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Hnd Work Experience: Placement Journal

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    I completed my 40 hours work placement at Stourbridge College working with the college’s Football Academy. I worked with all of the college’s teams; however my main focus was with their A-team. The college has a link with Redhill Secondary School and this gave me the opportunity to assist with coaching the year 7, 8 and 9 year groups at the school.

    I completed the placement during the months of September to December, coaching and assisting the college A-team on a Wednesday and the Redhill pupils on a Friday. My mentor throughout the placement was Andrew Blakeley, a Stourbridge college lecturer and head coach within the academy. I decided to work with Stourbridge College Football Academy because I wanted to learn a lot more about coaching within a team set-up and about the organisation that is needed within a team. I also wanted to learn more about the contrast between the two different age groups and the variety of skills needed to coach school-age pupils and college students.

    I was keen to gain further knowledge of coaching and build possible career links with the above establishments. It was also convenient for me as I study at the college two days a week, and already knew the mentor through my course. The purpose of this assignment is to discover and understand what I learnt through undertaking this work experience. I would like to focus on the skills I already possessed before the placement began, and how I developed these, as well as the new skills I gained.

    I will reflect on my experience and try to understand and conclude what positive outcomes have resulted from it. I have identified the occupational sector I chose to do my work experience in as being ‘sports coaching’, and in particular, football coaching. According to the Football Association (2004) a football coach’s role and responsibilities are to gain the admiration of players, take sensible care of players, plan and prepare themselves well for sessions in order to achieve the session’s aims, manage other coaches efficiently and ensure a safe playing environment.

    I firmly believe that the coach’s role is not just to be a skilled and knowledgeable technician in terms of football skills, although this is obviously very important, but also to be a role model for the players with the overall aim of helping them to learn and better themselves. A coach can take on many different roles throughout their careers such as “a fitness trainer, a social worker, a motivator, a disciplinarian, a friend, a journalist, a mentor, a manager and an administrator” (The Football Association, 2004, pg. 2).

    In addition, Mair et. l (1986) stresses the need for willingness and dedication on the part of the coach, both physically and psychologically as well as socially. All of these are potential requirements of a football coach and anyone thinking of following this career path must be prepared for these and ensure that their skills match these needs. My placement was undertaken at Stourbridge College, which is a Further Education College, catering for 16 – 18 year olds. My mentor at the college, Andrew Blakeley, works full-time as the Programme Area Manager for Sport.

    This is Andrew’s main job and the work that he does to manage the football academy is done on a voluntary basis. Andrew is a level three qualified football coach, who plays semi-professional football for Dudley Sports FC. In order to have a career within football coaching or management, it is important that you have the relevant coaching qualifications. The Football Association (2003) suggest that the primary step needed to become a qualified coach would be to enrol on an FA coaching course which take place at various venues throughout the country.

    The first step on the coaching ladder is the FA Level 1 Club Coach. Within this course the participant undertakes various aspects of sports coaching, including emergency first aid, child protection and basic laws of the game. Progression after the level one course would be to undertake level two which further enhances the coach’s knowledge of the game and practical skills. However, in order to work at a professional or elite level, it is necessary to undertake the Level 3/UEFA B course and then the UEFA Pro-license coaching badge.

    There are other FA coaching courses available in other disciplines such as goalkeeping, disability coaching and fitness and nutrition to ensure the coach’s continuing professional development. For those that wish to study coaching and sport at a higher level there is also the higher education route, with courses such as a higher national diploma or degree in sports coaching and management or sports coaching science now available.

    Sports coaching and management is a growing area of the sports industry occupational sector and many of these courses are now being set up, aimed at people with a particular interest and enthusiasm for sports in both a coaching and management context perspective (University of Worcester, 2007). Recently I have undertaken a career planning exercise, which can be found in appendix four. As part of this I made good use of the Prospects careers website to consider whether this is the career choice for me.

    The website includes a personal career planner that makes an assessment about your suitability for a job, taking into account your skills, characteristics and motivational factors. I discovered that my skills and motivational profile are a good match for a sports coaching or instructor job (again, see appendix four). However a concern that I now have with this career path is the stability and security of the job. Prospects (2008) says that having long term security of employment or working within a stable organization is rated as poor within this career area.

