Navigating through Dreams


Alfie Tate recently tweeted “Anyone else just emotional at the thought of not being good enough? Worrying about not achieving your dream? Worrying about impacting enough people’s lives? About not making your parents proud? Maybe just me”.

A vulnerability that struck me personally and something I’ve experienced myself, therefore I reached out to Alfie to reassure him that he wasn’t alone and I was going to take a leap into the unknown and share my own personal experiences and vulnerabilities.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” is a question we’ve all faced and heard when growing up, and often the answer changes over the years. Me, I vividly remember the question being asked and without hesitation, I always answered “I want to be a police officer”. It was clear how proud my parents were when I gave family, friends and strangers such a clear answer. Little did I know that this wouldn’t be my path eventually…

Throughout my childhood, I often coloured certain objects from what I know now slightly incorrectly. A wonderful teacher I had in primary school, encouraged my parents to take a colour deficiency test at the age of 10 years old or so. I can recollect providing different types of images (see below) where you attempt to identify a number hidden within the different coloured shades. Working my way through several examples and failing to identify a small proportion I was recommended to see a specialist. Shortly before I progressed to secondary school (High school) I was diagnosed with a colour deficiency defect, where it was highlighted that I couldn’t pursue certain careers i.e. plumber, pilot and yes, a police officer among many others.

Colour deficiency is the inability to distinguish certain colours. It occurs when one or more of the cone types are absent or present but defective and unable to send correct signals to the brain.

Can you see the number?

This isn’t something a lot of people knew about or even know about to this day about me, as people react differently to it. Some are genuinely intrigued, while others can make fun of it or even some ask me to tell them what colour certain objects are? People often think I can only see “Black & White” colours, which is far from the truth, I can see every colour but often I struggle to define them. The best way to describe it is “dyslexia with colours”, and I’ve just learnt to adapt and think outside the box with day-to-day elements and within my coaching.

When I was told, I couldn’t pursue my dream job, I instantly felt, I wasn’t going to be good enough, wasn’t going to make my parents proud or wasn’t going to achieve my dream especially since I was telling everyone. For once, when secondary school continually questioned what I wanted to do, I didn’t have an answer… and hadn’t and couldn’t think of something else. For several initial years of secondary school, I felt something was missing and I didn’t have a purpose and how I was going to impact people’s lives in the future. As compared to my friends and other students they all seemed pretty confident about what they wanted to do at the time.

I had a fantastic Physical Education (PE) teacher in secondary school and someone who had a great influence on me therefore I started to play with the idea of maybe becoming a PE teacher one day. But this time around I was cautious of vocalising this pursuit not wanting to replicate the same as before. I focused on trying to achieve the grades necessary for the role. When I reached 15/16 years old, I inquired about pursuing my A-Levels and the deputy head of the school, clearly said “This wouldn’t be for me and wouldn’t obtain the grades to access A-Levels”.  That bump on the road appeared again, what was I going to do next… a number of questions started to re-appear in my mind. Have I let my parents down again? Not obtaining the grades? What was I going to do? I’m not good enough.

At the time my brother was studying a BTEC in Physical Education in the local College and it intrigued me that you could focus all your attention on one subject, a few of my school friends were applying for the course as well, so I decided to go for. I was still unsure what job was going to do? Or if I still wanted to be a PE Teacher? How was I going to get the qualifications now? Was it still possible through a BTEC? Were my parents going to be proud of me for going to College?  Fast forwards a few months in college, and it was the best decision I made, loved every part of it and my dream totally changed. I now wanted to be a professional football coach, hugely enjoyed learning and discussing everything relating to coaching and as a result, I began volunteering as a football coach at the age of 16.

College offered me opportunities to potentially impact people’s lives through sport and it capture my enthusiasm, thirst for knowledge and personal/professional development. It was something I was proud to tell everyone, that I pursued a career as a football coach, many doubters along the way but most people were very supportive. I progressed through my coaching licences and secured a place at Cardiff Met University to study sports coaching. Securing a place in such a highly-esteemed university with the highest grade possible through college truly made me feel that my parents were proud and I was on the right path.

University was on another level, continued my friendship with those that attended the same university and gained new friends that had the same passion as I did for learning within the discipline. I was gaining respect and acknowledgement for my desire and coaching ability. The experience of university-provided opportunities that I couldn’t have imagined, volunteering placements, coaching jobs (Gol, Urdd, Cardiff City FC ADC) even to manager for the university 4th team where we won the university league we were placed in. I was on such a high that I was on my way to pursing that career of a professional football coach and for the first time feeling and telling myself “I was good enough”.  The icing on the cake was securing my degree and a professional coaching opportunity in America, a dream now becoming a reality.

