Jody MacCarthy explains his journey from jumping straight off the pitch as a player into the role of a senior men’s coach at the historic Rozel Rovers Football Club, the blue side of St. Lawrence.
Learning quickly, knowing your players and delegating and relinquishing some control is paramount to support the development of whole club. Jody describes how forming a “tight knit group with trust and honesty” ensures that coaches and players remain passionate and enjoy their football.
12 Minute read
AT: Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
JM: Outside of the game, I'd say I am a fairly private person. I live a relatively simple life, family or friends are pretty important to me. I enjoy nice food and glass of wine. I enjoy the outdoors, walking especially since lockdown. I’ve done quite a bit of that. Work wise, I’ve been in finance since I left college.
Obviously football is a big part of my life. I’ve been football mad since I can remember. That Norman Whiteside FA Cup final game being my first real memory. I spent my childhood kicking the ball about, moved onto a real pitch at primary school it has been pretty much what I've known since.
AT: How did you originally get involved in coaching and why do you do it?
JM: Basically one injury at a time during my playing career, a bit cliché I know, but my body not being able to do what the mind is asking it to do. I had a few significant knee operations, which kind of pushed me into coaching a little bit earlier than I would have probably like to.
I think as a younger player I had ability to recognise a different view of the game, see the pictures. I always thought that skill lent itself to some kind of coaching role in the future.
AT: Where do you currently coach and what is your coaching experience?
JM: I coach at Rozel Rovers Football Club, looking after the senior men’s first team. Time goes quickly, this is my sixth season at the club. I literally jumped straight off the pitch into this as my first coaching role and have been here since.
AT: What is you current coaching qualification and how did you attain this?
JM: Through the support of Rozel Rovers and the Jersey FA I have gained the Level 1 Certificate in Football. The Level 2 course was due to start last summer but unfortunately this got cancelled because of Covid. That has been unfortunate but that's the world we live in at the moment.
AT: Working within your club, how are targets set at the start of season?
JM: I think traditionally with the profile of the club we've always looked to try and consolidate our league position, and hopefully try and complement that with a cup run. We've had a few decent runs over the time I’ve been here. We found ourselves in a good cup run last season, with a Cup Final on the horizon. Unfortunately, it was another thing that Covid managed to interrupt, which was shame as the players were buzzing. Obviously the Cup finals are like your showpiece kind of game. It was a shame Covid stopped the games, but that’s the way it goes at the moment.
“Whilst we don't always necessarily agree,
we speak the same football language and we get on well"
AT: How do you select your coaching staff to support you and the team?
JM: Currently we have Al and Trussey who take the Reserve Team. With regards to the First Team, we have Egg and Chad to help out on the coaching front. There is a pretty good dynamic with all the guys, whilst we don't always necessarily agree, we do kind of speak the same football language, so it’s good to bounce ideas off each other.
We all get on well. Over the six years I’ve been here, I have been fortunate in that regard. Even when I first came in with Andy and Carl, and Ayden afterwards, all good characters and knowledgeable. All have their own opinions of the game which blended I felt quite well with the way I was looking at things. They've been pretty big for us in terms of helping us through the journey we’re on.
AT: Have you changed your way of coaching or your approach working with these different people over the years?
JM: Yes. I guess principally, you have an idea of what you want and how to go about things; that might evolve over time but I think the underlying remains. As a player, I always had an idea or opinion of how I thought things should run, so I tried to take and implement those ideas straight onto the training pitch, which probably meant that in the early days it was my way or the highway type thing.
But obviously the game is about opinions. Everyone's always got an opinion! It's about being able to take those opinions from guys that you trust and work out the best way of doing things. It’s like in life I guess, you're always learning. So those five guys that I mentioned there, I've learned a lot from them, from working with them, to be able to be where I am now. And in the early days, I was not so good at that. However, I have learnt and continue to learn how to let go and hand over control a bit more.
“Take those opinions from guys that you trust to
work out the best way of doing things"
AT: How do you identify new players to be part of your squad?
JM: This season we've managed to get an Under 18s side back in the frame again, which is really good. Some youngsters have had a shot this year at the First Team and the Reserve Team football and that is great for both the numbers of players we have to choose from and it’s been great for the older players to see these kids coming through. It creates a bit more of a spark around place, which is really good.
