Navigating through Dreams

*Updated March 2nd 2023


Alfie Tate recently tweeted “Anyone else just emotional at the thought of not being good enough? Worrying about not achieving your dream? Worrying about impacting enough people’s lives? About not making your parents proud? Maybe just me”.

“I was personally struck by a vulnerability that I myself had experienced. In order to provide reassurance to Alfie and let him know he was not alone, I decided to take a bold step and share my own personal experiences and vulnerabilities, even though it meant venturing into uncharted territory.

“As we grow up, the question of “What do you want to be when you grow up?” becomes a common question we face. Over the years, the answer to this question may change multiple times. I distinctly remember being asked this question and confidently stating that I wanted to become a police officer, much to the delight of my family, friends, and even strangers. However, little did I realise that this was not to be my eventual career path, and how the journey fluctuated”.

During my childhood, I often coloured certain objects with slight inaccuracies due to my colour deficiency. A primary school teacher of mine recognised this and suggested that my parents have me take a colour deficiency test at the age of around 10 years old. I vividly remember being presented with images that contained hidden numbers within various coloured shades but struggled to identify some of them. As a result, I was recommended to see a specialist. It was shortly before entering secondary school (high school) that I received the diagnosis of a colour deficiency defect. This highlighted certain career paths that I could not pursue, including becoming a plumber, a pilot, and even a police officer, among many others.”

Colour deficiency is the inability to distinguish certain colours. It occurs when one or more of the cone types are absent or present but defective and unable to send correct signals to the brain.

Can you see the number?

This is something that not many people are aware of, even to this day. People react differently when they learn about my colour deficiency – some are genuinely curious and intrigued, while others may make fun of it or ask me to identify the colours of certain objects. There is a common misconception that I can only see in “black and white,” which is far from the truth. I can see every colour, but often have difficulty distinguishing between them. It’s best described as “dyslexia with colours,” and I have learned to adapt and think creatively in my day-to-day life and in my coaching endeavours.

When I was informed that I could not pursue my dream job due to my colour deficiency, I was overcome with a sense of inadequacy. I felt as though I would not be good enough, that I would not make my parents proud, and that I would not be able to achieve my dream, especially since I had been telling everyone about it. For once, when my secondary school asked me what I wanted to do, I did not have an answer. I was unable to think of anything else that I could do, and I sensed the school were trying to find a route for me. During the initial years of my secondary education, I felt as though something was missing. I did not have a sense of purpose, nor did I know how I would make an impact on people’s lives in the future. This was in stark contrast to my friends and fellow students who seemed to be confident in their career aspirations at the time.

During my time in secondary school, I had an excellent physical education (PE) teacher who had a significant influence on me. As a result, I began to consider a similar role where I could influence others through sports. However, I was cautious about expressing this ambition, as I did not want to experience the same disappointment as before. Instead, I focused on achieving the necessary grades for the next eventual step. When I approached the school at the age of 15/16 to inquire about pursuing my A-Levels, they told me that it would not be a suitable option for me and that I would not obtain the necessary grades. Once again, I was faced with a setback. Numerous questions reappeared in my mind – had I disappointed my parents again? Was I not good enough? What was I going to do next?

The BTEC Diploma surrounding Coaching offered by the local college caught my attention. It intrigued me that I could focus all my attention on one area, and one in that I had a tremendous interest. Some of my school friends were also applying for the course, so I decided to give it a shot. At that time, I was still unsure about what job I wanted to pursue? I had many questions in my mind: how could I obtain the necessary qualifications? Would my parents be proud of me for going to college? Where will I end up? However, a few months into the course, I realised that it was the best decision I had made. I aspired to become a football coach and relished learning and discussing everything related to coaching. Consequently, I took the brave step and began volunteering as a football coach when I was 16 years old within the community.

During my time in college, I discovered the potential to make a difference in people’s lives through sports coaching, which ignited my passion for knowledge and development. Pursuing a career as a football coach became my goal, and despite some doubters, I was proud to share my aspirations with others. As I progressed through my coaching licenses, I worked hard to secure a place at Cardiff Met University to study sports coaching and earning the highest grade possible in college made me feel like I was on the right path and making my parents proud.

Attending university was a whole new level of experience for me. I maintained my friendship with those who joined the same university and also made new friends who shared the same passion as I did for learning within the discipline. Through my dedication and coaching abilities, I gained recognition and respect from my peers. My university experience provided me with countless opportunities, such as volunteering placements and coaching jobs with prestigious organizations like Gol, Urdd, Cardiff City FC ADC, and even managing the university’s 4th team, which won the university league we were placed in. I felt on top of the world and confident that I was pursuing my dream of making a difference in people’s lives through sport.

For the first time in my career aspirations, I felt that I was “good enough.”

The best part was when I secured my degree and landed a professional coaching opportunity in America, turning my dream into a reality.

