Why did you decide to join Liverpool FC International Academy Utah?
This was a massive opportunity presented to me for so many reasons and I knew I had to make the decision that I thought was best for my family, my own development and the challenges I needed to take on in order for me to continue to grow and pursue life and career goals. After weighing up all the considerations, there were three key reasons I made the decision to join LFC IA Utah.
Firstly, the level of ambition and investment shown by CEO (Wayne Scholes) in wanting to replicate the methods of the LFC Academy is amazing to say the least. The way he speaks about LFC demonstrates his knowledge of what this club is all about and his willingness to ask questions and hear about what we do and how we do it at the Academy in order to replicate it in Utah was very reassuring. This is a club with 125 years of history - with one of the most effective youth systems in world football - so we know everything we do here has been tested and proven. Knowing the CEO shares the same passion and vision as me makes me very excited to be a part of it.
The second reason was the position itself. The Director of Coaching position comes with a lot of responsibility, requirements and expectations, but for me to have the task of implementing the Liverpool Way was an exciting prospect. Having an opportunity to create an Academy structure, player development curriculum programme, a coach mentoring programme and player and parent workshops is something I have immense passion for and also utilises my previous experience and proven successes from my time at LFC. There is no better reward than seeing people you have had an influence on develop and go on to achieve their objectives and this role will give me that opportunity.
The third reason would have to be the place and the people of Utah, wow! My first ever visit to Utah was in April this year where I visited Salt Lake City and St George along with three other states while was on an LFC coach education trip and I was blown away by how stunning the scenery was - but it was the people that impressed me more than anything. I couldn’t help but notice immediately how humble, helpful and honest the people of Utah were and it’s definitely a place where I would like to raise my young family.
The last reason, which means a lot to me, is to continue my career wearing the badge of Liverpool Football Club. Anyone who knows me would know the affinity I have for this club. As a lifelong fanatic and also a season ticket holder in the Kop, my love for the game and working for the best football club in the world for over 11 years is something both my family and I are very proud of, and knowing I can continue my journey with LFC is something that means so much to me.
How do you think your experience can help to develop the delivery of coaching at Liverpool FC International Academy Utah?
I started my career as a coach 16 years ago, and I really feel that being able to share my own development experiences that got me to where I am today will benefit those around me. I would like to think that sharing the wisdom of my own experiences, mistakes, achievements and even the difficult situations, will help others to progress into well-rounded coaches. Throughout my time with LFC I have had the honour of learning from some of the best youth developers in the game and their influence on the environment and their players has given me the experience that you can’t buy nor get from coaching courses.
In my previous role as the Coaching Resource Manager at LFC I was solely responsible for the recruitment, education programmes and assignment of a team of up to 100 coaches. I feel this role has given me the ultimate experience of leading a high number of quality coaches to consistently deliver and believe in a coaching curriculum that will reward the players and coaches who embrace it. I took great satisfaction from developing coaches who were able to gain coaching positions at the LFC Academy and also full time international positions with our partners. The LFC International Academy has been a fantastic department for talent to meet opportunity. Mentoring people (coaches) was the highlight of being the Coaching Resource Manager and seeing so many develop and move into key coaching positions, not just with LFC but with also with other Premier League clubs, is something I take a lot of pleasure from. I will now look forward to following their career developments from afar.
What has been your greatest achievement in the game, and how will you use that experience at Liverpool FC International Academy Utah?
My greatest achievement in the game by far was being successfully appointed the Coaching Resource Manager for the LFC International Academy in April, 2014. I still remember that day like it was yesterday. The date was Friday 4th April and I was getting ready for work when I received a call from Dan White, Head of LFC International Academy, offering me the position. It was a lifelong ambition of mine to have a key role at the club. That phone call changed my life from that moment on. The foundations were in place to grow the full time International Academy programmes worldwide covering countries such as Japan, Australia, UAE, South Korea, Cyprus, China, South Africa along with our other existing full time projects in Egypt, India and America.
This experience expanded my knowledge of how football programmes can be delivered across numerous continents and cultures. I learnt how to communicate in different cultures, how to use informative feedback from head coaches and come up with solutions to make the programme more effective. I also developed the ability to understand and plan the coaches development objectives along with working with a core team based in Liverpool – all of this will stand me in good stead for the role.
Also, the shared experiences in business planning, handling contracts, creating club polices, marketing and branding strategies, coach recruitment, coach education and safeguarding has given me knowledge and experience to go anywhere in the world and create an International Academy that LFC will be proud of.
How do you think Liverpool FC International Academy Utah can help to develop soccer in Utah?
I think it would be unfair for me to comment on the development progress of soccer in Utah as I would need to analyse this more for me to gain an opinion however, what we can develop within our own Academy is a different story.
It’s essential that if you want to invest in a successful programme then you need to invest in the people who have the responsibility of bringing success, so my key focus area will be developing our coaches/staff to a standard acceptable to LFC. I will ensure we do everything we can to succeed, but also learn from the moments when we don’t and gain an understanding of why we didn’t in order for us to be successful in the future.
It’s vital that we have age phases in place to break down the technical, tactical, social, physical and mental areas of what is the most important to that player, to learn throughout their journey here. Having foundation and youth development phases will give our coaches guidelines of what development areas are needed to be delivered, which will lead us to monitor the player’s progress over a period of time.
Our Academy will be setting an example of standards and expectations that follows the LFC Academy. We’ll follow the key principles and our overall aim will be to inspire our players to love the game, learn the game and want to play the game while creating childhood memories that will live with them for a life time. This is a non-negotiable obligation from my coaches to help our players on their journey.
Shaping our player’s personalities so they want to be competitive, have a desire to learn and take ownership of their own development is what we want to achieve here. We need to establish the right environment along with in-house standards that will serve the players, coaches, staff and parents so they are proud to be associated with us. The main factors in a player’s development is enjoyment, challenging them at the right time, having attention to detail and seeing the player as a long term project rather than just the here and now. We also want to support the other aspects of child development, such as education from school to college and to encourage them to compete in other sports. We know that a footballer’s physical needs could be bolstered by participating in other sports.
The overall objective is to create great footballers and even better human beings. With a journey that could start from five years old to 18 that has the right level of support at the right times, we want pathways in place so they can be successful. Whether the player goes on to be a professional footballer or to have a successful career outside of football, then we will take tremendous pride in that accolade.
What difference do you think The Liverpool Way can make to improving soccer coaching, both in Utah and across the world?
Simple! By staying true to our programme and not focussing on what others are doing or playing like. To maintain an understanding of what we are trying to achieve, keeping the end in sight – which is what a player will be like in years to come.
We want to develop coaches who have a positive open mindset, we want coaches who genuinely want to learn to better themselves and club, we want coaches that are going to embrace everything this club stands for and we want coaches who want to be challenged. Coaches that share these characteristics will thrive on and off the pitch in this environment.
LFC has a youth development system that has created legends such as Robbie Fowler, Jamie Carragher, Steve McManaman, Michael Owen, and probably most complete player the game has ever seen in Steven Gerrard. This continues into the present day with the up and coming talents such as Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ben Woodburn and Rhian Brewster. I have great relationships with Alex Inglethorpe (Academy Director) and Nick Marshall (Head of Football Operations) along with the all the other staff based at the LFC Academy, and I genuinely feel that there is something very special currently happening at the club.
The philosophy and our playing style is always going to be key but having the personnel in place and a proven curriculum to work from are the critical components. It will take time to achieve but I am confident that we can be successful.