts either, I was expecting
to at least see a few but other than a guy wearing a Man Utd shirt and then him saying that he actually supports Liverpool, that was about it. Having said that, the people are really welcoming and can't seem to do more than enough for you. I stayed with a family for the 1st week, and I’m going to go back and visit them further into the trip.
The lifestyle sometimes is what you’d only imagine out of a movie, and it’s very different to the one I live back home in Burton On Trent, England. Having the opportunity to stay in some incredible places with only mountains in the background is something I won't forget. It’s just good to experience another way of living, you get to learn and do things which you can’t do anywhere else, and every country is unique in its own way.
I’d recommend it for sure; I feel the U.S. would be a good place for anyone to go over and coach as there’s plenty of opportunity because of how much football (soccer) is growing. There are many people willing to pay good money for good coaching whereas in England, although I believe that there is opportunity, often it’s hard to make a living out of coaching.
You’ve spent some time working as a PE teacher. In what ways has this benefited your football coaching?
It definitely helps! There’s loads of transferable skills but I’d say that being a coach has benefited me more when teaching rather than the other way round. I think the education system, more so in secondary schools, isn’t good and that there’s a lack of understanding when trying to build a relationship with a lot of students. Most students don’t learn well when just sitting in a classroom and being told what to do, whereas most coaches can be really adaptable in those situations and can communicate well. Ultimately, in the long run it can motivate them to do work to a better standard, and they then feel as though the teacher has taken an interest in them.
In the first feature a few years ago, I also spoke about how I ended up being around the England team at St Georges park; I think that’s definitely still up there for being one of my favourite moments. Being a Spurs fan, and to have met Harry Kane on a few occasions is obviously not bad at all!
How has coaching abroad helped your development as a coach, and what has been your biggest takeaway?
The energy and how you interact with someone is so important; even when there is a language barrier, you don't necessarily have to use words to try and get something out of a player/ person. When a player turns up to a training session, it’s essential to go over and make a connection with each player, give them a handshake/ fist bump and make them feel a part of the team from the second they arrive. If you’re smiling and genuinely care, it’ll get through to them, and you’ll begin to develop that trust. Hopefully, they’ll also be more confident in the session, as they’ll know where they stand with you. Be buzzing!
How’s the future looking, what’s next?
I’ve been lucky enough to experience working at different levels in the game with all ages. Whether It’s an u7’s, or a senior team, I enjoy them all for different reasons. I’d like to think that I can continue to go down the women's pathway, and to eventually lead a women's senior team in one of the top divisions in England, or to be involved within a team that achieves some kind of success however that may look like. I have a lot of ambition, and I’m looking forward to hopefully having the opportunity to do so. I’m starting my higher education teaching qualification in September, which is also something I’m looking forward to as well as.
Regarding coaching abroad, I’m looking to return to Ghana next year. Part of me feels as if I have to go back because I enjoyed it that much; I want to coach out there again and help the local people more so than ever. I’ve had a lot of opportunities to coach abroad, which I’ll always be grateful for. Now I think that the opportunity has to be right, although I’d always struggle to turn down a chance to coach in another part of the world.
Career Tips For Coaches
- Dream big! I failed all of my GCSEs, became a teacher, coached in 5 different countries and got a degree. You can do anything you want.
- Want to become better each day, there’s always something that you can be doing to help further your knowledge, watch The Coaches’ Voice, England learning, other coaches sessions.
- The most important thing for me when coaching is how you make the players feel. Can you give them confidence? This is more important than knowing how to perform a particular skill or play a certain way.
- Show players that you genuinely care about them; everything becomes harder without trust.
If anyone would like to support my trip to Ghana, or would like to know more about it then get in touch. More than happy to try and help anyone!
Twitter - Joe_Kirky11
Email - email@example.com