From Fareham and Fratton to becoming a globe trotter – the story of footballing coach and scout Jaymee Highcock

Jaymee Highcock found himself in the precarious position of not knowing what the future held for him after his Aldershot release.

Thursday, 18th March 2021, 12:54 pm
Loving life in the USA - Jaymee Highcock, left, with Liam Kelly, son of Pompey's player development manager Mark

Delivered the damaging news that the Hampshire club would be letting him go, the youth team scholar, who hails from Fareham, didn't have any idea of what to do next.

He briefly joined his hometown club in the Wessex League to continue playing while assessing what work or education route to go down.

But then, unbeknown to him at the time, his big break would arrive as he secured a scholarship deal to move to America as a 19-year-old in 2007.

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A general view of the US Virgin Islands, where Jaymee Highcock had a spell coaching the national women's football team. Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Dreamweaver.

Initially, Highcock had planned on staying in the States 'for a few months' to complete the season, but 14 years on and he remains in the country and very much still involved in football.

The former Henry Cort pupil is thriving after taking the step into coaching at university level on the other side of the Atlantic.

Still only 32, Highcock turned around the fortunes of William Penn University in Iowa during a highly successful five-year spell as head coach of the men's and women's team.

His outstanding work did not go unnoticed and in March last year he took up an assistant head coach role at Fairleigh Dickinson University, New Jersey.

Jaymee Highcock taking a women's football coaching session in the US Virgin Islands

But as his managerial stock continues to rise, Highcock doesn’t forget where he came from and how things looked for him after leaving Aldershot.

And he wants his story to inspire players in and around the Portsmouth area released from a professional club to at least consider trying to reignite their careers in the States.

‘We’re trying to help out a lot of players on the south coast who are getting released from professional clubs, so if they’re getting released from Portsmouth we want to give them an opportunity to come out here,' Highcock told The News.

‘Back in 2007 I got released from Aldershot on a YTS (youth team scholarship) and had the opportunity to come out to America on a scholarship. I was only planning on coming out for a season.

'We want to help kids on the south coast. If they’re from Portsmouth, Southampton, Bournemouth or Brighton, or if they get released from Havant - I want them to be able to feel free to just call me.

‘I academically wasn’t the greatest but I managed to get a degree and a Masters degree and living in America is amazing.

'I would like to help players as a person so if it’s not my university but it’s something you want to do ... I’ve been out here for 12/13 years so I could offer some advice.'

Highcock still has a close connection to the area where he grew up with his father living in Fratton.

He has built up a close relationship with Pompey and Liam Kelly - son of Blues' player development manager Mark - studying and working under the former Fareham player at Fairleigh Dickinson.

In his current role as an assistant head coach, Highcock is heavily involved in the university's global scouting search.

But with his Pompey roots still strong, he is keen to get the message to prospects across the south coast of the career path that's possible in the US.

‘It’s been fantastic. I’ve been around the country, been around the world, we go around the world recruiting,' said Highcock.

‘We go everywhere (scouting), a lot of the time we go to the Carribean, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Brazil.

‘I’m really just trying to help people from where I came from out.

'When I go home, we meet with the kids who are getting released from Bournemouth, Portsmouth or whoever.

'We recruit guys from Newcastle, one of my friends is a youth coach at Man United.

'We’ve got lots of connections in the UK, it’s not just the south coast, but that’s where I try to focus.'

Highcock is proof that even if things don't work out on the playing side there are other options in America.

When he realised he wasn't 'quite good enough' to reach the MLS, he went down the coaching route.

It was a good choice as he helped William Penn become a major force in NAIA football, guiding them to the national finals for the first time in the school's history along with breaking other long-standing records in his five-year stint as head coach.

Highcock's CV also includes spells coaching at national level. He was briefly assistant manager of the Antigua women's team as well as holding the part-time head coach role of the US Virgin Islands women's side.

But now his sole focus is the men's group at Fairleigh Dickinson. Although taking the role meant he went from head coach to an assistant, he explained it was a progressive career move.

And Highcock, who acquired his UEFA B licence last year, refused to rule out returning to England to manage.

He said: ‘I’m really enjoying it (at Fairleigh Dickinson). I’m learning a lot, there’s a lot of responsibility, lots of recruiting to do and I run 95 per cent of the training sessions.

‘I always tell people it would be the equivalent of managing Portsmouth in League One to going and taking the assistant job at Arsenal, it’s something like that.

‘That would have been the jump, it just explains the jump a little bit.

‘I would like to be a head college coach again for a university, that is the goal.

‘I’ve never ruled out the pro game, I’ve had options to go into it, whether that’s here in America or overseas - I have done my UEFA badges, I’ve completed my UEFA B which I did in Northern Ireland last year.

‘It puts me in good stead to join the professional game but it’s just difficult with the lifestyle, job security and opportunities in America.'