Jack Blake of the Real Monarchs has always been something of a YouTube aficionado.
Whether it was highlights of soccer players he liked or influencers who talked about health, fitness and nutrition when he was younger, much of Blake’s free time has been spent watching — and learning.
So when Blake eventually became a professional soccer player and moved to the United States to continue his career, people in his native England would ask about his job and what it was like living and playing in the U.S.
That’s when inspiration struck. He wanted to start a YouTube channel, much like those he already admired, focusing on the ins and outs of life as a professional soccer player.
“I wanted to put my energy into something that I could sort of give back to people back in England, but also across the world,” Blake said.
Blake, who is captain of the Monarchs, started his channel about two years ago when he was a member of the Tampa Bay Rowdies. It has almost 33,000 subscribers and qualifies for monetization.
When it comes to producing the videos on his channel, Blake is an autodidact. He’s never taken one class in video production or editing. He learned everything from watching his favorite YouTubers — including those who didn’t post about sports — and incorporated aspects of their videos into his own.
He learned how to edit video from YouTube. When he bought a drone to add to the production value of his work, he learned how to effectively record video with the unmanned aerial vehicle through YouTube tutorials.
Blake admits his videos didn’t have much of a direction at first.
“I was kind of all over the place in terms of the content I was putting out,” Blake said.
That changed relatively quickly as Blake made more videos and upped his editing chops. The general format of his productions consist of a cold open and title sequence followed by the bulk of the video. Topics include travel days, training sessions and nutrition. During the season, he uploads one to two videos a month. But with the USL season on hiatus due to the coronavirus, he posts about once a week.
Blake said there’s no difference between his on-camera persona and who he is when he’s not recording.
“When I’m on camera or whatever it is, I’m completely myself,” Blake said. “I don’t change on camera to be someone I’m not. The whole point of the channel is to be open and honest and show people my life, but also show people how you can improve as a player.”
Blake’s Monarchs teammates appear in his videos periodically. But he doesn’t like doing it often, unless he’s close to the player.
“I always ask their permission," Blake said. "But also, I don’t want to ... get involved in anyone’s personal space and all that stuff. I’m always careful to include people that are comfortable with it. But yeah, some of the players enjoy being in them.”
Blake’s son, Leo, and dog, Stan, also make frequent appearances.
Many of Blake’s videos are shot guerrilla style — him holding the camera while he talks or walks. For shots of him working out, the camera usually appears mounted. Sometimes a teammate or his wife will shoot video as he demonstrates what he packs for road trips or beats Maikel Chang in a pre-training round of pingpong.
Some videos, like the one he made about the Monarchs winning the USL Championship title, incorporates footage from the team. When a project calls for that, he gets permission, he said.
While Blake has become an adept YouTuber, he considers his videos more of a hobby than a potential money-maker — at least in the short term. Soccer is the game he loves and he wants to be involved in it as much as possible, including potentially coaching in the future.
And he hopes to teach people something along the way. That’s something he didn’t have access to when he was growing up and trying to succeed in soccer.
“I guess the goal for my channel is to put out content that I would have wanted to watch when I was younger,” Blake said. “So whether it’s things that I learned ... later in my career that I wish I’d known before — I’m putting out stuff almost for my younger self, if that makes sense. So what I would have wanted to watch.”