Football coaching in the USA
A football coach has always been an option for former players or even non players. For youth academy football players, it’s more than likely you might have had some type of experience with football coaching, weather it was with The PFA or doing Sports Science or another course at college. Also having played football with a professional club, you’ve been coached day in day out so you know what it’s all about.
I, myself have never really been that interested in the coaching side of the game. I think you have to be a certain type of person and I guess that just isn’t me.
But it is just what Matt Bowden lives for. Now Matt never did a scholarship or any type of YTS (the closest he got was playing at school boy level for Plymouth Argyle), so he doesn’t know what the life of a youth academy football player is actually like. But Matt doesn’t coach here in the UK. No he’s changed the dull English weather, for the sunny skies of California, USA.
I used to work with Matt before he went to America, and I thought I’d pick his brains on how and why he chose to coach football in America and also to find out how the life of an English football coach is out there.
Matt’s background history
I am currently coaching for a Youth Soccer Club in Southern California and have been working here for the best part of four years. I played football my whole life and played to a decent standard at Youth level but was never good enough to make a living from playing. My background was in Business and Marketing and I worked for a successful IT firm for nearly 7 years before deciding it was time ‘for a change’.
Why football coaching in USA
I had never traveled after University like many people do, going straight into this IT job after graduating. I therefore started to get an idea to mix traveling with potential work and remembered an organisation my brother’s friends had worked for many years ago. The company was UKISC or UK International Soccer Camps, which employs hundreds of English youngsters, nearly all of whom are at University playing football, to work and travel around the US on their summer soccer camps. I decided to apply for the summer of 2007, went to Bristol for an interview and on-field coaching interview and was offered a position over the coming weeks. In May of ’07 I left my job and headed off to the West Coast of the US to join up with the rest of the UK guys.
USA football coaching experience
The first summer was an unbelievable experience. The company put you in a random group, or ‘cluster’ of anywhere between 3 and 10 coaches and you travel between camps week by week working on each camp. You are given hire cars to travel and are put up every week by ‘host families’ whose children are registered for the camp. A summer is typically 8-10 weeks and in my first summer I had visited Utah, Nevada, Arizona and California. Host families are also fantastic, putting you up in their homes and usually more than happy to show you around the main attractions of their home towns. In the two years traveling around doing the summer camps, I also have seen New Mexico, Oregon, Washington and even Alaska !! Many activities I have taken part in with host families include flying a plane, jet skiing, quad biking, numerous pro baseball and basketball games, sailing, to name a few.
When the summer camp season is over, many regions like to hire a coach from UKISC to help their teams and coaches over the league season, typically for 8-12 wks so there is an opportunity to stay in the US until December. For my first two years out here, this is how I was able to continue the experience.
Whilst I was working in the Fall and during my first years there, you can meet a host of people in and around football. The coaching we had done up to this point is through a nation wide organisation called AYSO which allows all kids of any age and playing ability to play soccer in a team and league and play at least 3/4 of a game. It is not competitive and mostly for new players with little experience. For kids who are more talented and looking for more of a challenge, there are competitive soccer leagues and clubs, where there are league tables, hence promotion and relegation and parents pay a great deal more in fees for their children to be part of such clubs.
There is a host of UK and English coaches working for club teams and I managed to find a contact through a friend who offered me a trial and interview. This became successful after meeting with the club directors and I was offered the Head Coaching position with two teams. Salaries are ultimately provided monthly and per team you coach. After two years with the club, I now run the Youngsters program looking to develop and recruit 5,6, 7 and 8 year olds, so they are ready for competitive league play at the club from U9. I also have a U13 team, moving to U14 next season. In terms of salary, this is stable income and other income can come from summer camp work and private tuition with kids looking for extra practice.
Best bits so far as a football coach in the USA
I have been extremely lucky with lodgings also due to the extremely kind hearted nature of families in the US. Many have let me stay with them for months on end paying little or no rent and have therefore become ‘part of many families’. Rent can differ around certain regions of Southern CA and I would imagine run quite close to rent in England. The social life here is also fantastic along with the year round weather of sun, sun and a bit more sun ! As I said, there are a large group of like minded English coaches here who have all been good friends for many years. My group of friends either live in LA, Orange County or Hollywood so a night out in either place is usually a good night !
Worst bits so far as a football coach in the USA
The only downside of being and working here and it is a big downside, is the work visa situation. This is a massive obstacle that you need to address before trying to make a living here.
English football coaches coaching in USA
UKISC can hire many many English coaches each year based on the premise that they will all be returning back to the UK after the Summer. The authorities in the US will only authorise a work visa full time to people who they see have a skill set that will improve the society you are living and you are ultimately not taking a job from a regular American. There are ways around the system but it is beneficial if you are working for an organisation that can provide you or are willing to sponsor you for a visa. This would be my one area of caution and investigation for anyone looking to come over from the UK. Having professional experience in the UK or football related qualifications will help, depending on what company you want to work for. I don’t for see getting a job here being a problem for anyone, just the legal side of being here.