In terms of recruitment, I'd say we're a tight knit club. Recruitment wise you're always trying to look for the right blend between a good player, and the right kind of player to fit in with the group. We want to make sure the positive group dynamic stays the same or improves.
That's one of the strengths that we've got, a good bunch of lads. While trying to find new signings that are the right personality to not disrupt the squad, whilst also making it challenging and spicing things up.
Recruitment can be a difficult one. Certainly locally you've only got a limited pool of players. It's not easy to identify a certain profile or a certain attribute. Guys that you think might give you something you may be missing. It is often difficult to try and get them in as there's a good handful of other clubs trying to do exactly the same thing.
AT: Once you have an established squad, how do you go about planning your pre-season training program? What does this involve?
JM: I guess I alluded to it before, you always have to evolve. Certain things that you thought were the right way to go about in the first season, you might hold onto some of those ideas because they work but a lot will have changed or developed over time. Trying to find out what works well for the players both in a physical sense whilst also trying to speak to players to make sure it’s interesting and exciting for them, to ensure you get a high level of enthusiasm and motivation.
Some people love running the sand dunes, running down the front, doggies etc and some people are the polar opposite. They don't want to do that so it's trying to find the right blend. We discuss what we think is the best approach and how we stage it. Its Amateur football, pre-season can be an issue as you rarely have the whole group together at any one time. Summer holidays and other commitments mean that you don't always have that privilege.
AT: Do you have a favoured formation? What is it and why? If not, why not?
JM: I think it's a lot of it is player driven, in terms of what attributes you have within your group. How do you find the best way to get those get those firing. You can't be married to a formation because there's so many different factors that influence team selection and the way you set teams up to play. The main thing is to try to maximise those attributes in the best possible way.
AT: Do you have a playing philosophy or way of playing that others identify as a Jody MacCarthy team?
JM: I guess a Jody MacCarthy team is a Rozel Rovers team as this has been my coaching exposure so far. Most people would probably comment that we're pretty well organised. We like to move the ball around when we can. When players go out onto the pitch they understand their roles and know what's expected of them. Those bits are key working at our level.
I think it's important that we go out there with a bit structure and a bit of organisation, but within that framework you've also got to let the players express themselves as best they can. Trying to find that balance between what it looks like for the group and how to get the best out of the individuals.
AT: How do you identify what topic your practice session will be based on and what is your process of session planning?
JM: In terms of delivering, delegation and preparation there's always conversations with the coaching staff. What we need to cover off the back of observations from our previous games or training sessions, or something specific for a particular game that we've got coming up.
If we know there's a team that plays in a specific way, we might have to adapt our approach, or if there's something that's caused an issue for us previously, then we'll try to work hard on fixing those issues.
Obviously there's an underlying way that you want to play and this will drive a lot of your sessions, but you've always got to have eyes on the Saturday fixture because you can't afford to sell yourself short, when it comes to game day, as that is the most important part.
AT: What do you believe players can expect from being involved in one of your practice sessions?
JM: Hopefully sessions will be fun, sharp, with lots of touches on the ball. An enthusiastic approach with observation and insight to help us along. I guess that fundamentally, for me as a player, that's the kind of approach which would motivate me so that’s my approach as a coach. So if I get all that, the rest we can add. (Tactical knowledge etc)
AT: Do you have a set match day routine you follow?
JM: Yes as I think that's important, so you don't have surprises. You've always got that structure, you know what you're working towards.
We have a framework that works, we know what time the players arrive, we build in time for players to have that social connection before we start, as we think that is important too.
Also giving yourself the opportunity to speak one on one if it is needed. Give a pep talk to the different units in the team and give players reminders or prompts whilst warming up because most of the work is done during the week at training.
“People don't really like having those difficult conversations.
I think as long as you are being fair and honest with people they respect that"
AT: Part of the coach role is managing conflict. As an example, how do you handle an irate player questioning their playing time?
JM: Dealing with people is part of the game. It’s the best part, but also the most difficult part. I believe honesty is the most important thing. Over time, there are numerous difficult conversations and people don't really like having those difficult conversations. I think as long as you are being fair and honest with people they respect that. Again, flipping it around, if I'm in the player's shoes, all I would want from the manager or coach to be fair and honest.
AT: Throughout the season almost every coach will experience their team having a dip in form or something is not quite working. How do you try to resolve these moments?
