'Many environments are focusing primarily on what can be measured instead of measuring what is valuable... In my theory, I believe that if something doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you'!
Name, age, where are you based?
Tigran Tadevosyan, 33 years old, London, UK.
Current and past Roles:
I’m currently YDP Lead Coach at Barnet FC.
Previously, I was working in Lebanon as a methodology coordinator and U17 head Coach (E.F.P Academy), before deciding to have experiences abroad I was Assistant Manager at a 2nd Division club in Greece. Prior to that, I worked for Coerver Coaching in Greece and Proodeftiki FC Academy. I started my coaching journey at various grassroots clubs.
I have my UEFA Pro Licence and I am finishing the Advanced Youth Award (PDP).
I have been in numerous conferences and seminars for my continues personal development.
How did you get into coaching and what has your path been like?
I didn’t have any injury like what happens with many coaches , I was still playing at a non-league club as a valuable member and captain of the club. I began to have an input in training sessions which then lead to me taking practices and it went on from there.
I was dreaming of playing at the highest level, but I could see that I couldn’t achieve that goal from a playing perspective. My curiosity to find answers, and the complex reasons that a young player is not reaching the top, drove me into coaching.
From day one when I started to be involved with coaching it changed my life, certainly made me a better person and how I see life. Now after eight years, I still have the same passion and desire to learn, get better and gain different experiences. I am extremely pleased for the people I've met or worked with in these three countries, some of these people have become lifelong friends, even if some of them I no longer work with.
I could say that my coaching pathway hasn’t been linear, I didn’t plan to move to Lebanon when I started coaching b but very grateful I did. I reflect back now on how the move was hugely beneficial for my long-term development, because I had to adapt and live outside of my comfort zone. You can’t expect players to do that if you haven’t done it. I usually like to say 'preach what you teach'!
I always knew that I wanted to move to the UK, with some of the best coaches, organizations and infrastructures in the world, including the most difficult and demanding environments to work in Academies and First Team environments. That’s a motivation for me, I always try to be in a learning zone, the place where you can grow and improve.
Any Major achievements? Anything you would like to highlight?
A major achievement in my personal self development, is passing my UEFA Pro license at the age of 32, which puts me on a list with the youngest Greek and Armenian coaches who have achieved that at a relatively young age.
Recent coaching achievements this season for me was that the Club offered six Pro contracts from nine U16 players we had this year, unfortunately three of them haven’t been offered terms but two of them were on trials before the pandemic, with professional Academies and the feedback was very positive. Two of the six players who have been offered the contracts, had their invitation to participate with their National Team Camps (Chile and Albania) which was a very proud moment for the Academy.
I would also add that these six players contributed to the clubs best ever FA Youth Cup run.
Big named players coached?
There are a couple of players who I could mention who played for Olympiacos FC, Panathinaikos from Greece, Olympiacos Nicosia from Cyprus, Anderlecht from Belgium, Flamengo, Juventude, Guarani from Brazil. All of them were from my first team experience in Greece. One player that I would mention is Fiorin Durmishaj, he was 19 years old and a very promising striker, he had already played in the younger age groups of the Albanian National Teams.
I remember in some sessions when we were doing technical exercises, he couldn’t execute them well like some others, but you could see his work ethic, determination and his persistence to work on them and improve, which he did. In my second year at Barnet Academy I was informed that he had been transferred to Olympiacos FC and he had earned his first National Team Cup but this time with Greek National First Team. I was very happy to be part of his journey, without taking the credit from his previous coaches of course!
Any funny stories from your experiences?
When I was in Lebanon, the Academy Director and myself was invited for an interview on a TV program to advertise our Academy, the plans and the structure. The funny part of this story was the TV presenter, a lovely woman, started to ask questions that we weren’t prepared to be asked, for example, the rules of the game, the history of football and about Greek heroes. WIth a bit of good luck, we managed to answer the question in a professional way, but we understood that she wasn’t a big fan of football.
What differences have you faced in the coaching environments of England, Greece and Lebanon?
In Greece I can say that although the quality of coaches who are involved with youth development has improved in recent years, there are not enough creative, independent decision-making players who can be exceptional in attacking 1v1 scenarios - game changers. On the other hand, I can say that there have been some really good defensive minded players developed and seems that there’s a tradition on developing that type of player.
I believe that the majority of the academies are results driven and the focus is more on the team rather the individuals within the teams, especially in the younger age groups. That doesn’t support to develop that type of creative player Greek football needs. In addition, lifestyle in Greece for the older age groups doesn’t help players to stay focus, and they have many distractions.
