Undertegnede møtte Jack på Twitter, vi så begge verdien av å dele både kunnskap, ressurser og tilbakemeldinger. Siden den gang har vi holdt kontakten litt sporadisk, men det var først når jeg hørte Jack på podcasten til Gary Curneen (Modern Soccer Coach Mentorship Program) at jeg huket tak i ham. Denne treneren måtte jeg vite mer om, og Jack har levert så til de grader. Noe av det som gjør Jack så interessant å intevjue er at han så åpent forteller om hvilke erfaringer han har gjort seg. Nyt intervjuet! – Jonas Munkvold
Hello Jack! Could you please tell us a little bit about yourself as a coach before we begin? How did you end up in the Cayman Islands?
I’m currently coaching in the Cayman Islands as the Head Coach of Academy SC in the Cayman Premier League alongside my role as a Youth Development Coach for a youth academy here. I am studying for the New Zealand A Licence, alongside a Master’s Degree in Performance Coaching.
Throughout my teens I was fortunate to observe some of the best coaches in England, from Roy Hodgson to Mark Hughes, and being around such excellence inspired me to coach. At 16 I started coaching and by 18 I was working in a professional club.
I am fortunate enough to have coached in 6 countries across 3 continents. From Mongolia (Bayangol FC) to the Cayman Islands, via Gibraltar and Spain (Europa Point FC), Turks and Caicos Islands (National FA) and England (Numerous clubs), I have developed a well-rounded knowledge for how football looks around the globe.
Through my experiences the opportunity to coach in the Cayman Islands was presented to me in my final year of university. A Caymanian ex national team player contacted me on LinkedIn, offering me the opportunity to run a camp, and after I performed the camp, a full-time job. It’s been a fantastic experience which has truly taken me out of my comfort zone.
Cayman Islands are a long way from England, in many ways. How did you approach the opportunity to work in a different culture?
Initially, I was quite brash with my approach. I truly believed I brought all the answers with me as a coach, and I would change Cayman football for the better. The reality couldn’t be further from that.
The longer I have lived here, the more I have learned about the culture and identity of the people here and how, whilst a specific coaching approach may work in England, it does not quantify its success worldwide. The culture has changed my coaching and persona, so that I can affect the culture.
I remember really wanting to develop a high pressing, aggressive, counter attacking style here upon my arrival and recruited players to do so. However, this isn’t really a possibility, as I later found out, as most games are played in minimum 28 degree Celsius heat! This consistent energy sapping temperature and direct sunlight leads to players having short, quick, extremely intense bursts of activity followed by longer, slower recovery times. Therefore, the game was completely different to what I expected. I therefore had to work with the players to develop a pressing game plan based on relevant triggers, whilst maximising another of our cultural strengths, the ability to beat a player 1v1. This development is still ongoing and while we may never find the perfect way to play ‘Cayman’ football, but understanding what works and what does not has been fundamental to our team’s success.
Culturally, people in Cayman are quite laidback, with time not being of importance. This can lead to consistent lateness, a slow intensity to training and an inability to fully focus on the task at hand. Through my time I have learned that direct 1 to 1 people management and personal skills are vital to overcome these cultural issues, and the solution must be brought around by the individual themselves. For example, I ask the players a lot of question about what they need to do to specifically succeed in a set circumstance, and what they could have done better or more of to gain success. This created a positive, reflective relationship whereby the players recognised their own faults and worked on them. The skill for myself as a coach here is guiding the players to the answers so they feel they have found them.
I have tailored and adapted my coaching throughout my time here, becoming a more reserved, relaxed coach, with a keen eye on the tactical element of the game. An example of this is in our recent FA Cup final. The previous year, we had reached the final, the first in the club’s history, and in true English style, I tried to build up the tension and emotion within the players. The initial first 15 minutes we were a storm, playing with extreme pace, energy and desire all over the field, pressing with aggression and attacking with speed. The issue was, this was based on the adrenaline I had fuelled them only 20 minutes earlier with motivational team talks and other such tactics. We fell flat quickly and could not sustain that pace. On another day, in the first 15 minutes we may have nicked a goal, which could have given us the chance to win the game, but we didn’t, and after 20 minutes our centre back played a slow ball into midfield, which was intercepted and the opposition scored from the resulting counter attack. We never recovered and succumbed to a 2-1 loss.
However, this reflection allowed me to tailor a more relaxed approach to the next final. In the week leading up to the game, I was quite intense, explaining exactly what was desired from the players, leading them into specific tactical scenarios they would face and allowing them to solve these problems with my line of questioning. However, on game day, I stepped off and recognised the hard work had been done. After a short, intense warm up, with lots of ball touches and independent preparation, we started the game knowing exactly what was expected. I didn’t need to fire the players up for this, as we were fully prepared. We weathered the initial 15 minute adrenaline storm from the opponent this time, and found a way through later in the game as the opponent tired, winning 1-0. It was a perfect justification for the approach we had adopted.
How were your ideas welcomed by the club and players? How did you adopt to the external factors?
I distinctly remember that the players initially loved the structure and organisation of all the sessions. Most clubs here do not do ‘training sessions’ as we know them, with the majority doing some running/physical ‘fitness’ exercises followed by a game. There are sometimes some small technical style exercises, with little application to the game. I recently went to observe the men’s national team train. They performed running exercises (Aerobic around the pitch for 20 minutes), before a technical exercise (passing and volleying into hands), before starting a 6v6 non-directional possession game on a quarter pitch before finishing with a 6v6 game on the same area into small goals, all with very little tactical interventions. This is an example of the standard of coaching and sessions currently here.
