ST. PETERSBURG — Tampa Bay Rowdies head coach Neill Collins is taking a UEFA professional licensing course through the Scottish Football Association.
It's a two-year process that will certify him to coach at the highest level of European soccer. Collins, a native of Scotland, signed a multi-year contract extension this offseason, so he's in no hurry to leave. But like any player, he wants to keep testing himself to reach his full potential.
"You want to push yourself, to test yourself against the best. It’s no different here," Collins said after practice. "I have to say, I’m at the best club I think, in America. Working for the best president, the best owners. So I don’t take that for granted. I just want to keep trying to repay their faith."
Some of Collins "homework" included interviewing a coach or manager in a sport other than soccer. He chose Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash. Collins said their sports are completely different, but the leadership principles are the same.
"The biggest thing he spoke about was trying to be consistent," Collins said. "People want to know what they’re going to get from a leader. Trying my best to do that with the messages and how we want to approach things on and off the field. So it was really valuable."
Collins, 38, has been doing most of his certification work via Zoom. But next week, he'll fly back to Scotland for more training. The bad news is he'll have to miss the Rowdies' next two home games on April 5th and April 8th. Collins said he'll be watching the games and keep in constant contact with the team.
"I’ve got a great staff in place, a great group of players. We miss players from time to time. The players step in and do the job. The staff will do the same. Of course, it’ll be nice to hear some familiar accents for a change."
Collins hasn't been to his home country since he came to the Rowdies as a player in 2016, so he can't wait to see a few familiar faces in person.
"It’s not ideal to have to go back during the season," he added. "Ultimately, it’ll be great to get an opportunity to see some of my family. Go back to the best nation in the world, haha!"
The Rowdies travel to Oakland, CA for a Saturday night match-up with Oakland Roots SC. Kickoff is set for 10 P.M. Eastern on ESPN+.