What made you want to go out to USA?
Ever since I was 16 years old, I knew I wanted to coach or teach sport.
When I was at Ayrshire College studying Coaching and Developing Sport, I got offered the chance to come out to USA at the age of 18. But at that time I didn’t feel I was ready for such a huge step.
After graduating and gaining more experience over the years it prepared me for the next big step. I was working in a hotel as a bar supervisor and I knew that wasn’t what I wanted to do, so I took the plunge and applied for the position at UK International Soccer and got accepted.
I wanted to come to USA to learn about the States and how football (or soccer to them) is growing over here.
My goal was to teach the children what I had been taught growing up as a player and pass on my knowledge and experience to help them improve their overall game.
Can you give me a detailed breakdown of what you’re doing out there?
I’m a Technical Training Programme Coach. I am assigned to a region and work with them to deliver a programme where I coach football on a daily basis.
I hold daily clinics for children aged 6 to 19. These kids can attend classes for an hour, or stay for three hours, to work on their football skills. With the younger players we mostly work on passing and dribbling, but as the players get older we move on to more advanced skills and exercises.
I’m based in San Jose, California. I worked with a second coach in the spring but on my own in the autumn. It’s been great for me as I was shown the ropes – learning how to coach and work in the area. Then latterly I’ve felt I’ve had more responsibility in my work; making sure everything has been running smoothly and the coaching has been at a high standard.
The summer however was a little different to the spring and autumn. We got the chance to travel to different places in USA and coach at summer camps for the kids.
These are 5-6 day camps running from 9am-11am or 9am-3/4pm. The camps are open to boys and girls aged 3-19. The summer camps were an amazing experience for me as I got to travel all over California and I was even lucky to work up in Oregon for a week.
What have been the best things about living in California?
Where can I start about California, the place is amazing! The weather, the people, the scenery it is just fantastic.
When I first arrived I landed in San Francisco to rain, and I had just left the rain in Scotland, but that soon changed. I was coaching every day in 30+ degrees weather, maybe even higher in the summer.
The people in California are amazing. They treat you so well and with a great amount of respect.
As soon as they heard me speak they knew I wasn’t local, and in a way it made them more interested in getting to know me and my Scottish background.
The kids are also amazing. They treat you as if you were a celebrity! Especially during the summer camps: the kids are saying “we are being coached by professional coaches”, asking “can we have your autograph?” On occasions I have signed a few for them.
My overall experience of California has been amazing and it will be one I will never forget.
What have been the challenges?
There have been many challenges for me coming out to work in USA.
The first one was how big a jump it was leaving it all behind in Cumnock: my family, my friends, my life, and going to a country where I knew nobody.
I am a family person and the thought of leaving my family behind was a huge decision for me, but they supported me and encouraged me to go and pursue this career.
It was especially hard for me to leave behind my little niece, who is 2. She is my world and I am very close to her so saying goodbye was the hardest thing to do.
Apart from that it wasn’t very challenging adjusting to the California lifestyle. I mean, how could you complain walking around in shorts every day, wearing your sunglasses and hitting the beach most days before going to coach?
Do you feel what you’ve learnt at Ayrshire College has helped you throughout this opportunity?
Absolutely, my three years at Ayrshire College gave me the experience and knowledge on how to coach and how to be successful with what I do. I loved my time at the College and if I could do it again I would.
Do you need to use a different coaching style/technique for this compared to working in Scotland?
Yes, the whole concept of coaching over here is different.
Kids are born into baseball, basketball, American football, unlike kids in the UK who are mostly born into football.
So a lot of the Americans are new soccer fans and soccer itself is still growing, but it is doing so very fast.
You have to be very patient with the kids when coaching as most of them are new to the sport and are doing things for the first time.
With the kids who have experience of playing the game you can bring in more advanced skills and exercises for them to work on. Overall though I think coaching in USA is going to help me wherever I coach – whether it be in USA or back home, as I feel I have gained a huge amount of knowledge and experience from this line of work.
Did you go out there yourself and what’s it been like making new friends?
Yes, I came to USA on my own and it was the first time being away from my family for so long. It was a huge step for me and my life but with the support from my family and friends I knew I had made the right decision.
There are – at times – moments where you get homesick and miss everyone back home, but with social media now you can call, text, Skype all the time, so that really did help me.
As for making friends – it is very easy to do. From day one I met all the new coaches who were working in the Bay Area and we all clicked straight away.
We met weekly to do some training and even just have some lunch, which helped a lot.
I have been living with one host family who have hosted me since the spring and all of the autumn season. They have become like a second family to me. I was introduced to their family and friends and these are people who I will never lose contact with.
What are your plans for when you get back later this month?
When I come home at the end of November I plan to spend Christmas and New Year with my family, since I have been gone for 9 months. It’s such a long time for me, so I have a lot of making up to do! I have missed the last two years due to working in a previous job so there is no way more fitting than to spend it with my family and friends.
As for work, what I have done in USA has given me the inspiration to keep pursuing this career. I have several ideas of what I want to do next in my life, whether it be starting my own coaching business, working for a coaching company or going to university to continue my studies.
But the main thing is that I keep doing what I love to do and that is coach kids and see them leave saying they had fun with a huge smile on their faces because that is priceless in this business.