    This can be seen within all levels of football coaching, from the premier league to grass roots. This is a concern for me as I want to have security with a job. I also have a keen interest in sports development, so it maybe that I only pursue a part-time career within coaching and focus on sports development as my main job. This is listed as good for job security, so may be a better option for me. Whilst undertaking the Prospects career planner test, another point of concern for me was that the financial reward score for a sports coach was listed as ‘ok’.

    Prospects (2008) suggests that the potential for a higher than average graduate income is poor. There is little or no chance of experiencing any other benefits either, such as profit sharing or bonuses. On the other hand, whilst undertaking my research I came across two contrasting jobs, in terms of pay and responsibility.

    The first was a West Bromwich Albion community coach vacancy, with a salary of  14,000 to  16,000 and the next job was the football foundation Writhlington Trust development officer, which comes with a salary of  23,000 to  6,000 (copies of both of these can be found in appendix four). This research was useful as it has shown me that there are some very good jobs around within the areas of football coaching and development which I could apply for after university and would be suitable for me in terms of payment and being full-time positions. As a person and as a coach I believe I had a lot to offer to the academy and to Andrew in ensuring that the placement was a success for both parties. Prior to the placement I undertook an ELLI Profile test and a SWOTPLOT test in order to identify my strongest skills and weaknesses.

    The Elli profile test is designed to identify the seven dimensions which highlight a person’s motivation or power to learn; Changing and Learning, Meaning Making, Curiosity, Creativity, Learning Relationships, Resilience and Strategic Awareness (ELOISE, 2008). My test result showed that I am a rounded individual with high scores for strategic awareness, learning relationships and changing and learning (see appendix six for my results). This meant that I see learning as something that I can get better at, that I learn from my past, hope to improve in the future and that I take ownership of my learning.

    I think that this was evident during my placement as I was keen to learn and always showed willingness and enthusiasm. The SWOTPLOT test allows you to set out your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, giving you a snapshot of your current skills base and how it might be improved upon. Lee-Davies and Bailey (2007) suggests that this “test will position individuals, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and opposing threats. Undertaking this test will show what skills you have to work and areas for improvement.

    As a result of my SWOTPLOT I discovered that there are lots of things I can do to enhance my current skills and to build upon my weaknesses. The SWOTPLOT and resulting key action points can be seen in appendix seven. Through performing these tests, I can now improve my skills with the long-term aim of gaining knowledge and improving my job prospects. As part of the SWOTPLOT I came to realise that analysing my strengths is something I need to do in order to build my confidence, as I struggle with low self-esteem.

    As an individual the personal qualities I felt I could I could offer my placement and Andrew were creativity, flexibility and practicality. Upon reflection now that the placement is complete, I feel I used all of the above qualities. I was often responsible for the warm-ups and drills for both the college A-team and the Redhill pupils; this gave me the opportunity to demonstrate my creativity. This leads me to flexibility, as I showed that I could adapt my warm ups to suit both age groups and abilities in order to improve their performances.

    To achieve my aims I had to be practically minded. I had to demonstrate that I could use the right equipment and know how to use it to maximise the player’s experiences, as well as ensuring that the player’s were organised properly and that good use of the space available was made. For example I had to ensure that we did not use too many cones which could potentially complicate the drills or use the wrong size football for the age group. Upon reflection a skill that it would have been useful to have prior to the placement would have been analytical skills.

    Smith et al (1997) states that: “Sports analysis in coaching is the use of analysis to help evaluate performer’s needs and improve their own personal effectiveness” (pg. 1). Janeira et al (1999; cited in De Rose Jr. , 2004) also suggests that the use of analysis will help improve and further enhance performers’ skills and techniques. This is obviously very important in football in terms of spotting mistakes and making changes to a player’s technique, developing tactics, executing drills, and evaluating playing positions and player development to name but a few.

    It is obviously therefore an important skill for me to develop; I had the opportunity to do this over the period of the placement as I had the chance to make suggestions on playing positions and team tactics whilst being advised by my mentor. In conjunction with my placement, I also undertook a performance analysis module in which I learnt aspects of performance within sports, why performance analysis is important in sport, analysis methods and why analysis records are important for coaches.

