The road to becoming a professional soccer coach in Canada isn't easy. In fact, it's damn hard.
Multiple rounds trips across the Atlantic Ocean, tens of thousands of dollars in registration fees and nearly a decade of commitment will get you a UEFA pro license - but, what then? Jobs are few and far between and even in your own country where the clubs are always looking for something more.
That's where the head coach of the Canadian U-20 men's team, Nick Dasovic, finds himself today. Six months out from completing the highest certification in world football today and even with a well -padded resume he's struggling with the reality before him.
How does a Canadian coach find work in the world of club football?
"I've been asked the question a hundred times - what's it
going to take for Canadian coaches to break through? And I don't have any
answers. I'm one of the lucky ones as I
have a job with the CSA as youth level coach. But, for a lot of coaches, it's a
question of how do you get an everyday job as a soccer coach in this country,"
Dasovic said from his home in Vancouver.
"What more can we do as coaches? Not a lot. We're not getting jobs in our own country, so we have to go hop on a plane, go to Europe and look for work there. But no European clubs are looking to hire Canadians, they're looking to hire locally - like we should be."
Dasovic has already had a run at being a pro coach in Canada. He was the interim head coach for Toronto FC in 2010. For him, it's a period he recalls with some lingering regrets.
"The regret I have most is that I didn't get a proper chance at Toronto. I got ten games and once you've got that interim tag on your back, you're basically a dead man walking - no matter how you do," Dasovic said. "I thought we did enough with that group, in that short time we had, to warrant being given more of a look. I was thankful for the opportunity but unfortunately Soccer Solutions came in and they clearly had a different kind of mandate - they hired a foreign coach and crew."
For Dasovic, the only mandate he has now is to finish out his license. Football licenses are a lot like getting an MBA - as much as it is about what you'll learn, it's mostly about who you will meet that will be able to open doors for you down the line.
For the Canadian coach, that has meant rubbing shoulders with football's elite and learning from some of the biggest names in the game.
"The courses are loaded with ex-professionals looking to extend their careers but mostly it's the Andre Villas Boa's (former coach of Chelsea) and Sir Alex Ferguson's (manager of Manchester United) who you learn the most from," Dasovic said. "Ferguson has this aura about him. He commands attention when he walks in a room. He oozes confidence, oozes professionalism. And he is right to the point about what he thinks is right and what is not in football."
Most of the big names coaches will tell the UEFA pro candidates that it's all about winning. At the professional level, it's only about results and if you don't win, you won't get work.
"People in the market today talk about you have to have a vision and a philosophy, and they say you need a 5-year-plan. But you don't get five years in football. The average shelf life of a coach is 16 months. Winning should be paramount," Dasovic said.
And for the Canadian U-20 head coach, it was what Ferguson told him about his storied career and what mattered most to him that stuck.
"It was humbling to hear it. He didn't even mention his hundreds of trophies. He said that his proudest achievement was the kids who have come through his academies and have gone on to be 'good young people.'" Dasovic said. "That gave me a lot of pause in my own career."
It is an approach he now adapts to his own role within the national team setup. Youth coaches don't get a lot of time with the kids - seeing them three or four times a year at most - and the responsibility of developing their talent mostly falls to the professional clubs.
"We're there to give them a different kind of development. We get them into our camps, we give them exposure to international football, exposure to what it means to play for your country, to see how they react in those types of situations and ready them for the pressures of playing on the national level. Ready them as people for the world of football," Dasovic said.
"I personally think that if you have a club in Canada you've got two responsibilities. It's your duty to promote Canadian players and produce them. And it's your duty to, at some stage on your pyramid, give chances to Canadian coaches so they can continue to do the same."
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