Coaching kids in Kuala Lumpur - 6 things learned

Coaching kids in Kuala Lumpur - 6 things learned

“Hello, boys! I am coach Mart from Estonia. I hope I can make a fun training for you guys today.”

That was my introduction to around 20 boys aged 7-8 on a football field in Kuala Lumpur more than 2 months ago.

How did I end up there?

Learning to use tactic board in Estonia
Learning to use tactic board.

Before I packed my things to come to South-East Asia, I had been a football coach for over a year in Estonia. It was a really heartbreaking good-bye for my group of 9-10-year-old boys, as I really enjoyed coaching them and seeing their energized faces after my tiring workdays. 

After first weeks travelling, I already saw myself missing coaching (and football). It made me realize that coaching them was one of my favourite activities back home.

Thought about coaching children came to my mind again on Bali island while brainstorming ideas for creating income when travelling. To get some idea validation, I wrote an open letter to local Facebook commune, asking parents if their children would be interested in football sessions. And they were, as I got around 20 positive replies. There was a problem though, I couldn’t start any activity with my tourist visa in Indonesia and might have been caught sooner or later.

A month went by and offering myself as a coach stayed in my mind. When it was clear that we are staying in Malaysia for a longer period, I started looking for possibilities again. I sent out cold letters to 5 different football clubs in Kuala Lumpur asking to help them out voluntarily (I was afraid to ask for money, and wanted to get my foot in the door).

Surprisingly, I got 3 positive replies with an invitation from club KLYS to help them on their summer camp. That’s how I ended up in front of small boys introducing myself as a coach.

Good first session = easiest application process ever

Explaining something to kids in Kuala Lumpur.
Talking peacefully

My first session went well, I enjoyed every moment there. I started with assisting another coach but had a possibility to make my own exercises also. What’s most important, I was again touching footballs and chilling on a football field, on a place where I feel really at home.

I enjoyed every moment there.

That was in August, weeks before a new school year for international kids start in Kuala Lumpur. After the session, the club invited me to start coaching for them from September. Simple as that.

Meanwhile, I was also in contact with the other two clubs who sent back positive replies to my emails. As KLYS was still waiting for their season to begin, I got some practice with another club called
ISCKL. Later, though, I switched back to KLYS at the beginning of September.

Now,  I am coaching their U8 and U11 teams 5 times a week. 

What have I learned from coaching international kids so far?

1. Coaching is fun when children are having fun

First of all, kids here in Kuala Lumpur are exactly the same as in Estonia. They want to have fun.

As a football coach, I am responsible for organizing 90 minutes we spend with kids in the session. If it’s boring for myself to show and do those exercises, then why should kids do it?

Legendary Johan Cruyff said, “Football has to be fun for kids or it doesn’t make sense”. 

That’s what I often saw missing here when assisting other coaches. Which brings me to the next point…

2. Level of coaching education in Estonia is relatively high

Running with ball in front of the boys,
Leader and followers.

I have only been coaching a year in Estonia, but the experience and education I got there look superior to the one I see here on many other coaches.

First weeks assisting others, I was furious about so many things I think they made wrong. Attitude towards children (calling 8-year-old boy fat), not using session time effectively, and making boring and unstimulating exercises.

Of course, who am I to come here and teach them? But I knew I could make many things better…

3. I am the role model

 I can only demand from children the things I do.

If I don’t arrive on time, how can I ask them to do it? If my mind wanders somewhere else, why should they concentrate? If I am not enthusiastic and energized, why should they be active? And so…

Realizing this made me write to myself some instructions about “How to be an excellent coach?” to help me be a better coach.

4. Flexibility and creativity are essential skills for coaches

Picture of field under water.
Another lighting storm during our training.

Lighting storms are really serious here. Every coach has a story about someone getting killed by the lightning strike. For this reason, we have an automatic alarm that turns on if there is a lighting approaching. If that happens, everyone has to run under cover. And the session is disturbed.

What to do with those 25 boys now?  Sometimes we can continue on inside field, sometimes not. 

And another day, when conditions are perfect, I only have 6 boys in training. We decide to combine boys with another group, and then they suddenly start coming one-by-one being 5, 10, 15 minutes late, making the group too large again. 

There are so many situations which I can’t plan ahead. I have to be flexible, creative and make quick decisions to cope with new situations all the time. (Just like players have to on the field while playing football.)

5. Things that used to be time-wasting before are now actually productive

Stretching muscles on the field.
Stretching muscles

Still, a good coach always plans a session, educates himself, and know what’s happening in the football world. Meaning that I need to read, watch, and learn quite a lot about football in my free time.

Since school time it has always been for me a way to procrastinate. But now, I actually have to do this. It is strange to me.

I still struggle to not blame myself, when I got lost watching football videos. Although, I know now that it’s not totally wasted time.

6. Problem with location independence

I could carry on writing about all the positive things on being a football coach, but obviously, there are some negative sides.

First thought would probably be money. I personally don’t know any football coach who gets paid too well.

For me, there is a bigger problem though. It’s commitment to one club, one city, one location for some years. I would need to work and invest years before I see improvement in my kids. It can’t be done in months.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t correlate at all with my vision of location independent lifestyle. And has made me doubt in it. It has made me question, if one could really make an impact in the world while moving around frequently?

What do you think is there a conflict between making an impact and being location independent?

This time in Kuala Lumpur, I already know that my impact here will be only counted in months. And soon I have to say sad good-bye again to another group of boys. 

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