In Lebanon, the majority of the clubs where at a grassroots level, although you could find some players with good ability. Parents were overprotective with their children, even in older ages, numerous of religions within the country or even within neighbors, was a restriction to create a good blend of young players - because they would prefer to not get involved with others from different religions. Finally, having that previous political insecurity and war within the country, parents would prefer children to focus mainly on their education where they could move to Europe or USA, meaning that sport is normally an afterthought.
In the UK, the Pro Academies are under EPPP program which is a very organized platform and oversees the function of the Academies to ensure they run properly. Clubs must have certain criteria in order to continue their program.
Regarding the players, I loved the fact that they have excellent mannerisms and are very respectful. An interesting fact for me was the way and types of communication I had with the players, it is very different from Mediterranean culture or even in Lebanese culture. Generally, you have to be very careful with the way you speak with them, especially when you are coming from a different culture.
I find some similarities with young Greek players in terms of the luck of decision making, the players need to be told what to do in most of the situations and they don’t self-organize and adapt by themselves. In my opinion, this is because we are focusing more to structure the environment and the learning, so that takes the ownership away from the players.
Many environments are focusing primarily on what can be measured instead of measuring what is valuable. What I really enjoy is the mentality of the players; aggressive, resilient, especially in the Barnet Academy where the players are real fighters on the pitch and we definitely managed to give them space to express themselves.
Regarding the salaries at such young age groups especially in Cat 1 environments, I could say that I am not a big fan. In my opinion it unconsciously, makes the players believe that have achieved something in football and maybe takes away the desire and the drive for further motivation. I am sure, that big organizations are managing that appropriately.
In my opinion, a massive part to providing a platform for players to succeed is the culture, the society, the history of these countries for these environments. These factors give identity, define mentality of the people and as a result, it transfers into sport.
How was your time at Barnet and was you able to use any of your previous experiences in any of the roles?
My time at Barnet was very enjoyable with lots of learning & self development, I really loved the people I worked with, I learnt from every single one, I feel very grateful for the help and the support I had from all of them inside and outside of the work place and I created fantastic relationships with the staff, parents and players.
I think my experience to live abroad like in Lebanon, helped me to adapt quickly with my new environment in the UK. Barnet is a really good learning environment for any coach, you find yourself being challenged continuously and you have to find solutions and move forward. In Barnet Academy, players were form many different backgrounds, however, I think because I am coming from different environments previously, it wasn’t difficult for me to adapt again. At the end of the day, what you need to do is keep things simple.
You worked at two different age groups within the club (Barnet). What main things did you take away from both as a coach, and in your opinion, how do they both prepare the player for the step up to the next level?
My role as PDP lead coach was only for three months and was in the middle of the last season, so I had to give continuity for the work that had been done previously. To be honest, I had daily contact with the U18 players, and I had already built relationships with players which for me, is the most important thing in any age group you coach - before you correct you have to connect.
The connection was already there so I ran the phase as much as the Academy asked me and then I had to return to my responsibilities as a YDP lead coach.
Every phase has its own specificity and as a YDP lead, my responsibility is to introduce the U13’s to 11aside football and develop a pathway all the way through to the PDP Phase. In turn, the primary aim to keep as many as possible, as long as possible, to develop them as much as possible with the support of the coaches in order to offer them scholarships - a challenge in itself as not everyone can be offered a scholarship.
Then the job at PDP becomes even more difficult because you have to prepare them to become professional players and win games!
What were the main stand out attributes from the players you coached at each level, and how was the balance between person and player maintained?
For me the person comes first at any level and in any context, you have to create a relationship, and understand the player. Trust and respect are vital, players start to listen to you, respect you when they know that you care and you are able to develop them.
What’s been best for your career development so far and what are to you do to keep up-skilled?
Obviously working abroad, living in different cultures, making some life-long friends through football and having a different way of life, not only develops you as a coach but also as a person.
I have some unforgettable memories and I feel fortunate to be still be in the process.
Something I still struggle with is to manage to find the balance between personal life and professional life, but I feel that I am getting there.
What have been the biggest challenges you have faced and how was you able to overcome them?
Definitely I would say the language, especially when coaching and the players don’t speak your mother tongue. I am glad for that experience because if you are able to adapt and progress, imagine how easier it is to communicate, be precise and motivate players in your own language!
I would also add the cultural differences and the way of life in Greece and in England is totally different. In my theory, I believe that if something doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you. I’m always looking for challenges and in other words, opportunities to rise and become a better version of myself. That’s the way I see it.
How’s the future looking, what’s next?
In football like I said before, you never know, but I want to become an expert at youth development and enjoy my journey in the UK and learn as much as I can. A long-term plan, I would love to experience the opportunity to coach a National Team.