On my way to JFK, NYC

I was alighted with getting my dream job, receiving messages from family and friends stating how proud they were of me, it became emotional. I remember waiting to board my flight from London to New York and receiving a text message “We’re proud of you” and I burst into tears. The opportunity wasn’t easy at all, I remember reaching my hotel in Connecticut and wanting to return home, I wasn’t in the country 24hrs before I wanted to come home. It was the first time I was alone, no friends that I knew, not in a country/place that I knew was totally out of my comfort zone. Close friends and family reached out and gave me the confidence to grow with the experience and that’s what I did. With time, experience and patience I loved my opportunities in the states, something I’m to this day truly proud of, having spent just shy of 2 years coaching professionally, making friends for life and in-practice experiences (Positives and truly negatives ones) that I felt were taking me onto the next level.

Ultimately, I had to make a decision to continue with the same job or do I return home to pursue and continue my development i.e. secure my UEFA B License. I made the awfully difficult decision to return home and end that chapter to move forwards. It was such a sad time to bring the opportunity to an end, and I remember just crying all the way to the airport, it was reaching such a high with being in the states (My dream job) and then hitting rock bottom with nothing in place at home.

I struggled to adapt to life at home upon my return, my friends had secured their jobs, had busy lives, I had no job, no purpose really and I felt at my lowest. I tried to use an easy option of returning to the club in the states but that wasn’t possible, I looked at different opportunities aboard but again wasn’t viable at the time. It honestly took several months for me to adapt and reach a place where I was content. But had these nagging feelings If I was good enough? What next? I’d reach my dream job and what now? I couldn’t find any full-time coaching positions locally, so I had to venture into new opportunities. I was fortunate to secure a position as a Teaching Assistant at a Secondary School, started coaching part-time and but managed to get accepted onto my UEFA B Licence. Even though I was making good progress slowly, I felt that I fallen out of love with coaching for a while. Yet I was determined to rise to the challenge of seeing if I was good enough to obtain the UEFA B.

Fast forward a good 12-18months, and having worked from a U7 coach at a local academy to coaching various age groups, being appointed head coach of the U15 and a Development Coordinator for the Foundation Phase. Also, successfully completed and passed my UEFA B Licence, news that I received whilst being in Tenerife on holiday, something I was immensely proud of but had doubts along the way to know if I was good enough, as I was even ridiculed for having such ambition to obtain such a licence. Even at the height of personal and professional accomplishment I still felt something was missing? I’m I still on the right path? What dream am I pursuing now? Who was I comparing myself against? Myself? Others

What I did know was and continue to do is, that I have a thirst for knowledge, never having the egotistic approach to think I know everything, every opportunity is an opportunity to learn.

In 2017, I secured a place on a Further Education Teachers Training course (FE PGCE) and attempted to balance the part-time course with a full-time job. In 2019, I graduated with a 1st Class qualification and am now a qualified FE Tutor. Why did I pursue this? Because I never wanted to solely have one pathway/option to choose from again, I felt that these multi-disciplinary skills could further enhance my skill set, regardless of the pathway I would choose eventually.

With no full-time employment in Football geographically, I entered a sector that I was unfamiliar with, the Health and Social Care sector to support adults with learning disabilities to reach their own potential. A role that I’m hugely proud of and thoroughly enjoy where I feel the most I’ve ever done in terms of impacting people. A year ago, I was fortunate to be given a job within the local authority to continue such work across the entire county. In terms, of my coaching, I have a love/hate relationship with it, whilst not having found that opportunity recently that provides a clear role where I can progress onto that next part of my development, time will certainly tell what happens.  One thing that I’m certain of is, that regardless of my own doubts or insecurities I’m not afraid to fail, I’ve failed multiple times and often, but have taken these experiences to grow and become better.

I’m now training through work to become a Counsellor to provide a platform for adults with learning disabilities to share, discuss and improve their wellbeing.

Advice for my younger self:

You don’t have to have all the answers, you don’t have to know exactly where you want to go or what job to have. It’s okay not to know, it’s important to have passions and pursue the development of these passions but be flexible in what can be achieved. Continue to fail and be comfortable with failure, never give up, continually reflect, and keep chasing and growing.  The road forward isn’t always going linear it’s going to have its twist and turns but stay focused have a good support network and keep moving forwards.

Richard Cashman

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