It’s National Volunteers Week and by lucky coincidence we see the return of Julia Hogan, the girl who started out as a volunteer at the Hunslet Club, soon demonstrating her talents and becoming a football coach before being whisked off to America on a prestigious sports coaching degree course. Well, having done that part of her course she’s back to continue her studies in Leeds and will be back to coaching our youth teams on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays. There is definitely now an American twang to that South Leeds accent, so we thought we’d ask her a bit about her time away from here.
What was it like over there?
Amazing, it was a once in a lifetime experience, I spent my time coaching soccer in schools and playing for my college team.
What were the first things you were impressed with by the game in America?
Soccer, and all sports there are really well resourced, school football pitches are really well looked after and are mini-stadiums with a thousand seats in them.
What were the groups like that you coached over there?
Soccer is really popular in America, I was teaching groups of 20 girls and 20 boys together, so enthusiastic for the game, probably more so by the girls who love it. Here on tv you only hear about baseball, American football and basketball being popular there but actually each sport gets the same amount of funding to develop.
They were very welcoming over there but found my accent hard to understand, so I had to sound more like them and still do a bit now! Once they know your British they want to know if you’ve met the Queen, or drink tea, or support Man Utd (ugh!)
You enjoyed playing for the college team, what was that like?
College football is very big over there, professional level really, games get televised at the NCA Division 1 League level, I was playing in the Junior College League, a step below the professional level for the Middle Georgia State Knights. I really enjoyed that, though you had to travel long distances for games, typically 5 hours on the road to other colleges, 9 hours to a tournament once. It was better for you to play home games!
What was a typical training day like?
I had to wake up at 5:00, be on the pitch for training at half past, after that go and study at college before another training in the evening till 8pm – a very long day!
So now you are back, what are your plans?
I will be back coaching the junior football sessions and continuing my coaching studies at Leeds Metropolitan University, I hope eventually to go back to work in America as a coach but in the meantime I am thrilled to be back with the amazing kids here, I have learnt so much in the last year that I am really looking forward to putting into practice helping the footballers in Hunslet.