Posted by Marketing, 20th November 2015
Global Image Sports recently sat down with Marc McLaren, academy coach at GIS Partner Club Wolves, to hear about his recent experiences on trips to Hawaii and Singapore and to learn a bit about the standard of football and love for the game in those parts of the world.
Hi Marc, could you describe the trip for us? What did you get up to?
We [Marc and his colleague Simon Crockett from Wolves] began by flying into Hawaii via Los Angeles and spent 4 days there coaching a regional camp – it surprised me just how far this was from the mainland! As soon as we arrived we were well looked after by Aleks Filipovic from GIS partner club Valley Isle Soccer Academy.
What was working alongside the West Ham United coaches like?
It was great – for the simple reason that it gives you a look at a different coaching philosophy and a different viewpoint. We split the groups into 4 age sections and then worked on a good consistent level of coaching and making sure the Wolves objectives were met. Swapping the groups back at the end of the day meant we then got to work with the younger players who I think benefitted from getting two different styles of football education in such a short space of time.
And how was the rest of the time spent in Hawaii?
When we weren’t coaching we had access to a nice apartment and a hire car which we used to visit Haleakala volcano and also to get down to the beach and see the ocean. On day one – Alex had arranged for some of the older players to attend a session at sunset and we joined in a game with them – each coach from West Ham and Wolves taking a team each – that was a lot of fun! Although the heat and the humidity did leave you feeling drained at the end of each day!
So from Hawaii…the next stop was Singapore?
That’s right…we flew out of Hawaii on Sunday afternoon and landed in Singapore (via Honolulu and Taipei) on Tuesday afternoon – losing a day to the flight time adjustments played havoc with me! We had to spend most of the time on arrival sleeping and then the coaching started on the Wednesday for 6 days.
And how was it out there?
It was fantastic. This time we were looked after by [GIS representative] John Bertwistle and we went into 2 clubs. We started with a team called F17 – famous because the only Singaporean player ever to go professional (Fanzi Ahmed – played for Groningen in the Dutch Eredivisie) came from this academy; then spent another 3 days working with the European Soccer Academy (ESA). I remember Marc Campbell (Assistant Academy Director – Wolves FC) had come out here previously so I had a rough idea what to expect given his experiences.
What was the experience in this part of the world like?
It was so enjoyable – Singapore had a level of humidity that is like nothing I’ve ever experienced before! We had to be alert to going inside for some sessions as the heat haze created by the atmosphere really reduced visibility on some days. We trained in the mornings and afternoons which added up to 6 hours a day of coaching. We did manage to fit in a go-karting trip and a visit to Universal Studios during our stay however.
How many kids did you work with across the trip? Roughly how many hours had you coached at the end of this?
After the 2 weeks of the trip came to an end – I think we had coached approximately 50 hours and worked with about 120 kids across the continents.
What was the standard of football like in these places?
In Hawaii – there was a very good technical standard of football – it seemed apparent that they obviously spend a lot of time focusing on fundamental techniques and there were some players on a par with the standard I had seen at the national camp a few weeks prior. In Singapore – the standard was good but football is still growing as a participation sport – it seems to be followed religiously but not played as frequently! There are EPL football shirts worn by people everywhere you go!
How would you describe the facilities that you used?
In Hawaii – the fields were good – they were publically used though and quite open but we were able to split them up and keep an area to ourselves. In Singapore we trained at Dulwich College who had brand new facilities including a state of the art 3G pitch. The clubs supported us with everything we did and enabled us to work to the best of our ability.
Was there a following for Wolves in these countries? Or did you manage to convert a few of the players and parents on the way?
There was some degree of following for Wolves. The kids were very aware of who we were and our pedigree as a former Premier League team and a current team challenging in the Championship division. We got the chance to deliver a presentation to the kids on Wolves, the academy and our philosophy and they really took to this. I definitely converted a few of them into lifetime Wolves fans!
What would you say that you personally got out of this trip?
It was obviously great to see these parts of the world and then experience the local culture – particularly within a football context as it gives off the true nature of a place when you can feel their sporting passions. For me as a coach though – being in these kinds of environments with these players – it gives you experience and learning you can’t replicate in other areas. You have to be constantly creative, motivated and energetic; we also wanted to make sure we didn’t repeat sessions with the kids so that challenged our ability to think dynamically. Once I got back to the UK and evaluated the sessions – you realise just how beneficial that is as it teaches you to be adaptable and constantly evolving to the challenges and the needs of the players.
Would you go again?
In a heartbeat! I’m obviously very thankful to the people at GIS for enabling me to take advantage of this opportunity and organising all the logistics around it. I’m obviously able to get involved in things like this because I am still studying at University but I do plan to go back next year and adapt what we learned this year to make it even better next time around! It was an absolutely brilliant experience which I am grateful to GIS for making it happen.
Marc McLaren is currently an Academy Coach specialising in the foundation level at Wolves F.C. in the UK, where he has been for over a year now. In addition to working with the Under 10s here – he is also a final year University student studying Sports Development & Coaching. As a previous semi-professional player at a good standard and also a short stint as a referee – Marc got into coaching at the age of 18 and has also spent time working in the USA. He also has previous experiences working in schools as a mentor and for the academy at West Bromwich Albion from the EPL.