I’m just a kiwi kid from New Zealand who fell in love with football, futsal and then coaching. So it’s a real thrill for me to be involved with a professional football club in England. The passion, the pride, the community. In New Zealand, there is one professional football club, for two islands both bigger than the UK. It takes 1 day and 6 hours to drive and ferry from the top of the North to the bottom of the South Island.
But here in the North West of England, I’m within a football game’s (90 min) drive of 5 Premier League, 2 Championship, 5 League One, 1 League Two and 12 National (Non) League clubs, including Tranmere Rovers FC who are fully professional. Let that sink in for contrast.
Before the start of the upcoming Super League season with Tranmere, I wanted to reflect on my journey through last season. I worked really hard to get here, and was really proud to get my start thanks to Damon Shaw at a professional club, just 12 months after my Football Level 1 Course. This the sequel. A summary of my experience from my first season with Tranmere Rovers FC Futsal.
So, after all that sacrifice, it was really easy. Everything went to plan and was just delightful, right? 😂😂. No, this is life, and this is my blog.
The invite from Damon to be involved came when I was living in Manchester and working further south in Knutsford, Cheshire. Being supported by a professional club doesn’t magically mean all the players and staff are paid full time living the dream. It will take time. I had also taken on a Google Squared Online digital marketing course for eight hours a week from May, with a workload of lectures, homework and group collaboration.
So my weekly schedule looked like this:
They were long one hour drives home, exhausted late at the end of long days. I remember so clearly the first training sessions while Damon as still in Barcelona for the first month in July. When a session didn’t go as well as I wanted, it was a long drive home to think about it. I’m hard on myself so it was torture. To plan, reflect and have the next one go well I was buzzing down the M62 two days later.
There’s a sick satisfaction getting out of the car and putting my key quietly in the door at 11:30pm while everyone is sleeping. The satisfaction is this: I know I’ve squeezed as much out of the day as possible; there really is little more I could do, any other minutes to use. While everyone else is tucked up sleeping.
But with days and evenings full during the week, and only the odd Sunday off, it was difficult to find the time to look for jobs in Liverpool and relocate my life to be closer to the club. I needed to reduce my 12-15 hours driving and one fuel tank a week I was going through at my own cost. It’s crazy how I let this sport that most people don’t know about in England rule my life.
In a six month period, I drove 11, 500 miles (18, 500km). Imagine there’s a bridge or tunnel to the other side of the world. And I would (could?!) have driven home to Wellington, New Zealand. Thanks to my regular weekly schedule of work commute, training commute, Uefa B Youth, Uefa B Futsal course and match-day travel. About 500 miles and 12-15 hours a week. Just when home seemed so far away.
The intensity of my weekly schedule had me feeling like I was running on a treadmill. I was trying so hard just to keep up.
Except, for the longest period of my life, I wasn’t running.
In the period from March 2016 to March 2017 I did very little running. I tore a calf on my Futsal Level 2 which put me out for 4.5 months, then after coming back did my MCL knee ligament in a tackle. Strict instructions from the doctor were that I couldn’t do any weights or repetitive cardio, or I would threaten the long-term use of my knee beyond the expected 6 month recovery.
I’m grateful for the direct way he explained it to me. But it was another struggle. Being healthy and fit I enjoy doing for myself, let alone a belief that a sports coach to be professional should look the part.
So before looking for a job and relocating, I was just battling to keep up with life.
Google Squared Course.
And that was just Monday and Tuesday.
There weren’t many minutes in the day for anything else. Saturday football was my escape. My chance to just enjoy it. And what an escape.
And then I started building a new website, in Oct/Nov, which further delayed getting a new job. This website forms a big part of what I do in digital marketing and I wanted to improve it. I couldn’t look for a job without the new one, so Monday and Wednesday nights were spent working late on this site, which replaced the course once I completed it.
I’m more of a creative, but it was really satisfying to jump in and learning by trial and error with the back-end of the website. So this is the ultimate overlap of my two main focuses of work: digital storytelling and futsal coaching. Both are built on my core of being passionate, creative and engaging, or so I’m told anyway. I aim to connect and inspire in both worlds which I love.
So it was a tough period and I really struggled at times. But my passion for what I do burns bright; I was loving what I was doing. Don’t forget the power of the intrinsic drive, of flow. This Tranmere project has got me as excited as I was six years ago working full-time to develop futsal in my hometown. Nothing else matters.
And that sick satisfaction of getting home exhausted at 11:30pm is what I love about futsal. In the English speaking world it’s a developing sport, it’s mainly amateur. It will not make you rich, so if that is your goal you will fail and quit. I think there are about six full-time roles in England – at the FA, one at Tranmere and a few at universities. All of which are unlikely to earn the same financial reward and professional development as the corporate world of marketing.
So I do almost all I can to develop two careers. I work twice as hard. As my schedule shows I’ve as much going on outside of my 9-5 as I do within it.
To be professional, you must act it first. Tranmere are paving the way with the most serious investment and programme for futsal by a professional club in England. I call them the most progressive club here. And even though I question the time and money I put into this sometimes, this is also the source of the sick satisfaction it brings. And I love the people of the club. I live for them. They are my bosses. The kids, the players, the parents. They are the ones I serve and want to bring value to their lives with what I do. The buzz of the kids playing on the court with the 3 Lions at St George’s Park, or when they high-five the first team as they come out on game day, that is my payday.
Intrinsic drive, and not extrinsic rewards, will take you so much further. How many overpaid professional footballers get criticised for poor attitude and motivation? Would it happen if money had a linear relationship with motivation? I had a full-time job in Wellington with the financial rewards, remember. But my time before and after that has been far more satisfying and arguably productive.
I heard a great quote by Keith Tozer recently at the Futsal Conference recently held at Tranmere. Being professional isn’t earning a million, it’s doing your best every day to raise the standards. That is going straight in my bank of inspirational quotes.
Ironically, it was at a ‘business’ conference where some people had the sole aim to profit from the game. I guarantee anyone who profits personally from the game, even earns a million, won’t have the same sense of satisfaction that I do.
And as Mico Martic wisely warned: do not sell your soul.
For Love. For Futsal.
If you’re reading this and I can do anything to help your futsal journey, please message me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn.