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James Johnston ("JJ") LIFE IN AMERICA

JJ started playing football at Wideopen Soccer Skills from the age of 6. He was a goalkeeper in the U12s with Mark Noble as his coach. He also went to Seaton Burn High School where he played for the school team - playing centre-back at that time for the year above him. The school team got the semi-final of the national competition.

From the age of 16, JJ got involved in coaching at Soccer Skills where he had began himself. This was perhaps the start of an interest that was to take him to America.

Sadly, his age group's team at Wideopen folded and he moved briefly to Red House Farm for 2 years. He never really went far and as soon as possible came back to Wideopen Football Club where he stayed until he was 18.

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Coaching in America

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Staying with host families

He did play for the seniors for one year, then spent a little time at Forest Hall FC and on Sundays played for Dinnington.

After leaving school, JJ went to Tynemet College where he did a Football Excellence course for 2 years achieving a Level 3 Diploma and passing his coaching certificate. He also did a gym instructor's course while there. He met several like-minded people at TyneMet, not least of those being Warick Stephenson, who runs Soccer Skills and has very strong connections with Wideopen Football Club. JJ also met Mark McCutcheon and Connor Thomson while there.

It was while at Tynemet that JJ began thinking that he'd like to go to America and Warick emailed him an advert he'd spotted from UK International Soccer. JJ sent them a video he'd made of himself coaching and after the necessary checks, paperwork etc, he was off across the Pond!

Approximately 360 coaches are engaged by UK International Soccer. For JJ, this first step was to travel to Connecticut in 2016 where he was met by the Regional Director. Staff training followed and he was soon prepared to start on his first 8 week coaching programme - this was a Summer camp at Niagara Falls.

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Activities to get involved in

The arrangements for the programme mean that coaches stay with host families (the host families are allowed to enter their child in the coaching pogramme for free). JJ has made some great friends with other coaches and has met some amazing host families who he keeps in touch with and who have said they'd welcome him back in the future. Living with the host families has been a further experience beyond expectations - in some cases staying in huge "mega" houses with families who have taken him flying in their own plane, on camping holidays and where he has been very well looked after. As well as his coaching, JJ has had the opportunity to visit so many places across America (click the map).

Often the children on the coaching programme are not very familiar with 'soccer' and are always very grateful for the input. The coaching programme focuses on the young people having a good time, including coaching teams and introducing more sporting activities.

Coaches can request to travel anywhere, some prefer to stay in one state. They are paid quite well; the payment includes housing and food, a phone and car rental and petrol.

Overall, JJ describes the opportunities he has had as "life changing". He has signed for a further 3 years and has been encouraged to begin a degree course which will involve further football coach training and administration. If all goes well, he hopes he may be able to consider a role as a Head of Coaching in the future and perhaps, eventually be responsible for other coaches within one state as a Regional Director.

Clicking on the small images on this page will open individual slideshows. Have a look at JJ's own video of his time in America too - note this is on an external site (YouTube) and Wideopen Football Club can take no responsibility for videos on that site.

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Places to visit

And it all started at Wideopen Football Club.
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