Paul, thank you so much for taking the time to allow us to conduct this interview – to start, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am 32 years old, born in raised in the Lower mainland. I am married with an 18 month boy, and have another baby due in October! I have my BA from UBC, and have a vast amount of experience in the work force, as well in the volunteering world. My main interests are spending time with family and friends, sports, and travelling.
Soccer is LIFE - full-time for me:
- TD at SFC
- Co-Head Coach at Douglas College (Mens)
- Owner and Director of B.E.S.T. (Bahia Expert Soccer Training) Year long academy (shameless plug Bahia Expert Soccer Training)
- Coach in the BCSPL at Coastal FC
- Academy Coach at South Delta Senior Secondary Soccer Academy
- Player/Coach/Manager for the Pegasus Premier team in the VMSL
As a player, I grew up playing locally, playing my metro years at Surrey United, where we were very successful Winning numerous league, coastal, and provincial titles. Played for the provincial program, National Training Center, Whitecaps/86ers programs, as well as academies such as Roman Tulis and Dale Mitchell.
After youth I played at UBC for 5 Years, winning two national championships. Trained with the Caps reserves, and started coaching around that time as well.
I Currently play/coach in the VMSL with Pegasus.
On the coaching side, I was a metro coach for Surrey Selects (Surrey FC/Whalley FC program) and became a staff coach for SFC.
I was able to progress into being TD after a short time as a Staff coach. I also became the TD of the Super Y league Club, Surrey WFC, and had success as a coach with two age groups, taking a U13 and a U20 team to the USL Y league Championships in Florida.
I was a big part of SFC’s joint proposal to join the BCSPL, but unfortunately we were unsuccessful in our attempt to acquire a BCSPL franchise.
I have since, coached in the BCSPL since the inception, as well have pushed over 60 to 70 players into the Premier league from SFC, or my academy.
Many of these players have represented our province, some have represented our country, and a vast amount have acquired scholarships to post secondary institutions.
Many of the players continued to train in my academy after leaving to the BCSPL from SFC.
I have been at Douglas College now for 2 years and will be starting my 3rd season this Fall.
In my first year we finished with a bronze medal at National Championships, and last year we were Pac West Champions, only to lose to the National Champs at nationals.
We are looking to get to nationals our third consecutive year.
At South Delta SS, I have been coaching for almost 6 years, running the soccer academy during their school hours.
In additional to all that, I have a successful academy with approximately 100 athletes, where my main goal is to build, stronger athletes, who reach their potential on and off the field as individuals.
This includes 1v1 training, groups, academies, and affiliations with any resources that will help our players.
That's a lot of coaching! How did you get into it – what was the defining moment that made you realise this is what you wanted to do (coach)?
I started coaching during university to make some extra money to help with expenses.
After realizing how important coaches were as role models to players, I simply started to realize this was my calling.
I am not only a coach, but I am a leader, a role model, and friend to my players. I really wanted to work somewhere where I could make a difference in young peoples lives, and help get the best out of our youth.
Soccer is a small part of life when you look at life holistically , but soccer has the power to cut through barriers, teach life lessons, and the ability to create lifelong relationships.
Soccer is the vehicle I use to help youth be the best people they can possibly be.
Who was / is your biggest influence?
The biggest influence I have are the youth.
What drives me everyday to get to the pitch, or to get to work, is the commitment I have to them. I never want to let down the players, and I definitely know I always have to be at my best, as I want to be the best role model I can be.
I have to give a lot of respect to all my coaches, I have been lucky enough to play with some of the best coaches this province has seen.
There seems to be a bit of a misconception on what a Technical Director actually does – can you shed some light on what your typical day is like when you have your TD hat on?
I can't speak for all Technical Directors, as clubs vary, as well as membership, and styles of directing also vary when it comes to TD's.
I am a very hands on Technical Director, I am on field 7 days a week, and usually on my computer at least on average a few hours a day.
There are a lot of emails, phone calls, meetings, and planning that goes on.
I spend a lot of my down time from the field working on session plans, annual plans, payroll, equipment maintenance, and upgrading myself.
I like to mentor my coaches, and like to lead by example, I like to always be there helping, teaching and also learning from my coaches.
Soccer is now a 12 month sport, especially in Surrey - I usually work 11 months non stop out of 12, and try to get at least a total of a month off for the year.
In your experience, what are the biggest challenges Technical Directors face today?
Again, speaking from myself and my experience, there are a lot of challenges that come with the job.
Sadly, politics are very mainstream in sports, and soccer has its fair share of politics.
