It looks like coaching jobs and football keep on finding me. After I had said “no” to couple offers from Estonian football clubs (read here about my last job search), I am back to coaching children.
The first couple of months in the new coaching job have reached a summer break. So, it feels like a perfect time to write about my journey here.
Blogging starts to pay off
In my very first blog post, I stated that the main reason for me to start blogging is creating an online portfolio for myself. There have been times when I have been doubting if blogging is the right thing to do. But now I can say that thanks to Ordinary Mart blog this job opportunity found me.
If I hadn’t blogged about my adventures in South-East Asia, and how I coached children in Malaysia, my high school teacher wouldn’t have known that I have coaching experience and wouldn’t have recommended me to the CEO of SPIN-programme.
What is SPIN-programme?
Shortly, SPIN-programme is a non-governmental organization which offers local youngsters a possibility to have free football sessions 3 times a week.
But compared to a normal football club there is more emphasis on teaching overall life skills, like conflict prevention, socializing skills, coping with emotions and so on. They have created a strong methodical background to life skill training, there is a constant possibility to ask for advice from a sports psychologist, and a strong preparation program for coaches.
This all made me understand how special SPIN-programme is compared to usual coaching jobs. It seemed to be an excellent possibility to learn more about child psychology, coaching methods and how to positively impact youngsters.
It basically looked like a school for fatherhood.
Still, at first I was skeptical if I have time to do this, can handle this, and most importantly, if it aligns with my current goals. I thought that I am just going to talk with the CEO and explain politely why it’s not the best timing.
But the CEO’s passion, enthusiasm, and the way he explained how there is a group of youngster waiting, assistant coach waiting, everything organized, they just need a coach, and I am the only choice left, made me consider the opportunity.
Later I discussed it with Grete, my family, and my employer Post11, and they provided support. Plus, my goalkeeper coach from my time with the national team, who is also coaching in SPIN-programme right now, told me this job suits me perfectly, and is a great opportunity to make the world a better place.
After all that persuasion and encouragement, how could I have said no? I agreed to join SPIN-programme on a test period until the summer break and became a football coach for 9-13-year-olds in Haabersti area.
First months in SPIN-programme
I was very nervous before the first training, as I knew that these youngsters might have a more difficult background than guys in normal football clubs. What if I can’t handle them?
But it turned out they are just young people who come together to play football, talk to others, receive positive encouragement, and a feeling of belonging. There was actually nothing scary at all, and not too much difference to football sessions I am used to coach.
Of course, there have been some difficult conflict situation that we have had to handle and solve, but again these kinds of things can happen in every collective. And I have had a very professional assistant coach Jelena supporting me all the time.
My first sessions went well, and I instantly started getting positive feedback myself from colleagues who observed our sessions from time to time. Obviously, I liked hearing positive words, and it made me enjoy coaching even more. Analyzing my own feelings, I recognized how positive encouragement affects the ones who are receiving it, and how it might be the greatest tool in leading others.
I slowly bonded with the youngsters in my group, although it wasn’t very easy because of the language barrier. The majority of them have a Russian background and can’t speak Estonian. I, on the other hand, need to improve my Russian a lot. I have written about learning languages before and decided to dust off old Russian schoolbooks to improve my conversation skills with youngsters. It’s a challenge and a learning opportunity hand in hand.
The finale of our first months was an annual tournament where all SPIN groups around the country come together. Of course, our team, now named FC Mars, participated as well.
In our sessions before the tournament, I tried to talk a bit about tactics and paused training sessions more than usual to give tips and help players in game situations. But it didn’t go well, it felt like they didn’t listen, didn’t understand, and didn’t care. So, my expectations for the tournament were very low.
On the tournament day, however, everything was the opposite. It was probably the new environment and the tension that made them look like a renewed team. They behaved well, supported each other, and what’s most amazing, played organized exactly like I tried to teach them.
The positive result quickly followed, and we managed to finish our very first tournament in 2nd place. There were some bitter emotions after losing the final, but in the end, there was proudness and happiness in the youngsters’ faces. For some of them, it was the first medal they ever received.
It was a kind of day that most coaches dream about.
Video of the tournament (with my comments in Estonian):
Thanks to all the positive feedback and emotions I have received, there is no question that I will continue in the SPIN-programme in the next season.
It’s not going to be difficult and exiting. There will be a 2-day psychology training program and other tuitions for new coaches like me. We will start discussing new life skill topics with youngsters. And I will continue my on-and-off relationship with the Russian language.