" Becoming successful is not rocket science. It's putting in the work every day and keeping a great attitude" (Allistair McCaw)
Like many other young boys growing up in Northern Ireland during the late 1960s and early 1970s all I wanted to be was the next George Best. George was the best in the world and played the game like no one else before him – with passion, bravery and flare.
We were all immensely proud that he was from our wee country.
I might not have played organized football until 9 years of age but I had kicked a ball as long as I can remember. My family still points out that there are not many family photos or home videos without me having a ball at my feet. I played before school, at lunchtime and after school with my mates. And if no one el
se was around I practised by myself. I also got to watch my beloved Linfield with my grandfather and Uncle every week and watch Northern Ireland’s international games at Windsor Park once international teams started coming back to Belfast in 1974. I was truly blessed growing up and my Father, who had played for Port Vale and had a trial at Stoke City, was always very supportive of my dream. He never had to push me, I was obsessed with improving everyday and I would be the one pestering him to come outside to play or show me new skills.
I was never able to fulfill my dream. After I got injured during a trial at Swindon Town in England my body began to let me down and it became apparent that it could not enable me to play professionally. However, after returning to Canada I was able to restructure my dream and pursue a career as a professional coach. All the hours that I had spent alone trying to perfect my skills became very important. I had a good understanding on how many hours and the level of intensity that young players had to train at to reach the highest levels. I also had a great education playing with senior players since aged 14.
That stage of my development was critical as I was small, skinny with no great pace and was playing against seasoned veterans who thought nothing about telling me that they would break my leg if I went past them again. Fortunately I was good with the ball and after working out how to survive the strong tackles I became much quicker in my thinking and better in my decision- making. There was a time to dribble and a time when to pass!
This upbringing has shaped my coaching journey to focus on the development of the individual player – technically, tactically, physically and psychologically. To drive towards becoming the best, I have successfully achieved a UEFA A licence in Coaching, a Masters Degree in Performance coaching and completed study visits to FC Porto (Portugal), Sevilla (Spain), Wolves (England), RCD Espanyol (Spain), Chievo Verona (Italy) and Malaga (Spain).
My goal is to become the best at identifying and helping prepare the next generation of young players so that they may fulfill their dream to play football (Soccer) professionally. Since 2012, 2.8 % of the players that I have coached are now at professional clubs. It seems a small amount but when you consider that less than 1% of young players who enter academies at professional clubs in England go on to play professionally, it is an achievement that I’m proud of.
However, the best is yet to come! I have a long – term plan to reach a level where every player I work with will attain levels of performance capable of playing at the professional level. This year I have launched several online services that provides every player, in any geographic area, an opportunity to prepare property so that they may take full advantage of training and trials opportunities at professional clubs in the UK, Spain, Portugal, Germany and Italy. My goal is to provide every player with the opportunity to achieve their soccer goals -without geography or financial considerations impeding their progress!
My new online academy allows every child with an opportunity to work directly with me and receive coaching support in all four components of the game – technical skills, tactical knowledge, physical development and psychological attributes. Player progress will be tracked versus academy players at professional clubs through technical and physical benchmark testing and the use of GPS performance data. Sports Science now plays a significant role in developing our next generation of professional players.
The program will include providing pathways into professional clubs but will only be open to those players who can demonstrate a long-term and full commitment to achieving their goals. Professional football is a very competitive environment and only players obsessed with being the best can succeed.
Young players at academy programs at professional clubs have a team of technical/ tactical coaches and a sports science staff of nutritionists, physical trainers and psychologists to support their dream.
I want to bring this to a greater number of players throughout the world! I hope to be able to help you pursue your dream like I did – with a support network of people around you that believe in you and what you wish to achieve!