Football Manager, Tony Carr and love for the game: the story of how I became a coach with zero playing experience
It's funny to think that I became a coach without playing a single game until I was 15 years old, considering that my players these days are as young as three! American clubs and camps are crazy about playing experiences, and will often give the job to a player with college playing experiences rather than someone with actual coaching experiences, so for me to defy the odds and earn myself a full time coaching job in a market dominated by college players with no formal coaching experiences is quite something.
When I picked up my first coaching book, How to Coach a Soccer Team by West Ham academy director Tony Carr, I was laughed at and made fun of by my schoolmates because I was an absolutely terrible player (still am!). Little did they know, that 9th grade boy they made fun of would five years later be a qualified coach who has worked with well over 200 players across three continents.
It all began just under six years ago, when my mom bought me a video game called Football Manager. Having been an avid fan of Chelsea and the game, I was immediately hooked by FM's focus on fine details and realistic depiction of coaching and managing a professional football club. FM brought my attention to coaching, and I started to seriously explore a possible career in being a football coach. Quite bizarre how a video game can have such a profound impact on you!
I started out by asking to help the school with the U14 team by organizing training and accompanying the team in matches. My first year being a "coach" was a bumpy one with a few clashes wirh the then athletics director but it well prepared me for my first proper role with Arsenal Soccer Schools a couple of years later, one that I earned after impressing their director of coaching with my work organizing an international U16 football tournament. After once again clashing with management I moved on to become an assistant coach at SSA Sports. It was this job that set me well on my way as I got to work with great bosses who allowed me the space to learn and grow as a coach. After bits and pieces here and there in America I landed my first full time coaching job last summer. Currently working with an FA Charter Standard club in England, I'm faced with two choices next summer: either going back to the camp I worked with and continue coaching the boys I got to know and bonded with, or take the next step in my career and become director of soccer at another camp. I'm grateful to be in a position with many choices, so to reflect on the path I have been on that brought me here today is quite special to think of.
Long may this continue.,
About the Author
Bao "Terry" Cao is currently a coach at Manchester United Foundation and the FA Development Centre for girls. Terry is licensed by both the FA and USSF. He shares his personal experience of being involved in youth soccer as both a coach and an outside viewer.