Football Academy 101
Koye Sowemimo is the Head of Sports at The Temple Management Company Group, a global full-service Talent Agency and Talent & Event Management Company that represents talents and manages events across the sports, entertainment, arts and public sectors. In this article, he provides a guide entrepreneurs in the sports industry can use to get started.
– By Koye Sowemimo
I grew up mainly in the UK but always had my mind set on returning home to make a difference within sports & society in general. I’m currently the Head of Sports at The Temple Management Company which for me is my dream job. Being able to do something you are passionate about is part of your purpose in life. My role entails me identifying the very best talents in Nigeria and across Africa that we can manage and develop to become world beaters not only from a sporting point of view but also for them to be seen as global brands in their own rights.
A career in professional football is one of the most glamorous and attractive careers a young person can hope to enter, either after leaving school or before finishing school. However, it is not as easy as a lot of people think. Your journey needs to start early, as young as 5 years old.
By the time you are at least between the ages of 14-16, you should already be showing promise as an exceptional talent that has caught the eye of an academy / national youth team scouts. Unfortunately in Nigeria, we don’t have a system for developing young players and that often reflects in how long many of our players stay in the game when they do make it as pros.
The ideal pathway is going from school / youth leagues to centres of excellence or academies to senior football (Non-league) and then finally onto the pro league. What sets apart one talent from another is the dedication and hard work put in. It is more than just regular training, you have to be willing to put in your own work as well.
Eric Harisson (Former Manchester United Youth Coach) said to me once that the reason why David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Neville Brothers & Nicky Butt (Class of 96) had such flourishing careers was because when everyone else left training, they always stayed back to practise on their own. So a young footballer needs to bear this in mind. Find yourself a structured academy with a good history of developing players and be patient as you develop.It is a crucial part of your learning. If you start too late in life, you miss out on a lot of the fundamentals.
Playing Football Is Just One Of Many Opportunities
Everybody wants to be footballer as the money is lucrative but in football, the opportunities are vast. This applies generally across many sports in terms of the opportunities. If you don’t make it as a pro or even start the journey to becoming a pro but love sports, you could find yourself in the administration of sports which is where I started out, working for the English FA.
You get to see a full overview of the different areas you can go into such as coaching, referring, welfare, legal, player agent, IT and so much more. Coaching in particular is one that is very much overlooked which is probably why we don’t have enough coaches in Nigeria even at the grassroots level.
Entrepreneurial Passion Is The Primary Ingredient
Anyone starting a football academy or club must be passionate. Too many people involved in Nigeria think about the money aspect first. “How quickly can I sell one player?” Running a football club or academy needs to be treated like any other privately owned business. Investment is very key and if you can find a financial backer, that would be a good starting point.
Get Your Structure Right
A club or academy needs to have top facilities and training programmes tailored to the needs of players, emphasising the need to balance the amount of football played with education and welfare support. The types of individuals you would find running a club or academy would be:
- Founder – Chairman (Someone with the vision and drive)
- CFO – Someone good with accounting (this is critical to the operations)
- Director of Football (DOF) – Someone that has the strategic plan to execute the strategy of the club for a sustained period of time
- Head coach + Assistant – First Team
- Youth coaches – Youth teams
- Fitness coach
- Welfare coach
- Head Scout – Someone responsible for identifying talents and making recommendations to the DOF / Head Coach / Youth Coaches
- Facilities Manager
- Kit Manager
The good thing is you don’t need to have certifications to run a football club, but you will find most of club owners have a background in building their own businesses. There are roles within a club that of course requires certifications such as coaching, medical roles, welfare and others. Unfortunately in Nigeria, we don’t have a structured football body that provides enough information about ways of getting into football.
To bypass this, you can learn a lot from someone else. I learnt about my industry mainly from studying Mark McCormack who was the founder of the IMG academy. There are a lot of mentors in sports and it really is about what you want to achieve.
Talent Management Is Not Overrated
To effectively manage resources and control the pride that comes with fame, young footballers need a very experienced Management team, not a one man shop. What a team provides a footballer with is structure and direction knowing that the life-span of a pro can be about 20 years, so it is always a question of what next. Your team takes the burden off you by providing services around financial Legal aid, PR & Comms management, commercial / endorsements. Before you know it, all that money you think you have made could be gone without a structure. This is something we pride ourselves on at Temple Management.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the Spark magazine. Find the magazine here to read other articles.