Jun 15, 2020 |

Shak Abdullah

I coach because I want the players that I coach to fall in love with the game and improve themselves as people and football players.

What is your favourite team and who is your favourite player?

My favourite team is Manchester United. I’ve grown up watching them from a young age and being so far away from England I have tried to watch as many live matches as possible. Ever since I could comprehend what football is, how it works, the ins and outs of the game I have admired Man United because of the fast pace, solid defence, intricate, entertaining football that Sir Alex Ferguson sought to provide.

My favourite player when I was growing up – and the player who really made me fall in love with the game – was Wayne Rooney. Watching him when I was growing up, seeing his tenacity, hard work and effort he put into every game he played was inspiring. My favourite player currently is Lionel Messi. Watching Messi play leaves me stunned. Watching matches, highlights and clips of him playing amazes me what he can do. Sometimes when I’m watching him, I can barely foresee what he is about to do despite the elevated camera angle on TV, then he goes and does it on the pitch in real time!

Tell us about your journey within football and what initially got you involved in coaching?

I’ve been playing since I was about 4 or 5. My dad is obsessed with football and naturally that rubbed off on me. I started playing and instantly fell in love with the game. I initially started out as an outfield player, as every kid usually does, but got asked to be the goalkeeper for a match when I was around 8 or 9 years old and fell in love with the position.

Ever since, I have been a goalkeeper I don’t regret anything, the outfield players might get all the glory, but the feeling of making a match-winning save or a save that stuns everyone is what motivates me to get better. When I was around 15, I wanted to start learning how to be a coach. I was lucky enough to get a junior coaching position at my club in Hong Kong and that was a great experience. I wanted, and still want to, give all of my knowledge and passion for football to kids who have just started playing. I want them to fall in love with the game like I did.

Who’s been your biggest influence within football coaching – and why?

My biggest influence in coaching would have to be my former coach at my club in Hong Kong, Coach James as we used to call him. I have been fortunate enough to play at a decent level throughout my life and have been coached by many coaches, all of whom were very good and all cared. But Coach James was perhaps the coach who took the aspect of knowing your players, knowing how to get the best out of them and how to manage them through building a relationship first and foremost, to the next level. He took my team to the next level from where we were at, and that really inspired me, seeing first-hand the effect that a coach can have on a team. The care he put into designing training sessions and handling the players was inspiring because of the detail and explicit focus in each session. This made me want to be a coach in order to give players the experience I got when I was growing up.

Why do you coach with XLR8 and what do you love most about coaching?

I coach because I want the players that I coach to fall in love with the game and improve themselves as people and football players. I coach with XLR8 because I respect and value the leadership within the team. The leadership really care about each coach and their development as individuals and coaches. They care about creating and maintaining relationships in order to get the best out of us and in turn giving our best to the players we influence.

The aspect of coaching I love the most is the influence that I’m able to leave on the players I coach. I love being able to be a positive influence on a player’s football development and the influence I can have on their love of the game. I also love the personal development outside of football that coaching can have. My leadership, that is a natural attribute to have or develop while coaching, has improved through my coaching and I continue to develop myself as a coach to develop myself as a person.

Describe a moment that has challenged you as a coach, and how did you overcome it?

The most challenging moment I have had as a coach so far was when I was starting. I was nervous and afraid that if I couldn’t be a good coach right away that the kids would think I wasn’t going to be any help to them. This may have been a natural fear, but it would have been easy to walk away after a couple of coaching sessions and try to do something else. But I kept motivating myself to continue in order to give the kids a great experience in football and be a positive influence on them.

I also asked for advice from the senior coaches at the club and they gave me advice on basic aspects such as how to communicate the session focus, what to look out for in order to intervene and how to show kids what you’re looking for.

What would be your advice to coaches and players that strive to improve themselves?

The advice I would give would be to keep going and never give up. There will be frustrating times as a player and as a coach, but you have to keep going through the tough times and the good times will come. Cliché, I know.

The frustrating times where you will want to quit or to stop practicing whatever you are doing, are the experiences that you learn from, mistakes are the best thing to happen in order to learn and get better. Don’t expect results overnight, it will take multiple coaching sessions in order to get your message, your way of playing, your ideas ingrained in the players. As for players, it will take time before you are able to do that skill move you want to do, it will take time for you to get faster, stronger, more skilful, but it will all happen if you keep practicing and persevere.

In one word, describe your role as a coach?