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Youth soccer coach JP Austin featured recently in My Everton #93; the story of a father and son from Texas who became proud Evertonians.
Now, JP opens up on his connection with the Blues…
My football career started in 2012. I had lost my less-than-minimum-wage job, had been signing on and was taking part in a job centre course in my hometown of Barnsley.
I remember hearing about apprenticeships with football clubs, where people could apply to be a coach and receive training, and when I saw a website advertising that Everton were looking for an apprentice coach, I planned on applying and figuring it out from there.
However I was "overqualified" as I had finished a few years of high education and instead had to volunteer to "earn" my career in football.
As such, the pathway was a lot harder and I had to take any opportunity that came my way. I threw myself into community projects, football camps, football schools, school projects, outreach projects and disabled football, to enable me with valuable skills and employment.
I would try to gain the edge on fellow coaches by reading as many articles on the Club as I could and buying books second hand. This is where I came across Howard Kendall's autobiography and, in a coaching magazine saw an image of the famous 'turf stairs' at Everton's Academy, used for fitness, which impressed me and made me want to see how well I could do on them someday!
In 2020, I was involved with a football project in Asia and we were looking for a partner club to help us to deliver football training, football education and community projects.
Unfortunately, COVID occurred and halted Everton’s involvement with the project. However, during the pandemic I became friends with Andrei Andreevich Kanchelskis (son and namesake of the former Everton player), who has since become a close friend (I gifted Andrei one of my Everton Soccer Schools shirts for his collection!).
Then, as the world opened up again in 2022, I was coaching in America where a guy called Roy Collins, who oversees the delivery of Everton Soccer Schools across the US, invited me to help.
It is one of my core beliefs that when you work in football you should honour the club’s past, represent the present and ensure there is a future. So, after talking to Andrei, I decided I was in all-in with Everton!
Last year I visited numerous states and I always had the mindset that each camp could be better than the last. I was lead coach for a few camps and was delighted when two Spanish coaches, Arsenio Escalona and Gracia Fernandez-Ruiz, were added to my roster, as this meant we were better able to engage with the Spanish speaking community and have the opportunity to create more fans!
Soccer camps are also a financial commitment for parents and we are keen to deliver value for money and help to create lifelong bonds with Everton, so each child is given a ball and a shirt for attending. I take great care to check the list and write each child's name on the label, so they can be given a shirt to enjoy for years after.
The budding young footballers are also given tasks to help them learn more about Everton’s proud history and one day, in Pittsburgh, a young female player handed me a handwritten list of three facts she had sourced and written about the Club (I still have this and have attached a photo).
Often, I would skip my break just to talk about Everton to children on the Soccer Schools and their parents. I am a firm believer than fans should be a part of their club, not apart from it, and little things like this can only help reinforce the bond.
It was at a camp in Austin, Texas, where I met my friend Rob Cowart and his son Liam, both of whom featured in My Everton #93.
Liam attended the camp and a few months later I was able to help his father, Rob, secure membership and tickets for the Premier League game against Crystal Palace; even meeting up with Rob in Liverpool to smooth the experience and ensure he could enjoy the match.
Sadly, due to personal and professional reasons, I’ve missed delivering Everton Soccer Schools in America this year - but I still intend to help spread the word in any way possible.
Everton are The People's Club, something which is much more than a simple marketing tagline.
It is the truth laid bare, and although the club remains Premier League, it still retains a unique identity and doesn't feel like a ‘brand’.
Anyone who has arrived at the main gates at Goodison and walked walk past the Dixie Dean statue can feel the Club’s rich history and see how Everton is woven into the community.
I’m proud to be a small part of that.
By JP Austin, Evertonian
Everton Soccer Schools (delivered in partnership with Community Athletic Solutions) are running in the USA and Canada throughout July and August.
Each location will offer a range of programmes for boys and girls between the ages of five and 18. Many sites will also offer goalkeeper specific schools.
To learn more or register your child’s place at an Everton Soccer School, visit evertoninternationalacademy.com