My dear old Granddad fervently believed in the old adage ”if at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again”. It’s something that I’ve always remembered and being a stubborn sort; who likes nothing more than proving people wrong, it’s something that I’ve tried to instill into my nature and general outlook. There have been many times throughout my life that this belief has been put to the test none more so than in pursuit of a career in football.
My tentative first steps into the professional game were cruelly rebuffed, though in truth at the time I had little appreciation of just how difficult a journey it would be to get anywhere near a professional club. Indeed I count myself fortunate that I received one written response from a club. It’s far more than I’ve received from most including some of the Local FA’s who are supposed to be supporting us grassroots coaches. This letter however abrupt served a great purpose. It triggered that inbuilt sense of determination I’ve tried to cultivate within my psyche and spurred me on to book my first coaching course and for that I’m eternally grateful.
As I progressed up through the various courses and found out more and more about coachingopportunities I realised that the sort of opportunity I craved was not going to present itself as easily as I had hoped so therefore I had to do two things.
- Try to make it happen
- Prepare for rejection and maintain a positive outlook throughout
I’ve tried to maintain this ethos and although it’s proven challenging at times I think it’s just another test of your determination to succeed. Along the way I’ve picked up a few tips and ideas that I believe are worth noting; together with a number of methods I’ve used to try to obtain positions within football, a summary of which can be found below.
Writing - Put together a good CV and cover letter. Once you’ve done this make sure you use them. Write to your local professional or semi-professional clubs (or those within a distance you’re willing to travel) either on paper or via e-mail. Have a look at the club’s website and identify if you can the key people. The Academy Manager, The Community Programme manager etc. Send your details to these guys even if no job is advertised. Chances are they may keep your details on record should a · coachingopportunity arise in the future even if there are no positions available. You may even get an invite to take a look around or get some advice from the club on what to do.
Calling – A few days after sending your details follow it up with a phone call. Try not to call straight out of the blue as this won’t be appreciated and don’t keep calling. If you get a voice mail leave a polite message referring to your e-mail or letter and leave it at that, whatever you do don’t harass the individuals.
Repeat - You won’t always get a response, trust me but you’ve at least used 3 different forms of communication so your details will have reached your target almost definitely. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t hear anything, especially if no job or openings have been advertised. Instead steel yourself to go through the process again but not immediately. I tend to follow the write, call and repeat process in line with the domestic season. Think about it, changes in staff usually occur in the off season or when the clubs are getting ready preseason. So contact them accordingly. You’re less likely to land a position midway through the season.
The above has been the traditional way to try to get into a professional outfit. We all know that this method doesn’t always work. Football is still in the dark ages when it comes to recruitment. We need to find the people in the know and get them to know us! Easier said than done? You betcha! But instead of hoping for an off chance meeting we can make a conscious effort to try to make ourselves known for all the right reasons in our regions. How? By creating a coaching network, that’s how. Networking is vitally important not only for coachingopportunities but also to help develop yourself as a coach. Spending time and talking with with other coaches will be beneficial to your coaching as well as creating potential opportunities. Networking is a grand concept and I like to break it down into two areas.
I’ve broken it down into two areas because of the methods attributed to each. I’ll start with the Physical Networking side. Physical networking is the conscious effort to actually go out there and socialise and integrate with other coaches and people. There are a number of avenues where this takes place.
- Your club - When you join your first club as a coach, unless you’re the only coach you’re creating the foundations of your coaching network by getting to know the other coaches in your club. Spend time with them, make the effort to watch them work if you can, offer your help to them. It’s all beneficial. You can never have to many friends and even if your methods are different and you disagree with their approach maintain a healthy relationship. Never ever burn your bridges you never know when it will come back to bite you.
- Other Clubs – Get to know your opposite numbers. Shake hands with them, introduce yourself and try to form relationships, your reputation as a nice guy will spread just as quickly as a bad reputation if you conduct yourself in the right way. Clap their players and say well done, speak to their parents as well as those of your team. Make yourself known. This is especially useful at tournaments involving multiple teams either hosted by your club or another. They’re a feeding ground of opportunity.
