5 tips for coaches on working abroad

UK-based Alexander Chiles spent two years working in China as International Development Coach for Cardiff City and has just returned from four months in Uganda and Malawi as Lead Academy Coach for Ascent Soccer.

In his time in China, he developed and delivered an annual football curriculum for U8s to U16s, as part of a ground-breaking coaching programme in Beijing and Suzhou.

And while in East Africa, Alexander worked with U14 to U20 academy squads and developed Malawi and Uganda U20 internationals.

Below he offers five tips for coaches looking to work abroad…



Focus on what makes you different from other coaches – do you also have experience in scouting or performance analysis? Perhaps you have qualifications in a gym-based setting, or are also a qualified teacher?

For some roles abroad, a sports-related degree is not essential, but it will help you gain a work permit and maybe a better coaching job.

In China, a work permit is only offered for those with a bachelor’s degree and at least two years’ work experience. In other countries, employers might focus more on whether you have a UEFA A or B licence.



‘What we know’ is still very important in soccer – we all need the knowledge and qualifications – but do not neglect the power of ‘Who you know’.

Don’t be afraid to develop a network of contacts in different countries. LinkedIn is a great tool – research coaches who are already working abroad and don’t hesitate to message them about their specific journey abroad. Remember: ‘Your network is your net worth’.



Research the country you want to be successful in. Learning the language could be very useful, so get the hang of the basics with lessons before you go, or soon after arriving in the country.

When I went to China in 2018, I made the mistake of thinking English would be widespread and that I could get by without learning much Chinese; it wasn’t until I got to Beijing I realised this wasn’t the case.

I decided to take some language lessons, as I wanted to immerse myself in the culture and be able to converse with people.

Alexander coaching youngsters in China


It is not your coaching methods that will determine your success abroad, it is understanding the culture you are working in and having patience. Bear in mind that your living conditions and lifestyle could be drastically different depending on the country you move to.

In less developed countries in Africa, for example, you will not have the same luxuries you might have back home; it is important to be humble and embrace where you are to get the most out of your experience.



There are many plus points to working abroad, including the fact that many coaching jobs offer accommodation – very useful for saving money to do other things in your time off.

Seeing the world can open your eyes. Since first moving abroad in October 2018, I have travelled to 18 more countries, taking my personal tally to 41. I am a believer in ‘travel broadens the mind’ and teaches you so much about the world by experiencing different cultures.

Likewise, people who won’t have had the same cultural experiences as you might want to understand why you do things in a certain way, leading to interesting conversations.

From a coaching perspective, being abroad also teaches you how certain countries use different approaches and coaching styles, enabling you to become a more well- rounded coach.

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