On my way to JFK, NYC

I was overwhelmed with excitement upon getting my dream job and receiving messages of pride from my loved ones. I recall waiting to board my flight from London to New York when a text message came in that said, “We’re proud of you.” The emotions hit me hard, and I burst into tears. However, the opportunity was far from easy. When I reached my hotel in Connecticut, I immediately felt the urge to return home. I was alone, in an unfamiliar country, and out of my comfort zone. Close friends and family helped me gain the confidence to stick it out, and with time, experience, and patience, I grew to love my coaching opportunities in the States. Over the course of almost two years, I gained invaluable experience, made lifelong friends, and learned from both positive and negative experiences that helped me advance to the next level.

But eventually, after just under 2 years of working in the states, I faced a tough decision: continue with my current job or return home to pursue my development by securing my UEFA B License and continue towards a possible career. In the end, I made the difficult decision to return home and end that chapter of my life. It was a sad time, and I remember crying all the way to the airport. After reaching such a high with my dream job in the States, I was suddenly back at rock bottom, with no prospects at home.

Adapting to life back home proved to be challenging. My friends had moved on, and I had no job or real purpose, which left me feeling at my lowest. I tried to find an easy way out by returning to my job in the States, but it wasn’t possible. I also looked for opportunities abroad, but none were viable at the time. It took several months for me to adjust, but I still struggled with doubts about my abilities and what the future held. Although I couldn’t find any full-time coaching positions locally, I managed to secure a role as a Teaching Assistant at a secondary school and started coaching part-time while pursuing my UEFA B License. Despite making progress, I felt like I had lost my passion for coaching for a while. Nevertheless, I was determined to rise to the challenge and see if I was good enough to obtain the UEFA B.

Looking back over the past 12-18 months, I am amazed at how much I have accomplished. Starting out as a volunteer, U7 coach at a local academy, I quickly progressed to coaching various age groups and was eventually appointed as the head coach of the U15 team. In addition, I also became a Development Coordinator for the Foundation Phase, which was a huge honour for me.

During this time, I was also pursuing my UEFA B License, a goal that was met with ridicule by some, causing me to doubt my abilities along the way. However, while on holiday, I received the news that I had successfully completed and passed my UEFA B License, an achievement that I was immensely proud of. But even at the height of my personal and professional accomplishments, I still felt like something was missing. Was I still on the right path? What was next? Is this it?

Despite these uncertainties, one thing I knew for certain was that I had a thirst for knowledge and a willingness to learn. I never believed that I knew everything and saw every opportunity as a chance to develop my skills.

In 2017, I made the decision to expand my knowledge and improve my skills by enrolling in a Further Education Teachers Training course (FE PGCE). Despite the challenge of juggling a part-time course and a full-time job, I persevered, and in 2019, I proudly graduated with a 1st Class qualification and became a qualified FE Tutor. My motivation for pursuing this course of study was to develop myself both professionally and personally and to have more career options available to me in both the short and long term. I firmly believed that possessing a diverse range of skills would also enhance my coaching abilities, no matter which pathway I ultimately chose to pursue.

After being unable to find full-time employment in the football industry, I ventured into a new sector that was unfamiliar to me: health and social care. Here, I found a role that I am immensely proud of and thoroughly enjoy, as I am able to support adults with learning disabilities to reach their full potential. Last year, I was fortunate enough to be offered a job within the local authority, allowing me to continue this important work across the entire county.

As for my coaching career, it has had its ups and downs. I have encountered numerous missed opportunities and setbacks, which have led me to question my abilities and whether it’s all worth it. However, one thing that I am certain of is that I am not afraid to fail. I have failed multiple times and learned from each experience to grow and become a better coach. Regardless of my doubts or insecurities, I am willing to take risks and push myself out of my comfort zone.

I have maintained my position as a Wellbeing Officer and have recently (2023) been awarded a scholarship to pursue a degree in Occupational Therapy at Glyndwr University, beginning my journey towards becoming a professional in the field. While this role is not directly related to coaching in the context of football or sports, it still involves providing coaching and support to individuals with learning disabilities to enable them to realise their full potential.

Advice for my younger self:

It’s perfectly fine not to have all the answers, and to be unsure about where you’re headed or what career path to take. Pursue your passions and develop them, but also be open to new opportunities and ideas. Failure is a part of growth, so don’t be afraid to stumble and make mistakes. Remember to reflect on your experiences, learn from them, and never give up. The road to success isn’t always a straight line; it may have its twists and turns. Stay focused, surround yourself with a supportive network, and keep moving forward.

Key Lessons:

  1. We may face setbacks and obstacles in our career path, but it’s important to keep pushing forward and find alternative options.
  2. It’s important to be open about our vulnerabilities and personal experiences as it can help others feel less alone.
  3. People may react differently to our weaknesses, but it’s important to not let them define us and instead adapt and think creatively to overcome them.
  4. Pursuing a career in something we are passionate about can provide a sense of purpose and fulfilment.
  5. Despite doubters and setbacks, we should stay committed to our goals and work hard to achieve them.

Thank you – Diolch yn fawr

Richard Cashman


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