- County FA in service events – Make sure you join your local county FA’s coaches association and where possible attend in service events. The more dedicated coaches will be here and it’s a great opportunity not only to meet them but to also meet the guys running the events either FA staff or guest coaches
- Coaching Courses - Probably the best opportunity to mingle with coaches of all levels. If you finish a coaching course without the details of a good number of your fellow coaching students then you should be disappointed. Here is your chance to speak directly to colleagues or even more senior coaches who may already be with pro clubs. Ask them about coachingopportunities, their experiences how they got their job etc. Form good relationships with them it may give you an edge over the 100′s of applicants when they’re looking for new staff. Don’t just focus on these guys though. You never know where some of your other class mates may end up.
- National Courses and Events – Few coaches I know actually go for the National courses, this is mainly due to the cost but from what I’ve been told the same applies to the local courses except you have more time with your colleagues and your coach educators and get to know them even better. National Events are also a good opportunity to mingle with your peers and betters, the Grass Roots Coaching Event is a must!
- Work – Last but by no means least. Work. If you can get your foot in the door at a community programme or as a volunteer it won’t be long before you’re getting to know colleagues in other departments such as the Academy. Sometimes getting a foot in the door at a lower level enables you the opportunity to work your way up. Should you move to another club you should ensure you have a good relationship with your ex colleagues you never know when you may need them or vice versa again.
This is by no means an exhaustive list (though it is pretty long!) but it should give you an idea of physical networking. Next lets tackle virtual networking.Virtual networking is based around the more modern concept of social networking and using the internet to facilitate it. It’s something I embraced long ago as an IT geek but never thought to utilise as a coach until fairly recently. So lets have a look at some of the mediums.
Coaching Websites / Blogs – There are thousands of coaching websites and blogs littered around the internet. Some are of fantastic quality, some not so fantastic. Some have user registrations and forums and allow for the building of communities others are resource or experience providers. Use google to search them out and find your favourites, get involved with these communities and start making friends all over the coaching world.
FA Websites – Local county FA’s and the FA itself have their own websites. You should always keep an eye on these as announcements can be made at short notice regarding coachingopportunities. In addition, local County FA’s have message boards which are worth taking a look at for requests for coaches and info etc. I should also mention the FACA website here which is a good resource and has active forums though at time of writing these need some love. Nevertheless opportunities are listed here as well. Not so much a networking tool as the others but something to bear in mind anyway.
Facebook – I only mention this because some other coaches have mentioned it to me. I don’t use Facebook as a networking tool for coaching. It’s not the right medium. I use it for friends and family and general dossing and banter. Others find it useful, in my opinion keep this seperate.
Twitter – A better resource than Facebook by far. Short, concise and with a thriving coaching network which is always sharing ideas. Get yourself on here as soon as. I kid you not I have bumped into coaches I’ve met on Twitter at Regional Courses and even in the work place. Awesome.
Linkedin – Probably the most professional of the virtual networking tools. Here you are presenting yourself as a professional coach and listing your experience and qualifications. I use this a lot for my freelancing in IT. If my coaching network expands and provides even half the opportunities that my IT one has I will be a very happy boy.
So I’ve talked about some of the ideas of networking, where and how to do it and how to try to make opportunities happen, essentially by making yourself known and raising your profile. You may have other ideas than me, you may have enjoyed success via a different route. These are just some of the methods I have tried and use still on my quest to make it as a full time professional coach. What’s important to remember is that no matter what happens always maintain a positive attitude. I’ve found that by far the best way to do this is to purely focus on making myself a better coach. If I apply for a position and nothing comes from it I don’t worry about it. I just strive to improve my CV and coaching knowledge even more, so that by the time the next season comes around and I’m writing to the same person at the same club I’ll have a few extra strings to my bow.
I’ve been very fortunate so far in terms of being able to progress through my coaching badges but I sacrificed a lot of security to get here. Long may this luck continue because although I’ve come a long way in 5 years there’s still one hell of a journey until I find what I’m looking for.