Iain King Appointed Technical Director at United DFC
TWO careers and I haven't worked a day in my life.
That's how I feel standing on the brink of a new chapter and getting ready to take on a Technical Director role at United DFC in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.
Six years ago the thought of embarking on a second adventure in Canada would have scared me out of my wits.
I'd been Chief Football Writer then Head of Sport at The Scottish Sun for the guts of my professional life.
At 48, though, I felt like there was a clock ticking on the chance to do something different.
I LOVED sports journalism, chasing the scoops, landing the back page stories, being on the inside of Glasgow's Old Firm behemoths Rangers and Celtic.
It didn't feel like work to me. Not once.
Sure, I whined about the long hours, moaned about the cold Press boxes, raged about managers denying transfer tales that would come true the next morning.
Deep down, though? I lived for it.
Until it became more about redundancies than you read it here first.
More about bean-counters than Barcelona.
That's when I bailed out and fell head-long into coaching.
And my second career hasn't let me down. Not once.
On Sunday I'm ready to set off on a 1,800kilometre drive through Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick to reach the start of the next chapter in Nova Scotia.
Truth? I feel scared anxious, excited, determined. All rolled into one.
The last three and a half years at North Toronto Nitros Soccer have been such a rewarding experience.
I came here a little bruised and battered by the brutal world of professional football.
A year as Chief Executive at Airdrieonians FC in Scotland's League One had taught me crucial lessons about the cold-hearted business side of The Beautiful Game.
Yet the cruellest episode of seeing my close friend and head coach Eddie Wolecki Black suffer a stroke and almost die on the dressing-room floor during a tension-packed match haunted me.
It's only now looking back that I fully realise how much that season drained me, how much I needed the Nitros job to work out. And it did.
From Day One back in June 2017 there were new challenges.
Working in a city where football will always come behind ice hockey and the frustrating failures that are the Toronto Maple Leafs, behind basketball and NBA title winners the Toronto Raptors, behind baseball and the always in transition Toronto Blue Jays.
Then - and only then - do you get to Toronto FC who would often be fun to watch and win an MLS title in my time here.
Sure, TFC got their open top bus tour but it didn't quite match the TWO MILLION people who packed the streets downtown when my beloved Raps, yep I became a devoted basketball convert, won the NBA.
Yet I never felt like I was working in a poor relation sport in this cosmopolitan melting pot of a city. Not once.
I was being rewarded every day. I went from rushing to training from my day job at the newspaper in Scotland to being a full-time coach 3,500miles away.
I was spending 20 hours a week on the field coaching dedicated youth players, the rest planning sessions and developing programs, helping our club grow.
I've loved every minute and I hope I leave on the best of terms for the next adventure on the outskirts of the beautiful city of Halifax.
Where the waves of the Atlantic Ocean crash along spectacular craggy coastlines and where my daughter Caitlin now has her home.
In my job mentoring young coaches one of the questions I ask when we are compiling their yearly Action Plans is this. What drives you?
The answers vary from laudable journeys of self-improvement to the conunudrum we all must admit that we face of that need, that want to craft a winning team. Too often a burning ambition in youth sport.
Then you get those who truly do at their core want to be a better coach to develop every player they work with. To see the kids improve, to keep them in the game.
When you get that answer right off the bat? Those are the coaches you can't wait to work with.
I'm honest enough to admit to myself that when I started out on this second career that wasn't the desire that consumed me.
Coaching in Scotland's Lowland League with East Kilbride FC and BSC Glasgow there was a chip on my shoulder.
Far too often I imagined "they" were whispering that I was a jumped-up journalist kidding himself on he was a coach. Looking back now I don't even know who I thought "they" were. These days I wouldn't care.
Why? I've learned that as a coach in youth football you are here to SERVE the game not take from it.
That sounds like a simple axiom but when you live by it then your working process becomes so much simpler.
Player first. Always. Would I have liked to play in that session? If not why did I design it like that? Who was I trying to impress?
Right now my thoughts are on United DFC, on curriculums, coaching plans, calendars, on what 2021 will look like when we emerge from this dreaded pandemic.
So what drives me?
If I took that question literally well it was once a sleek Jaguar, navy blue with cream leather seats.
Impractical as hell when you have a muddy cocker spaniel called Crunchie but The Scottish Sun gave me it after some other poor bugger was given the axe.
These days? My Chevrolet Equinox was a gift from my son-in-law's wonderful Aunt Wendy. The Chevy is an old soldier but I'm confident he can make it across the Trans-Canadian Highway.
No, what really drives me?
The game, the players, I'm still learning every day. I've seen a lifetime's worth of sessions now and I want to teach myself and help others to be better coaches not only on the field but Beyond the Xs and Os.
After quarantine, which will include the brilliant United Soccer Coaches Convention online, I can't wait for my first day at the UDFC office in Dartmouth.
Yet I know already it won't feel like work. Not once.
Blog from www.iain-king.com
Ian King on the service received at Sport Careers Agency:
"From the moment I first left The Scottish Sun and my original career in journalism, Sport Careers Agency has played such a big part in the six years since.
"When I first came to Canada they constructed my CV to help me get noticed at North Toronto Nitros.
"I feel that Piero being an excellent coach himself helps so much in the process as he understands the market and your needs so well.
"That CV has been updated a few times since then and played a key role in getting me an interview for my first Technical Director post now at United DFC in Nova Scotia."