Therefore, when I started and provided structured, opposed sessions with heavy tactical content the players enjoyed being stretched. Most hadn’t practiced to this level before and found the sessions difficult but enjoyable, which I found quite positive. Again, whilst I was providing them with structure, the issue was more so the actual learning. While the sessions were great on paper, I was struggling to get the exact details of the game plan through to the players to execute, and on reflection this was due to the way I delivered the information. I used a lot of command based coaching, which gets results in short time frames here, but doesn’t create long term learning, as the player doesn’t truly understand why they are doing something, they just follow your lead.
As I moved forward and one season turned into the next, I found a more collaborative way to work with the players. We had frequent ‘unit’ meetings, alongside regular 1 on 1 conversations between players and I. We also utilised full team meetings as well prior to games. During these meeting’s, I would present the flow of the game in a diagram, outlining the opponents game plan first and how we should counter this. I would ask the players however for the opponent’s game plan, making them consider what happened in each game moment. For example, I would ask the players to divide into groups of 3-4 and each group would have an area to discuss and present back on (EG the opponent’s in possession build up phase). I would provide the team with running video of the opponent and then they would present back their findings in a short, 1 minute presentation.
After we had presented on the opponent, I then tasked the groups on how we would deal with and exploit their game plan. An example being, the group which had studied the opponents in possession build up phase would now create a game plan for our out of possession disrupting build up phase. They would then present this back within 1 minute again.
So, after around 30 minutes work, we had dissected the opponents game plan and created our own, with written examples and tangible targets on a whiteboard. We would then spend the week preparing for the game, based on our agreed game plan as a team.
This handing over of decision making to players worked excellently, as they felt the responsibility to train hard and approach the games with professionalism due to their participation in the process. Throughout the second season we had some excellent results, winning the FA Cup final and also beating the previous season’s league and cup double winners 8-2 with the above approach.
I used a lot of command based coaching, which gets results in short time frames here, but doesn’t create long term learning, as the player doesn’t truly understand why they are doing something, they just follow your lead.
How would you approach work at a club in a foreign culture? What factors play a part when determining methodology and playing style?
My initial few weeks would be assessing what is available, with regards to player quality and club constraints, and what the club and local culture is. I’d start with a firm approach, outlining desired behaviours, standards and values and perform training sessions in relation to those initially. Once I’d observed player strengths, weaknesses and the key cultural elements of the new team’s game I’d discuss with the group how we envisage ourselves playing and how this links with each player’s individual development and also the team’s success. It would be a process, which would take time, but I’ve definitely learned to be less heavy handed and appreciate other people’s ideas and cultural identities over the past 2 years.
The key component to the first few weeks success would be player buy in. Each individual must feel happy and motivated by their role to commit to a coach’s ideas, because trusting the coach is key to this collaborative approach working positively.
However, in some cultures this collaborative approach does not work. In Mongolia, the players are expecting command style coaching, and struggle to converse and directly relate to the coach’s line of questioning. Therefore, it must be slowly introduced and tailored to fit the group, which is where the above assessment and observation period comes in.
Alongside my study inside the club, I would endeavour to observe and create as much objective data and learning from direct opponent’s performance. Usually, there is a reason why teams play the way they do in a certain country/culture, and therefore it is key to begin to understand certain tactical nuances each country has and understand why they are there. The key for me to understand regarding Cayman football was the impact heat and also genetics had upon performance. Most players here are fast twitch players, with high anaerobic capacities and explosive power, however with little aerobic capacity, meaning we had to tailor our game plan in relation to these strengths and also limitations. This is key to understanding a footballing culture and developing a representative playing style.
Overall, I would utilise as many contacts and observation opportunities as possible to understand the new club’s identity and also the local cultures playing style and ideals. This would influence the way I work to allow optimum performance in relation to the strengths of the players within the team.
I’ve definitely learned to be less heavy handed and appreciate other people’s ideas and cultural identities over the past 2 years.
You’re also undertaking your A-license abroad, in New Zealand to be more precise. How was that experience?
The A Licence experience has been great so far. I’ve completed the first part of the course, and the second part is in September. Sadly, in Cayman, there are no high-level coaching badges to attend or speak of (D Licence maximum), which makes coach education extremely hard to come by other than via online formats. I was craving the course environment again, and after some research I was recommended to attend the New Zealand A Licence. I approached several people who had been on the course, who all immediately described how beneficial it would be for me, and I decided to take the plunge. After a 51 hour flight to Auckland, I finally started!
The classroom learning of the course was superb, led by Rob Sherman and Steve Dillon. Both created an environment whereby questioning and discussion was welcomed, and we all consistently challenged and pushed each other. I learned another way of working, after initially coming through the English FA Coach Education system, and the benefits of knowing differing approaches has supported my growth as a coach immensely.
The main strength of the New Zealand course is the recognition that your A Licence coaching will be completely different to another candidate’s A Licence coaching, and that’s ok. Rob Sherman pushed me to present and believe in my ideas, and even if he disagreed with them, understood that as long as I had sound reasoning for them, that was enough for him. He supported my delivery fully, explaining how I needed to further develop my own coaching persona and further understand what I stand for and what my values are, and aim to embody them in all aspects of my delivery and interactions with players.
After coaching throughout many countries and learning from the players and cultures, I am extremely happy I continued this trend by pushing myself to learn from another countries coach education programme. I cannot recommend the experience enough and I believe all coaches should push themselves by attending coach education courses outside of their home country, to see how football translates into other cultures and ideals.
Jack, thank you for your time. Your answers have certainly lead to some reflection of my own practice and hopefully our readers will be better prepared to adopt their practice to the existing culture after reading this.