I have to ensure that the best interest of the players are always being serviced first. I have to always ensure that my membership understands the soccer side of things, as many of them are volunteers who are not professionals in the game.
All decisions that have to do with technical soccer operations are my responsibility and with this comes some difficult decisions that need to be made.
Before I make any decision, I ask myself one simple question: what is the best for the players?
Sometimes I look like the bad guy, but I know that I am making the right decision, especially if I follow the equations above.
Coaches, board members, and parents alike are not always able to see the big picture and the development of the players on and off the field; it sometimes is forgotten that we are there for the players first.
All jobs have challenges, I keep it all in perspective, and remember my responsibility as a role model, and a leader, and measure success by the success of my players on and off the field.
It appears that we are identifying players at younger ages nowadays but what about those that develop at a later stage – late teens – are they missing out?
Anytime you start a sport late, you definitely miss out on some fundamental training, as the more training one gets, obviously the better the player will be off in the long run.
The quality of training is a big factor here as well; quality over quantity can play a major role.
Players need to play with like minded players and need to follow pathways of development.
I think it's all dependent on the environment.
I've met players when they were 15 who were beginners and have gone on to receive soccer scholarships - so it all depends on commitment, quality of training and overall environment.
What about coaches? Are there enough opportunities in Canada to become a professional coach?
It's tough to deem what a professional coach is these days.
It seems anyone who gets paid to coach calls themselves a pro coach.
I think licencing is a part of getting there, but experience in the sport is huge as there are a lot of components that need to come together to actually certify a "pro coach" in my mind.
We are way behind in player and coach recruitment and lack the resources to be able to find good coaches and players.
This again leads back into circles of friends, politics and the inability for our managing powers to seek talent in coaches and players.
It's a shame that some powerful pro clubs and governing bodies hire unlicensed, inexperienced coaches to run some of their elite programs.
I think way more thought is needed in the hiring of coaches and this starts with education and recruitment. Opportunities are sometimes going into the wrong hands.
I also think that there are not enough courses available from the CSA to license A license coaches.
What are your thoughts on the LTDP and what type of support are you getting from the governing bodies (both provincially and nationally)?
I think that the LTPD is a good thing, it outlines a plan, and adds some structure for members to follow.
My question is what are the ways in measuring that we are implementing the LPTD at all stages?
There isn't enough hands in management by BC Soccer, or the CSA.
The BCSPL clubs are the only supported clubs at the elite level, while the tier 2 clubs are developing a lot the of tier 1 players.
I think again, recruitment and a more hands on approach is needed from our governing bodies to ensure players are being pushed through the right channels.
There are a lot obstacles these days for players to make those final steps to the top of the LTPD and there isn't enough support for these players from the bottom up.
However, I do think BC Soccer is moving in the right direction.
“There are a lot of emails, phone calls, meetings, and planning that goes on. I spend a lot of my down time from the field working on session plans, annual plans, payroll, equipment maintenance, and upgrading myself” - There must be days where you need to be mentally strong and push through the admin stuff which leads into this question: is enough attention being made towards the mental side of the game? We can have all the technically gifted young athletes in the world but if they don’t have situational awareness or the willingness to face adversity head on, have we missed the boat with our players?
I recently sat through a mental wellness in sport workshop, and I do think that this is a big component of development in sport.
Players have a lot going on, and can get overwhelmed - some do not have a good support network at home either.
This is a reason I'm very hands on and get to know all of my players.
Players and coaches want to be part of an environment where they can learn, have opportunities to grow, have fun, and feel included.
I think it is our job to have that inclusive environment where players are not afraid to talk and reach out if help is needed.
We also need to know our players and management of different personalities is huge. I would like to see more coaches be educated on this side of development.
Thanks again Paul for your thoughtful interview! One last question - Fantasy moment: You are in charge of overseeing player development throughout the country and money is no object – what is the one thing you would do/change to improve the system in place now?
I would definitely cut the cost of our elite programs, ie BCSPL, Provincial Programs etc.
Our best talent shouldn't have to fork out top dollar to hopefully one day represent our country, it's pretty backwards.
The LTPD's main objective is to put players on our national team; a player these days will cost their families upwards of $50,000 just to get them through youth soccer.
There is a lot of money in our sport now; it's a big business and money needs to be funneled to our elite.
At my academy I have a group of players I train for free; these are my players that are 17/18 on scholarships to university and I also look for sponsors actively to cut the costs for my players.
Too many coaches and directors are trying to make a quick buck.