Rajab Noor started coaching at 16 and is now a level 3 UEFA B licensed coach with 10 years of coaching behind him. Raj has been lucky enough to play and work along side some top professionals in the game. Most recently he has played for Causeway United, Cradley Town and Sporting Khalsa. His coaching spells were mainly with Halesowen Town and West Bromwich Albion.
Raj is looking to go on and study the UEFA A licence in the near future and eventually become a first team coach at the highest level.
We spoke to Raj in the build up to him launching the Football For All project at Dudley Soccer Centre in Birmingham. Completely free aimed at 5 - 15 year olds, primarily targeted at Asian communties as part of the Bring Opportunities to Communities report.
As we see and hear in the media that there is low % of coaches from BME backgrounds. What attracted you to become a coach?
At the age of 16 I started volunteering at a local grassroots club and really enjoyed it. I went on to study the FA level 1 coaching qualification the following year and it all kicked off from their really. I enjoyed planning a session and then delivering it on the pitch. I remember being a nervous young coach and feeling very pressured delivering in front of other coaches and parents. However what drove me was seeing the smiles on children's faces at the end of a training session.
Common barriers amongst BME participants and those that pursue careers in sport is the stigma, 'Sport is not a real career choice' and low parental support. What message can you give from your journey?
Whilst growing up I was a victim of this but my parents soon new football was my passion when I went on to study Sport and Psychology at college and University.
I wasn't prepared to try and break into an industry that I don't have a full passion for and in the end most likely won't enjoy the job. At times I did feel that I was seeking an unrealistic aim of achieving a full time role in football but I believe I had the right role models and mentors around me to support throughout this time.
I think it's very important to set realistic targets and work hard to achieve them. I remember even my own football friends who now work full time behind a desk used to say to me the sports industry is very hard to get into and that I don't stand much of a chance. This only motivated me even more and when I put my tracksuit on in the morning I don't hesitate to send them a picture whilst I'm on the grass on a sunny day.
I watch carefully people's reactions to when I introduce myself as a full time football coach but unfortunately people still don't think it's a professional job and they don't understand the detail that is part of it. This is what I enjoy doing and I love my job.
As you work with young people from diverse backgrounds what specific projects or initiatives have you come up with to increase their participation or even get them started participating?
I have always been involved in community projects whether it would volunteering at a local park, youth centre or football club. I have been lucky enough to have the opportunity to work with different age groups and diverse communities. I have found different barriers with different age groups and ethnic backgrounds but on average BME communities have a lower sports participation rate overall. My target this summer is to get young people from diverse backgrounds playing football on a weekly basis.
Is there any specific project that you are currently looking to begin which will look to showcase your coaching alongside developing new talent?
I will be launching the Football For All project throughout the summer holidays, I have had a huge request from my local community groups to put something on for children and young teenagers. I have teamed up with the FA to launch a community development centre on Sunday 26th July. We are expecting around 100 children/teenagers aged between 5-15. The players that have been targeted usually attend extra classes after school at faith centres between 4pm-6pm. I have found this is the main reason they don't play for football clubs. The development centre will be a turn up and play session midday on a Sunday throughout the summer holidays. This will showcase the talent from BME communities and give them all an opportunity to get involved in structured football. We have many volunteers from the community getting involved and the plan is to get them experienced and qualified to eventually lead on this project.
Which three qualities will the next generation of aspiring BME coaches need to be successful?
- Be willing to go above and beyond, regardless of what coaching qualifications you may have it does not make you a better coach than someone who is not as qualified as you.
- Be open minded as there's no such thing as the perfect coach.
- Lead by example you are not just a coach to many people, you have to accept that you are a role model and friend to many players, coaches and parents.
What are the next steps in your career? Can we expect to see you coaching a professional team one day?
My overall aim is to work full time at a professional club. I want to be a first team coach in the premiership and then eventually at the international stage, however I set myself realistic short term aims such as being successful in non-league, gaining as much experience as possible and completing the UEFA A licence. I am currently the First team coach at Tividale FC step 4 of non-league. Coach education has grown on my in the last few years as well as coaching futsal so I could potentially go down those routes in the near future.
What is your proudest achievement?
This is yet to come, scoring the winning goal in an FA Cup tie was fun and working full time at the Football association as a full time coach is something I am proud of. I get to work with grassroots coaches and primary school teachers on a daily basis. I have worked with the development squads at West Bromwich Albion and coaching across the West Midlands gives me the opportunity of working with the next batch of players and coaches.
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