Kevin McGreskin is the new face in the Cook Islands and the Scotsman tells Football in Oceania all about his new job, what he hopes to do in the Cook Islands and how long he might be staying.
“I actually saw the job advertised late last year on the British Football Coaches Network forum,” McGreskin tells Football in Oceania.
“I really fancied the idea of being involved in football in this region so the chance to work somewhere like the Cook Islands was a dream opportunity. The FA confirmed they’d received my application and then it went quiet for a while, as it always does with these things, whilst they were going through their recruitment process.
“They got back in touch a few weeks ago saying they were looking to make an appointment shortly and asked if I was still interested, which I most definitely was. We had a chat where they probed with some questions, obviously checking to confirm I was the right fit for them, and then they offered me the job. Needless to say, I couldn’t say yes quick enough!”
He has always fancied working in this part of the world, he says and this was a perfect opportunity. The job also came highly recommended.
“I also know the previous TD (Jess Ibrom) and he spoke very highly of the Association and of what they are hoping to achieve in the region. From the conversations I have had, and the research I have done, I know I can help make a positive impact on the growth and development of the game in the country.
“There is so much potential here to become competitive at National level within the Oceania region, which is exciting, and there is the opportunity to grow the game at the grassroots level too through program development and coach education. All of this means football in the Cook Islands is a very exciting thing to be part of.”
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There are big plans for football in the Cook Islands and developing the youth and grassroots in the country has long been very important for the FA, with the Kia Orana Youth Football Festival an important part of the national calendar of events. Developing coaches will also be another priority.
“One of my main priorities is the development of the National Academy, which will enable us to bring through our young players and help them be competitive within the region, and our performances in the OFC U16 & U19 Championships will be key indicators for us at the National level. Our U16 Women’s National Team reached the semi-finals in 2017, so there is a huge opportunity to be competitive in those tournaments. Coach Education will be another one of the key priorities for me. The logistics of the country mean we have a huge task on our hand getting out to all the islands to deliver courses, in order help develop the coaches,” McGreskin says.
“This is especially important for those who are working at grassroots and youth levels of the game, as this is the key formative ages for the young players who will go on to represent their country. Increasing participation and enjoyment of the game will mean we have more players involved regularly with the game, which can only be done with enthusiastic and engaging coaches.
“More players involved in the game ultimately means there are more potential players for the national teams. All of the players involved must be offered the right environment for development, which has a greater chance of happening if we have educated and knowledgeable coaches. If we can get the Coach Education piece right, then it can continue to have a positive impact on the game in the country for years to come.”
McGreskin has already established a good network of contacts in the area and had a good knowledge of the region before taking the job, something which would surely have helped.
“As I have had an interest in this part of the world for a number of years, I had developed a pretty good base knowledge of the countries and football in the region. I am fortunate to know Rob Sherman (now Australia TD) and Tom Sermanni (New Zealand Women’s National Team Head Coach) who have both held various roles in the region and, as I mentioned, I also know Jess Ibrom who was the previous TD for the Cook Islands FA.”
“Also, one of the first things I had to do in my role was attend a FIFA/OFC Coach Educators’ Course in Tahiti. This meant that I started my time here with a great opportunity to meet other people working in the region, including Patrick Jacquemet and Giovani Fernandes from the OFC. The course was fantastic, and I feel I have not only had the chance to develop working relationships within the region but I have also made new friends with some amazing football people. The experiences I have taken from that course can only but help me do a better job for the Cook Islands FA.”
He has previously worked with the Bahamas FA and other small countries, which he believes will help him in the Cooks Islands job as well.
“My time working in the Bahamas is a definite advantage for me, through the experience I gained there, and what I can now bring to this role. Obviously, having been involved at that level means I am already familiar with some of the FIFA and regional processes, albeit with CONCACAF and not OFC, and what is required of a National Technical Director.
“I also have experience of devising and implementing a national player development plan and a coach education program in a country made up of numerous islands, which is not too dissimilar from what I will have to do here. However, it is how the experience of working there has helped me grow as a person that is maybe the most important factor,” he says.
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He thinks many of his fellow British coaches who go abroad can be “a little headstrong” and “try to get things done too quickly”, but he says patience and flexibility are the biggest keys.
“A lot of the time that is because we are passionate and driven, which are essential qualities to have, and we see the potential of what can be achieved. However, patience is most certainly a virtue and it is important to develop a feel for what you can prioritise and where, and how, you may have to make compromises. Not everything can be implemented in accordance with your “plan”, so flexibility is the key.”
The first big thing for McGreskin and the Cook Islands will be the Pacific Games in July where the women’s national team will take part and hope to better than their Nations Cup performance back in December.
“Our Women’s National team will be competing at the Pacific Games and they have been in training since the end of February under the supervision of Judith Kuipers, who we brought in from The Netherlands to be our Head Coach. Preparations have been going well although we do have the logistical challenges of having players based in our other islands, as well as New Zealand, Australia, and England.
“This means that Judith only gets to work with the Rarotonga based players on a regular basis, with the occasional opportunity to work with the overseas players when we can bring them in for a training camp. However, she is an excellent coach, and has dealt with these challenges superbly, so we are optimistic that the players will compete well in the tournament,” McGreskin says.
The men’s team won’t be going to Samoa however and all their focus will be on the Nations Cup next year. But before that, there is several youth tournaments for the women to look forward too.
“Unfortunately, our Men’s National Team is currently not ranked high enough to participate this year and we will be working hard on this in order to be eligible for future games. This means the Nations Cup is a very important event for our men’s team next year. We are fortunate to have Kevin Fallon heading up our Men’s National Team and he has a wealth of coaching experience, as well as a great knowledge of football in the region. Kevin is in a position where he is able to work regularly with our New Zealand based players and we are sure this will have a positive impact on performance when it comes to competition time.
“However, before that, our U19 WNT will be competing in the OFC U19 Women’s Championships, which we are hosting here in the Cook Islands, as well as our U16 WNT playing in the OFC U16 Women’s Championships in Auckland. These tournaments will not only give us a great opportunity to test ourselves against the other countries in the region but they are also World Cup qualifying tournaments, so it would be great to compete well and see how far our journey can take us.”
His contract is for a two-year period but he is open to staying longer should the job be a fulfilling one.
“I am at a stage, both professionally and in life, where I would like to be somewhere long term. Two years only really gives you the chance to put a plan in place, without necessarily giving you the opportunity to see it through. It would be great to be here to see the fruition of the plans and play my part as the Association develops a positive legacy for the future generations of players in the Cook Islands.
“So, with that in mind, it would be great if we were to be chatting again in 10 years’ time doing a review of my decade in Cook Islands football!”