Wilkinson climbing the ranks
It comes as no surprise that former Waikato FC midfielder Sam Wilkinson is carving out a career as a coach in demand.
The son of former Waikato United coach Roger Wilkinson has recently been appointed as under-16 academy coach at Championship (second tier) side Birmingham City in England.
The 29-year-old acknowledged that growing up with a football-obsessed dad, who now runs the Premier Skills coaching company, helped mould him.
"I've been working alongside him at Premier Skills since I went back there and that's been a great education for me," said Wilkinson, who was back in Hamilton at the weekend.
"I think I have been lucky too that when I was young, having a coach as a father, gave me a lot of insight into coaching that other players didn't necessarily get.
"Having football discussions over the dinner table every night was, without me knowing, the start of my coaching."
Wilkinson, a Uefa B licence holder, had been working part-time with Premier League club West Bromwich Albion in their youth academy before also teaming up part-time with Birmingham City, who were impressed with his skills.
"They created a fulltime job for me initially with all age groups, from under-12s up to under-18s.
"Then this position as under-16s coach came up, which they earmarked me for, so that's the next step."
Wilkinson said the emphasis on Birmingham is developing the players rather than results.
"Winning games and being effective in games is important, but as a club it is important that we don't sacrifice their development just to start getting the results.
"It's a great age to work with - they're bordering on senior players so from a coaching point of view you can be quite constructive with what you're doing with them."
Wilkinson feels he can also relate to his young charges.
"As an academy at Birmingham City we've got quite a lot of staff my age, which is good - you're in an authoritative position but you're also able to relate to the young players.
"Occasionally we will join in sessions and games and it's good that they can see you can play a bit.
"At 16, 17, I was in England trialling and trying to crack it so you can draw on those experiences as well."
And he's happy to make his career coaching young prospects, rather than seeking the senior limelight.
"Long-term I would love to work at under-18 to under-21 level. You still get young players very keen to learn but you don't necessarily have the kind of pressure on getting results as you do at senior level.
"I think you also get a lot of job security at that level, whereas at first team level, even as a coach and not a manager, there's not a lot of security - things can chop and change quite quickly and it would be hard to implement long-term things unless you're at the right club with time to do that."
Wilkinson was born in New Zealand but feels his coaching future will be in England.
"It's taken me two or three years to get my foot in the door with the academy teams and if I came back to NZ then wanted to go back to England I feel I'd almost be starting again."
- © Fairfax NZ News
Were the Chiefs robbed at the New Zealand rugby awards?Related story: (See story)