Lee, 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 was born in Aberdare, Wales and from an early age I both played and coached with the professional soccer club Cardiff City.
Soccer was ingrained into me by my father who played professional Soccer for Chelsea FC.
I went on to play professionally with Cardiff City FC and Luton Town FC for several years, earning 22 international caps (a national accreditation) for my country. These games also gave me the opportunity to travel the world and see soccer’s cultural influences on a global scale.
Later, I joined the military and went on three tours of duty, while playing soccer back at home at every opportunity.
When family matters changed, I chose to remain closer to home and joined the Welsh Police Force. Within the force, my natural leadership shone through, and helped me to ascend to the rank of Sergeant, which in turn allowed myself to make a difference in the community.
The South Wales Police FC and Welsh Police soccer teams both recruited myself to come play for them, where they travelled the world for games and had many great successes over the years.
After several visits, I immigrated to Canada and quickly became involved in the soccer community by coaching in several clubs throughout the Lower Mainland. These clubs include: Vancouver Whitecaps FC, BC Soccer, Mountain United FC, North Vancouver FC, North Shore Girls FC, Play Active School Soccer (PASS), and my own elite soccer school, Europa Soccer Academy.
I also still play soccer with the Vancouver Police Department, and have represented BC Police in the North American Championships.
Currently, I live in False Creek with my wife and daughter and enjoy soccer daily for work & charitable work, as well as in my free time.
Since arriving to Canada in 2008, I’ve also donated time & skills to charity-based programs in both schools and women’s shelters throughout the Lower Mainland and have since become associated with Canada SCORES as a result.
Who was / is your biggest influence?
My Grandad is my biggest influence, a hard working, honest Scottish fella who raised me with good values.
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?
Yes, there is a massive misconception on what a TD actually does.
At most clubs, TD's are actually CEO's or Executive Directors with lots of admin work and not much Technical on field work being done as the title states.
My personal day consists of answering emails for around 4/5 hours starting at around 9:30am just after I drop my daughter at daycare.
I then spend another 2 to 3 hours on the laptop at a coffee shop planning curriculum, scheduling, and programming for the weeks to come.
When 5pm rolls around, that’s when I get on the field with my two teams that I coach (Monday,Weds and Friday) - Tuesday and Thursdays I go out and help observe & advise the other teams at the club.
On Saturdays, I watch if not all but most of the Boys teams play and on Sundays I watch all the girls teams (as well as coach two teams).
I also coach at the REX program and I am the current U17 Technical Assistant with the National Team.
Wow, busy guy! What are the players at the U17 NT like technically? Are the BC players you have seen, in general, far behind what you see from other provinces?
The BC players are really catching up now to other provinces with record numbers being selected for the team, 6 in the last camp.
In your experience, what are the biggest challenges Technical Directors face today?
I think the biggest challenge is actually living up to the title of TECHNICAL assistant, there’s not enough hours in the day to just be on field and focusing on the technical issues, there’s way too much admin work needed to be completed.
What are your thoughts on the LTDP and what type of support are you getting from the governing bodies (both provincially and nationally)?
I'm fully on board with the LTPD.
I believe that the CSA and BC Soccer are making big strides in improving soccer here in Canada, the 8 years I've been in the country the quality in Soccer is now night and day in terms of quality of program available the quality of player being produced.
Soccer is a sport that brings lots of opinions and obviously I have my own, but the thing we need to do is support what the country is trying to do and together we can make a difference.
As someone who immigrated over here and was able to get into the coaching ranks, are there enough opportunities out there right now for Canadian coaches to follow a professional path? Is this something “we” are forgetting about?
The biggest difference here on the West coast is the amount of professional clubs around.
In Wales or the UK (so small), we have Pro clubs almost every 50 miles you travel which produces competition and more Elite programs.
Everybody then pushes to be better than each other (just like Hockey is here) whereas here in Vancouver, there’s only one Pro Club (Whitecaps) and only one pathway to the National ranks or Pro level of play.
But it’s still a well organized system.
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?
Yes we certainly are identifying players at a younger age now, which goes to show how much improvement in the coaching standards there has been.
At the BCSPL level, we have an all year round evaluation process so players can sign up anytime to come and play - so if you are a late bloomer, then you always have the opportunity.
At the REX level, they also have an all year round identification process that they work along side BC Soccer (High Performance Program) to always bring in new talent or late bloomers.
Thanks again Lee for your time and insightful answers – 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?
Definitely a fantasy moment but I would create more Professional clubs so Canada could operate its own Pro league, build facilitates to accommodate full time youth soccer players that can attend school (high school) but also play soccer on a full time basis.
I would also build more community based fields so we can overcome the lack of.
And finally I would provide a world class training facility for our potential young coaches to learn and develop.