Freddie Seccombe, The Life of a Career Coach, Part 3: Back Down Under

After his travels around Europe and his year in China, Freddie returned to Australia to take up a post as a Technical Director at Bendigo City FC. In this third and final part of our interview Freddie and I discuss his daily life in the job, and out of it as well as his aspirations for the future.

D: So, after China you returned to Australia where you and your family are based, and you are currently working as a Technical Director at a club. Can you tell me about the club you work for?

F: The club is based in the city of Bendigo which was once the richest city in Australia; it’s a mining city which had a big influx of Chinese population during the mining period. It’s a very rural town, a lot of kangaroos floating around. It’s very Australian, a lot of farms, so it was kind of odd going from a very industrial part of China to here. But even being from Australia, having lived in Sydney for the past 10 odd years it’s nice to come to a more rural place and experience a different part of the country.

F: In terms of the club, they’re in the 3rd tier in Australia. Over here we have the A-League then the national premier leagues, then state football, so we’re in National Premier League 2. But all the academies are in one provincial league, so we’re in with all the best teams in Victoria. It’s a really great club. Obviously, it’s different to a city environment but it’s thoroughly enjoyable. Due to the size of the town the club have a fairly prominent role in the community, so I’ve had a lot of support from within the club and outside of it too. It’s been a fantastic experience working as a technical director and one I really cherish.

D: How did you find the job?

F: I used LinkedIn when I came back from China, I got in touch with numerous people looking for advice, and I contacted every single A-League and NPL side looking for coaching roles. Then, somebody told me that Bendigo City was looking for a Technical Director. I applied, went through the interview process, luckily they offered me the job, I moved to Bendigo one month later, got my B license and progressed on.

D: Tell me what does your job entail? What’s your remit? What would a typical working day in the life of Freddie Seccombe look like?

F: Well, it’s very different to being a coach, I have general oversight of the entire club, I guess my main job is to be the main support for all the coaches and create an environment in which the entire coaching staff can carry out their duties to the best of their abilities. On match day, I’m there to support all the club’s teams. In terms of the academy and the kids, one of my main functions is to act as a link between the club and the parents. Of course, I’m also the link between all the technical staff and the board, making sure everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet, and that the board are providing us with everything we need to succeed.

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It’s been a major learning experience. I have to be very wary with my position, I don’t want to undermine my coaches but at the same time I’m responsible for the performance of the club as a whole, so it’s all a balancing act. I have seen environments in the past where coaches don’t really want to be told what to do and where roles like mine can become divisive. Essentially, this is what I don’t want to happen, I believe the coaches should be trusted and I want them to trust in me. To sum it up, it’s almost like I provide the coaches with the recipes and ingredients but I let them do the cooking. Hopefully, through this philosophy, we can begin to develop a framework which will start to show clear improvement in the quality of football being played at the club, and as a result also the league positions of the teams.

D: What are some of the difficulties you have encountered as a career coach who has never played professionally?

F: That probably is the biggest difficulty, just having never played professionally, although of course I have played cricket to that standard. Surprisingly, though, less of the criticism has come from within the game. Nobody has ever used that as a reason to treat me negatively; coaches, players, managers etc. Nobody like that has ever held it against me. Mostly, it comes from outside the game. But I don’t let it worry me, it’s part and parcel of the game, people will always look for reasons to criticise you. It’s all about surrounding yourself with good people and having confidence in your own abilities and not giving up, even in the face of adversity.

D: On the flip side, do you think there are any benefits to being a coach, who has never played? Perhaps it gives you a different edge or perspective on the game?

F: To be honest, I’m not sure. Maybe in twenty years, I’ll sit down with an ex-professional footballer, like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain,and we’ll find out who can run a better training session! I’m not sure having played professionally is too important these days or having not played means you’d be lacking or gaining something as a coach, you only have to look at Mourinho, Rodgers to see that you can become an excellent coach without having played. I think being a good coach simply comes down to intelligence and personality. But like I said ask me again in twenty years!

D: Is there a biased towards giving top coaching positions to ex-players? Can you understand it? Is it fair?

F: Yea it exists, but it’s kind of natural. It’s a natural progression to go from being an ex-professional to then go on to become a coach, and obviously players with a lot of experience will most likely get top jobs, the majority of the time. It’s just a part of the industry, like how actors go on to be directors. Most players come from that environment of dealing with pressure, dealing with the media so they’re more likely to take on higher level jobs such as being a manager or assistant manager. Most career coaches probably prefer to stay out of the limelight, so it’s not like it’s a source of antagonism.

D:You have touched on this already, but do you have any idols? From football, cricket or even outside of sport? I know for example that you’re a big fan of motivational quotes.

F: Arsene Wenger would be the main one. There is huge list of coaches and mentors who have influenced me in my personal life but Arsene Wenger has always been a source of inspiration for me as a career coach, a football fan, and a massive Arsenal fan, of course. He’s been the Arsenal manager since I was 4 and still is today. He’s a great role model, not just as a coach but also as an individual; he’s very intelligent, thoughtful and comes across as morally correct. He’s always been the man for me, that’s why I fanboyed so hard when Paul Burgess was telling me about him.

D: So you’re Wenger in, then?

F: Always, loyalty is important. Loyalty in. I’d never betray my leader, I wouldn’t want my troops to betray me.

D: Coming towards the end now Freddie. You’re still only 25, your career is still in its infancy, so you must have aspirations and dreams? If you had a dream job what would it be?

F: I’m already doing my dream job, I’m working full-time in football. That being said, of course I have aspirations and a career path. It would be fantastic to work in a top league football environment but at the moment, I’m just embracing the journey and enjoying life. I’m pretty certain if I told my 11 year old self where I was now, he would already think I had succeeded and won in the game of life.

D: What do you do outside of football?

F: To be honest I devote most of my life to football, I still enjoy watching cricket and other sports, especially UFC and MMA. Outside of coaching, I have a business venture with my brother, father and a friend of mine from school called Jonathan Ilori, who is competitive triple-jumper. Jonathan runs a business in England called ‘Right Track Sports’ where he helps athletes gain scholarships to American Universities. He’s looking to go international with the business and obviously having known him and being very close to him, we’re helping him open up the branch in Australia. It should be good fun.

D: Final question, Freddie. Do you have any advice for other coaches or especially any young people aspiring to be a career coach?

F: Every Champion Was Once A Contender Who Refused To Give Up.

D: What a fitting way to end the interview, a wonderful inspirational quote from Freddie Seccombe! I wouldn’t have expected anything less. Thank you Freddie, it’s been a pleasure!

F: No worries mate.

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