Hartpury has been at the heart of helping footballers to have a future after the beautiful game this week, hosting a top-level coaching course for current and former professionals.
The Professional Footballers Association (PFA) is running its UEFA B Level 3 coaching course at Hartpury for this first time, with participants working with students on the elite football programme at the college.
The course is only open to current and former professionals, and the participants include current Torquay United captain Lee Mansell and former Hartpury student, Ashley Malcolm, who is now coaching at West Bromwich Albion.
A number of current Hartpury students are also on the course, including former Aston Villa player Matt Roome, who is studying BSc Sports Coaching, and Dan Holloway and Rory Winters, who are on the Masters in Coaching Science programme.
Mike Cook, the PFA’s South West Coach Educator for football, is running the course, which starts with 10 days of initial training before the participants return to Hartpury in October for three further support days, completing 17 hours of coaching in the meantime – often with the youth section at their own clubs.
A former professional himself, Mike played for Coventry City, Cambridge United, Wycombe Wanderers and York City before being forced to give up playing through injury. He then took up a post as a community support development officer with Cheltenham Town before moving into more of a coach educator role.
He said: “Around 90% of people on the course will have finished their playing careers and this course is about opening their eyes to the opportunities available to them after professional football.
“Coming into a fantastic sporting environment like this helps them to see what direction they can take in life, whether that’s further courses or starting careers as teachers, coach educators or trainers in areas like fitness – in football or in any other sport.
“When they first start the course, they often have quite a narrow idea of what to expect, but it’s about much more than teaching them coaching methods. We cover psychology, philosophy, fitness and nutrition and it’s bang up to date.
“Often on a Monday, we’ll be looking at YouTube clips and social media activity around incidents that have happened at the weekend so they can see the relevance of what they are being taught and how it applies to real-life situations.
“This week, we’ve been looking at the women’s FA Cup final and thinking about the unique challenges and opportunities presented by the rapid growth of the women’s game and the protocols involved with that. We do our best to future-proof them.”
For Cook, the beauty of coaching the course at Hartpury is that it reinforces all the key messages he aims to get across on the course, as well as providing an inspirational base for the footballers.
“For many of the players, it’s been all about them for the last 20 years, and the course helps them take a more holistic approach, exactly like the ethos here at Hartpury,” said Cook.
“Many of these pros are likely to move into youth coaching or development roles, and they need to see a young person not just as a footballer or athlete but as the complete person with a range of needs.
“Hartpury offers a fantastic learning environment. You walk into any of the rooms here, whether it’s a teaching room or the coffee shop, and the images and messages make you feel pumped up. The students are made to feel like they are part of something really special and that’s inspirational to anyone who comes here.
“If you want to be the best, it’s great to come to an environment where everyone is striving to be the best. I know the participants have been hugely impressed by the facilities here, as have I, and we’ve had fantastic support from Senior Football Manager Marc Richards and Shaun Gluyas (Hartpury Sport lecturer).
“We run a lot of UEFA coaching courses at St George’s Park – the home of English football – and this environment is just as good. We’ll definitely be coming back next year.”
With the support of Hartpury’s Director of Football, Tom Radcliffe, the PFA is now making plans to run UEFA A Licence courses at Hartpury – an exciting development for the college.
“It has been a great experience hosting such a top-level coaching course at Hartpury and welcoming such high-calibre footballers and coach educators here,” said Radcliffe.
“It’s clear how much potential the participants have, including our own students on the course, and it’s been equally beneficial for the players on the elite programme to have access to current and former pros, many of whom have played hundreds of league games.
“It means they are benefiting from the very latest coaching techniques too. We would love for the PFA to run more UEFA courses here and we’ll continue to provide every support we can to ensure that happens.”