My first steps into coaching were while I was at university in Glasgow. I studied a sports degree and in addition registered for a number of Scottish FA coaching courses and that got me on my way. From these courses I became a part time coach with the SFA and worked on their community and holiday programmes across Glasgow. At this time I also played football for the university and as we didn’t have a coach a number of us shared coaching duties throughout the week to prepare the team for Wednesday and Saturday matches.
During the second summer of uni I was selected by Challenger Sports to go to America and work for them for 3 months coaching kids camps across Texas, Mississippi and Arkansas. This was a great experience personally as well as from a coaching point of view living away from home and coaching on average 30 hours per week. Over the years since I have returned to the states to work for Challenger in different regions including, New York, Atlanta, Florida, Seattle and Alaska. They have also provided me with coaching opportunities in Australia and Japan so I have a lot to thank them for.
When I returned home after university I completed my UEFA B licence with the IFA and on the course met Bobby Murphy. As well as being a course tutor Bobby was the Youth Development Officer at Ards FC and following the course I began volunteering with the youth set up.
In 2005 I was able to mix coaching and travelling again heading to Auckland in New Zealand and working for a club called Eastern Suburbs as well as the association. Another really positive experience working with club level and talent development players from the region and working under some experienced national players and coaches from the professional game in England that had relocated to the country.
I completed my A Licence in 2009 and at this time I was coaching with Queens University in the third tier of local football. I spent 4 years at Queen’s working with the men’s first team in what is now the Premier Intermediate league and also the student side that represented the university in inter-university competition on a Wednesday. This led to me taking on roles as the Head Coach of the Northern Irish universities representative team for the Home Nations championships and also a role as coach with the Irish universities mens representative team, both of which where great learning experiences for me as a young coach. At this time I also got involved with an organisation called Coerver Coaching. Coerver is a technical based programme inspired by the work of a Dutch coach called Wiel Coerver and focuses a lot of its work on the development of individual techniques and skills in young players. I spent 5 years working for Coerver as a Head Coach in Northern Ireland and the insight the programme provided me with in how it helps to develop players has shaped a lot of the beliefs I still have today.
Queens led on to a role as U19 Head Coach at Glentoran for a season and then onto roles at Glenavon where I spent 5 seasons. The first two as head of the 6-12 year old programme and reserve team coach and then the final three as Head of the Academy. It was also during my time at Glentoran that I got involved as a lead coach at the Manchester United development centre here and continued in that role for 7 years. This was a great experience working with some top young talent including, Ethan Galbraith who is now signed as a professional at the club and has featured in Europa league squads this season. Many other young players also attended the centre over the years and have go on to sign for other professional clubs, including Crystal Palace, Fleetwood, Everton, Liverpool, Huddersfield and Glasgow Rangers respectfully. From a development point of view for me as a coach this opportunity allowed me to spend time at the clubs Carrington training centre and attend academy residential training camps working with different academy teams, coaches and club staff which was a wonderful learning experience.
Glenavon led to Linfield, and me taking on the Head Coach role with the clubs under 18 team. Working as part of the senior club and working closely with the u20 Head Coach and staff the role saw me working with some of the countries best young players and supporting them of their journey either into the clubs u20 team and beyond or into full time football with professional clubs in England or Scotland. I had two really enjoyable years with Linfield and saw many top young players progress through the age group and onto to bigger and better things. As a group we also managed to win the Harry Cavan Youth cup as well as the NIFL U18 Academy league in its inaugural year which was a nice bonus.
In September 2020 I began my role with Playing for the Future as Head Coach of the Belfast centre. It has been great to get the centre started but of course it has been a frustrating time as things have been stop start with the covid pandemic. But I look forward to getting going again and providing an enjoyable and rewarding experience for the players involved.