Chris McLaughlin, a 20 year old Scottish sports coach/mentor has been talking to Youth Football Scotland about his journey in the world of coaching so far.
Chris was on exchange at La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia as part of his Sports Studies at Stirling University and finished in July this year. Working with and coaching Cumbernauld Colts for a number of years has been valuable experience for Chris in his first coaching role, but how does it compare to seeing a professional football club, namely Melbourne Victory, train first hand?
"In my time out in Australia I managed to see a couple of A-league matches, and met with both Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City. I also met Jamie Monteith, Head of Community for Melbourne Victory. He was great - he took me into his office for almost an hour and I just got to pick his brains on everything and anything. I was able to see the first team train, and later that week got to do some coaching at one of their Melbourne Victory Masterclass events."
In addition to seeing professionals training in the flesh, he also got a chance to see Melbourne's City's talented batch of youngsters training at the Melbourne City School of Football.
"They and their youth teams actually trained on our campus, so I saw them a couple of times" he said. Moreover, I visited Kieran McDowell at John Fawkner College, where they run their Melbourne City School of Football. This programme is in its early stages, but was very interesting to see."
Despite the amazing opportunity, this wasn't always the way he imagined, or even wished for it to pan out. "I was determined that I wanted to work in a big office and wear a fancy suit all day, making lots of money" he said. "It was only when the PE teacher asked who intended to pick PE, and gave me a quizzical look when I didn't raise my hand, that I began to reconsider. Even in 5th year I was sure I wanted to become an accountant, until one day - I remember the exact moment - I looked down at this Profit&Loss Account exercise and thought: "No way. I simply cannot do this for the rest of my life." Thankfully I had continued onto Higher PE and decided there and then that my passion was to work full-time in Sports.
"I began coaching in 6th Year of High School, aged 16. I picked Community Sports Leadership as one of my modules, and also volunteered with Cumbernauld Colts (with whom I still played) in their Junior Academy section. That year I was named as the CSLA of the year for the school, from a group of around 60. After about 12 months or so I began to get some paid work, which is great, although it's not about the money at all.
"Both were a great experience. I made a mistakes, loads of them. Looking back I sometimes cringe at myself, but that's what it's all about - always being able to take something from every session and trying to improve each day. I suppose that's the same mentality we have to try to instil in our players: try new and challenging things, fail, tweak it, learn, try again and again and again.
"Since then I became Head Coach of that section at The Colts. Having watched those boys grow, mature and develop for almost four years it wasn't easy to step back from that as I was leaving for Australia. However they were great hands back home, with Bryan Thomson and Ross Manchip principally leading the section. I also do extra-curricular classes for the Colts, such as the After School Centre which runs on a Tuesday night for anyone on the club's waiting list, or those who want to take part in organised football but aren't interested in fully joining a team. I'm also in a local school most days delivering a session either before or after uni.
Lastly, we spoke about the goals Chris has set himself. He said, "Looking to the future, I have a book with a number of different goals and aims written down. I've applied for a PGDE in Teaching for next year and hopefully in three or four years I will be able to go down to Loughborough University and do their Masters course in coaching. As for this summer, I'm hoping to head over to the US with Challenger Sports which would be a fantastic experience (find out more by clicking here).
"Attaining my UEFA 'B' License by the age of 26 would also be fantastic and I've applied to do the 'C' License next year. I'm also aiming to obtain my Level 3 Personal Trainer qualification next year, having done the Level 2 (Fitness Instructor) in 2012.
"The dream job, without any shadow of a doubt, is to be the Scotland manager. People laugh when I tell them, but you've got to have a dream! I would just love to be sat in five years working full-time in sport, ideally football. I'm sure I'd be happy regardless if that were the case."