Cooper diving right into coaching passion
Dashun Cooper admits there are few hours remaining in the day to chase his dream of winning a first international cap once he has fulfilled his coaching duties at the Bermuda Goalkeeping Academy, National Academy and ABC Football School.
Cooper insists he would not have it any other way, though, and is now “living the life he chose” as a full-time coach after losing his job at HSBC Bermuda 2½ years ago.
“I set up the Bermuda Goalkeeping Academy after being let go by HSBC,” Cooper said. “That’s when I decided to move into football. I’ve been doing camps ever since and now have close to 40 members. I’m kept pretty busy, but it’s definitely worth it. This is the life that I want.”
The X-Roads goalkeeper has also been busy gaining qualifications to support his new career, earning his Uefa C licence, United Soccer Coaches Advanced National Goalkeeping Diploma and has completed the Scottish Football Association Goalkeeping Level One and Level Two awards.
His coaching journey began under the tutelage of Andrew Bascome at the ABC Football School and credits Timmy Figureido, the former Bermuda goalkeeper, for fuelling his passion for the No 1 jersey.
“In 2011, I got the chance to help Andrew Bascome and Darren Whitehead at a camp at Bernard Park and it’s just been rolling ever since,” said Cooper, who previously played for Robin Hood and Devonshire Cougars.
“They allowed me to experiment a bit and praised me when I got things right and helped me when I got things wrong. I have to thank those guys for really helping to get my coaching career started.
“I was also helped a lot by Timmy Figureido when I arrived at Hood for my first senior football experience. I learnt a lot about the technical side of the game.”
Cooper, who is coaching youngsters at Victor Scott Primary School this week, has been inspired by the coaching career of his friend Andrew Sparkes, the first-team goalkeeping coach at South African giants Orlando Pirates. Sparkes was previously the head of academy goalkeeping at Swansea City and the New York Red Bulls.
“I’d love to coach at a Champions League club, whether that’s in Uefa, the CAF [Confederation of Africa Football] or the AFC [Asian Champions League],” Cooper added.
Although coaching and playing can be a difficult balancing act, Cooper has not given up on receiving his second Bermuda call-up after being an unused substitute in a friendly against Barbados at home in 2017.
“It can be tough as I’m at [Victor Scott] all week, but I still have to train and be ready for the FA Cup game [against St George’s] this weekend,” said Cooper, who coaches youngsters at Bernard Park on Fridays and Sundays.
“You just try and find a balance. I wouldn’t want it any other way. It’s exciting times for Bermuda as we look to qualify for the Gold Cup. I’d like to get a call-up for March [when Bermuda face Dominican Republic in their final Nations League qualifier].”
Cooper has been integral to the upward trajectory of X-Roads, helping them achieve promotion from the First Division and establish themselves in the top flight.
“We’ve not had a bad season,” he said. “It’s a little hard now because we’re 12 points behind PHC Zebras. We just have to keep pushing.”
Bermuda’s talent conveyor belt has continued to churn out goalkeepers, with Dale Eve, formerly of Forest Green Rovers, and Jahquil Hill, who has experienced non-League football in England, ahead of Cooper in the national team pecking order.
With Nathan Trott also impressing for West Ham United Under-23s and England Under-20s, Cooper believes it is the agility and athleticism of the island’s goalkeepers that sets them apart.
“We’re naturally athletic and that plays a massive part,” he added. “Over the years, our goalkeepers have been very brave and they’re willing to make mistakes and learn from it.
“Goalkeepers are like outfield players with gloves on in the modern game. We have to get our young goalkeepers to be ready for that and I think we’re in a good spot right now.”
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