My Coaching Journey from Cardiff to the UAE



My United Arab Emirates story begins in Cardiff, after I graduated with an Under Grad Honours degree in Sports Coaching in 2005.  Right throughout university life I coached alongside my studies to pay my way as I wasn’t one of the students funded by parents.  Working came naturally and fitting the coaching hours around my study, sports games and social schedule became a wonderful jigsaw puzzle of locations, changes of clothes and interacting with people of every age and class.

I decided the opportunities lay in London ahead of the Olympic Games which were to be held in the City in 2012, to my massive disappointment when I researched the school to club co-ordination job roles going I found none to help me get my foot through the door.  What to do? I used my lifeguarding qualification to get some job experience shining bannisters with baby oil in Covent Garden at the Sanctuary Spa, alas it wasn’t for me.  I found a swim job going in Kingston at a private health club, went for the interview and landed the coordinator position.  The 3 years that followed ensured I grasped the skills necessary to run a team of coaches in a professional environment with a very demanding clientele.

During my time at the Health Club the personal relationships with the staff and clients I developed took me from a basic level to exceptional – soon we were the top swim academy in the area and the waiting lists were in the 100s.  Pursuing further development enabling me to coach in the mornings I completed the Adult and Child qualification, it’s been over 10 years and I use it daily to earn my living alongside running my other ventures.  Investing in your career is one of the wisest moves any coach can make!





Roll on 2008 when the economy was booming and the coaching hours were abundant, everything came crashing down at the end of the year and following an unsuccessful mortgage application I decided to pack my bags for Dubai.  The reason? Plenty of sunshine, children and swimming pools, the tax-free money was a bonus!  It did mean having to start a new life, with no support, friends or knowledge of society, culture or laws.  There were no smartphone apps or google maps to help me get around it was a whole new world and the coaching skills I had under my belt were what was going to get me through this chapter.


So, it was like that, as single woman with a huge credit card bill, unsold car and no savings I spent my last pay cheque on a flight to the Middle East. It was HOT! So very, VERY HOT and within my first month the 50-degree heat had me in hospital with dehydration. The hustle was on, 7 days a week building up a client base by visiting pools, flyering cars in supermarket car parks, walking up and down the stairwells of the newly constructed skyscrapers dropping business cards under doors, talking to people, befriending lifeguards with cans of cola and cigarettes, and lastly but the best method – word of mouth from 1 client to 2, to 5 to 10 to 50 to 100!  It took about 6 months to get that far.

Two years for an event management company flew by and in that time one of my university pals who was coaching football in the States showed an interest in moving to Dubai.  It was at this point things began to get interesting. Once she arrived it didn’t take us long to devise a plan of setting up our own coaching company.  One that targeted a specific market, was owned and run by women for the women of UAE.  


Leaving the company, I originally signed up with was easier said than done, we were taken to Labour Court for attempting to set up a competitive company, in the UAE there are competition clauses in contracts which state that once you leave your employer at that point you could not for a period of 2 years set up a similar company.  It was a very nasty 3-month period of threatening calls, emails and unannounced visits to locations we coached, however, as we started from scratch with no original clients, all new locations and both had University degrees and British Passports we won our case and proceeded to set up our company.  We called it COACH DXB (DXB being the airport code for Dubai)

We decided to go offshore with the company set up and although we tried our best to research the pros and cons we found that over a 2-year period the costs of every aspect of setting up the business and running the enterprise had spiraling costs and we were also limited to just 5 employment visas.  After the first year, we had taken on three coaches and were looking to grow and take on more coaching venues.


Some of the pitfalls that new companies setting up offshore as Freezones should watch out for are

  1. Hidden Costs relating to any type of official document and many different documents are needed to process everything from bank accounts, to letters for venues and salary transfers
  2. The renewal costs of Freezones as well as the Cancellation Costs
  3. Paying the employees needed to go through a middle man incurring further costs
  4. The license often not registered to the Emirate you live in was not accepted in all Emirates some preferred not to do business with a Freezone but with an Economic Department License (this is with a local sponsor) instead.
  5. The holding of passports by the Freezone and the long duration it takes to process visas
  6. Lack of clear chain of command as often the middle – man is an office full of different people with a high turnover rate so speaking to the same person each time was unlikely.
  7. Lack of expertise by middle men; as many jobs in the Middle East go there is a very minimal entry level for administrators so many of our official documents were misspelt, not followed up or handed over to new staff and were lost in a paper trail.

For these reasons after 2 years as a Freezone we decided to pursue an Economic Department License and a Local Emirati Sponsor.  It meant we needed to change our name as all Geographical, Political and Religious Suffixes and Prefixes were reserved for local companies and not given to Expatriates.  We needed to also include the word Sport into our name as we were registered as a Sports Services Company.  The new name became COACH SPORT LLC.



Dawn VenturesBio: Dawn Ventures, born in London to Scottish and Greek parents, grew up in Zimbabwe and playing a variety of sports such as baseball, hockey, football, cricket, athletics, gymnastics and swimming.  Represented Under 18s and Under 21 Zimbabwe Field Hockey before moving to finish studies in the UK.  In Scotland represented the Scottish Midlands U21 team before deciding to go for Olympic Trials for the Greek National Field Hockey Team 2000-2004 (ahead of the Athens Olympic Games)  This was a team made up of International players sourced from countries all over the world including Australia, England, USA, Canada, Austria, Holland, Germany, France, South Africa and Greece.
During this time the Greek National team trained regularly every couple months and entered various European Indoor and Outdoor FIH tournaments gaining in team cohesion and working towards the shared goal of representing their national team at the Olympics Games where by each host nation was facilitated automatic home country entry for team sports.  Unfortunately due to mismanagement of funds and coaching staff the team was set up to play a play off just a couple months short of the Games and lost their place in the Games.  The painful experience of being a young player having your Olympic dream taken away after years of training and sacrifice was a very hard pill to swallow.
This spurred me on to pursue a career in coaching and early talent identification for a new generation who hopefully have the support of the governing bodies around them to fulfill their potentials.
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