There are times when people laugh at me or send me abusive emails, when I try to encourage volunteering as a step towards building a coaching career pathway...
Photo credit: Ghana Guardian
... It's normally those who believe that 'their time is worth more than working for free' or disgruntled individuals claiming they are already too busy to do anything else and the bills.... volunteering doesn't pay the bills!
As I always say, 'it's not for everyone' and as we are in control (or should be in control) of our own destinies, it's up to us and ourselves only, to determine how our own personal situation will work for us and our dependents.
Some coaches say, 'Matt, I have a family, already have my time taken up and already work 2 jobs to try and earn enough just to survive'. That's fair enough, that's real life and I totally understand, because I've also been there and still now, work and build endlessly to provide for my family.
However, I still believe we are the creators of our own situation and also our own barriers to progression. The act of volunteering is not available to everyone, I know, but as long as we understand why it's not and can accept it's 'not for us', I would hope that it would not be a deciding factor that determines ones future.
On the other hand, if you are in a position to volunteer, I would absolutely recommend it and I believe that it can help open new doors to some amazing opportunities. Even with a family and working a Full-Time job, I know it is still possible to fit in some volunteering and have it help boost your career. I know this because I did it for 3 years myself, working a Full-Time job and then almost having an additional Full-Time job, with the voluntary role.
It's 100% not for everyone. But it can be achieved if you need it and want it bad enough. Many have done it and progressed into bigger Full-Time roles, National team roles, professional club roles, and many will continue to do it.
James was previously an Academy Coach at Cambridge Utd, working with Pre-Academy and Development Centre players before heading out to Ghana in 2019. Originally going out to work with a charity foundation, his volunteering and eagerness to give his time to support others, led him to getting more involved in the local football scene and eventually ended with him landing the Head Coach role with 2nd Tier club, Tudu Mighty Jets.
After a successful stint with the Mighty Jets where players and team playing style were evidently improving (a number of players moving on to play in Europe), he would continue his work with the Ghana Football Project, in his position as Director of Coaching. Having built a respectful reputation and having immersed himself in the community, James was able to gain some exclusive experience as Assistant Coach to German Head Coach, Rainer Kraft, at Accra Lions of the Ghanaian Premier League.
This takes us up to the current day, where Coach Kraft has moved on from the club, leaving the British coach to take the reigns as Interim Head Coach. For sure, it's a lot easier for someone with a single status (at the time) to up and leave for a new country, but still, the desire to do it and put yourself out there can only come from the individual.
Although I see more and more voluntary and Intern roles attempting to take advantage of people in the football industry, expecting them to work to the same level as a paid Full-Time member of staff (which is not acceptable at all), I do think it is up to the individual to what they are willing to accept. That's the main focus - what do they willingly accept to do?
As a result, there is that double edged sword where people are taking roles which could be regarded as 'modern day slavery', meaning that organisations will continue to offer such poor terms for these roles, because the roles are still getting filled. In the end, if people are willing to take them and use them to their advantage, they make that choice in full disclosure and have chosen to do that rather than not take the opportunity.
If you think you can make it work to your benefit, go for it! If you think such opportunities will be detrimental to your life, then don't - try and find a solution for development which works for your personal needs.
Best wishes to James who I've known for a few years now, a solid gent and an innovative coach who I'm sure will do all he can, to get the needed results.
If you want to learn how taking roles and/or volunteering could help you pave your coaching career pathway, I've included it all in my online course ' Ready for Football Employment'. Here's a code for 30% off the course: MSW30 - Merry Christmas!