JM: The most important thing is that you trust yourself and you believe in what you're doing and trying to achieve. When it's not going well, I think it could be easy to listen to everyone else's opinion. There's going be times where, if you are in the Manager role and everything rests on your shoulders, you have to be really sure in yourself and the decisions that you're making.
Sometimes you need to block out some of the noise that's going on because that may generate a bit of discontent or chat. Whether that’s at player level; people watching the games; spectators outside the club; or even people in within it. That’s not to say it has necessarily has been the case for us but it can happen, that’s football. So I think balance is key.
AT: In your experience what is the most difficult or challenging aspect of being a coach?
JM: The biggest challenge is what I touched on before, it’s the people. You think you understand people, and then there's that moment when you realise that you don't. We've got a really great bunch of lads and everyone has their own story. Everyone's their own person and each of these people present different challenges.
Within the first team squad there are 20+ players, and then there is a wider framework if you include the Reserves and Under 18s, so you are looking at 40-60 players. 40-60 people that you have to interact with on the individual basis, making sure we can get the best out of each one of them, that is what I would say is the most challenging aspect
“As a coach you can supplement that learning and development with your words, your knowledge
and your actions"
AT: How do you and your coaching staff measure progress?
JM: Ultimately the biggest, most obvious marker of progress is your results especially at senior level. As you move through the age groups, the older you get the more results driven it becomes.
People will ask what’s your trophy count? Where did you finish in the league? However some measures are intangible, because you look at some of the players that you've worked with over a period of time and you can contrast where they started with you and where they are now.
Obviously a lot of that is on the player themselves because the players are always developing the more they play, and the more the practice. As a coach you can supplement that learning and development with your words, your knowledge and your actions.
“It's brilliant and so rewarding"
AT: What do you believe is the most rewarding aspect of coaching?
JM: It’s definitely seeing the development in players whether that be as individuals off the pitch or as footballers on it. Or both.
When you can help someone get through a little problem, whether that be on or off the pitch and you see it workout positively, it's brilliant and so rewarding.
AT: What is your personal ambition as a coach?
JM: I love what I’m doing now. It’s a great club, great lads, and really great support from a well-run club. It is like anything you're doing, if you want to do it, you want to do it at the highest level possible. I guess being the best you can be within the framework that you have. That personal ambition is to be to be the best that you can be wherever that is, whether it's amateur football or at Manchester United, just to be the best version of you.
“As a player, myself included when I was playing,
sometimes you don't often appreciate that"
AT: For anyone thinking of getting involved as a coach in senior mens football, can you provide a typical week in the life of a coach? What tasks you complete behind the scenes?
JM: For anybody on the outside looking in, I think you hear a lot of talk like it is the football management computer games.
Putting your 11 players out on the pitch is a small part of what the coaching role entails. You’ve got your session planning to do ensuring you are going into every Tuesday or Thursday knowing exactly what you’re dealing with and what you want to deliver, with your ultimate aim on the Saturday match.
Looking at how people are going to get into the team and what's going to be the best team to pick. Everything is ultimately geared towards putting the 11 players on the pitch but there's much more to it than that.
Behind the scenes, the club have a Committee Meetings every month that I try to attend and give feedback.
Personal interaction with players. I’m in contact with players frequently. There’s always a conversation with somebody about something.
As a player, myself included when I was playing, sometimes you don't often appreciate that. You turn up on Tuesday. Do your session. Your turn up Thursday, do your session. Then you have your game at the weekend. Not really taking on board everything else the coaches do, the conversations, planning and preparation involved away from the pitch.
AT: All clubs on the island are always on the look out for new coaches to support the development of players and the club as a whole. What advice would you give to anyone who is thinking about getting involved but are yet to take that first step?
JM: Just go for it! It is so rewarding. If you've got good people around you, which I’ve been fortunate enough to have, and also the players that are playing for us.
At committee level, really, really good guys that have been there for us, through thick and thin. If you've got people that you can rely on that you can trust, then that will be a massive help going into coaching.
AT: Finally, how can people get in contact with you or the Jersey Football Referees Association?
JM: Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.rozelroversfc.co.uk
The 'Get Involved' series aims to highlight some of the roles and responsibilities members have supporting the running of their clubs or associations with the drive to entice more people to join the local football workforce