    In order for a football coach to be successful, they require specific skills, for example, they must be fairly good at playing football, have a good knowledge of the game and its laws. I think that the most important of the subject specific skills I had to offer was my football playing and demonstrating ability. Good coaches do not have to be able to demonstrate a skill, such as a long pass, yet this is something I like to do. I get involved and I enjoy the physical side of coaching such as the running and demonstrating the skills for others to understand.

    In addition I am a qualified FA level 7 referee, which is an important skill to have as a football coach as I can ensure that the players are aware of, and abide by, the rules of the game. There are also skills that are required in other areas as well as within coaching, these are known as transferable skills, which can be used in and out of the workplace, for example organisation, leadership and team-work To succeed as a coach and within everyday life, organisation is probably one of the most important skills needed.

    Within my personal life it is important that I organise my time properly in order to complete all my university work on time, whilst also juggling all of my other commitments. This skill is also required in the coaching side of my life as I must ensure that my coaching files are organised and that I have the time to undertake the paper work for each coaching session. Before the placement I felt that organisation was something I was quite good at, and upon reflection I feel that I am now even better at this as a result of the experience.

    Undertaking the placement meant that my commitments increased and I had to be even more organised than normal in order to get everything done, and stay on track with my job and my university work. Leadership is also an important skill in the coaching sector which can be transferred to my personal life. As a coach the players and perhaps even other coaches will look up to you, for example if your team is not performing to their normal standard players may look to you for guidance.

    It is important that a good coach has the confidence and the skills required in order to take charge of a situation. This can also be applied to my university work, particularly in the case of group work, a common feature of my course, where it is important that I am able to take charge of the group and help us to reach sensible decisions on a timely basis. Being able to demonstrate good leadership skills is essential to gaining responsibility in any occupational area, so this will stand me in good stead for any career path I choose.

    In terms of leading other coaches I had little opportunity to develop my leadership skills as part of this work placement as I was seen as a junior member of the coaching team. However, as I was often in charge of college students very close to me in age, I feel that I was still able to develop this skill to some degree. Finally, the ability to work as part of a team is an essential skill a coach must possess. Every coach at every level from the premier league down to grass roots has to work with other people as part of a team in order to be successful in reaching their goals.

    Players, player’s parents and families, other coaching staff and supporters are all part of the process that results in the successful coaching of a team. It is therefore vital that the coach has excellent communication skills and is able to work well within a team (Martens, 1987, cited in Cale and Forzoni, 2004). This is a skill that I have previously developed through part-time work in the retail sector, and which I am still developing through my coaching work. As part of this placement I worked within a team of four people, and it was important that I communicated well with them.

    This placement has allowed me to further develop this skill which is easily transferable to many occupational sectors and again, will stand me in good stead for the future. On a professional level, working within the college football academy was a new coaching experience for me. In the past I have worked with individuals, toddlers, children, adults and small groups, however never within a college team or even an academy set-up. I found my time within the academy to be similar to the above in terms of writing session plans and undertaking warm ups and cool downs.

    However, the main difference I found was that there was greater work involved in organising the players, officials, kit, venue, team training, tactics and most importantly the handling of players. It was a new professional experience for me learning how to motivate players of this age and ability, encouraging them and also disciplining them if needed. As I am only four years older than some of them, I found it professionally challenging to get a good balance between being a friend and being their coach, a situation I had not found myself in previously.

    In the future I would like to work within football coaching, whether at an elite level, with local authorities and academies or even within local schools, so this placement was a good career move for me. I have decided to enrol on a Level 3/UEFA B coaching course in order to enhance my knowledge and to further my prospects in this career area. In addition, during my time with the academy a brand new football development facility was opened at Redhill Secondary School, a venue used by the academy, which is in partnership with West Bromwich Albion Football Club.

    I was honoured to be asked to help with the launch of this facility and this gave me the opportunity to coach alongside professional West Bromwich Albion football coaches. As a result, coaches from the academy and the facility recommended me to the club, and subsequently West Bromwich Albion have arranged a meeting with me to discuss the possibility of me undertaking some coaching work with them. This is a fantastic career opportunity for me, and I am hoping that this may lead to me being able to undertake some additional coaching courses, such as goalkeeping levels one and two, disability oaching, nutrition, fitness and refresher courses.

    In the meantime I plan to continue with my HND and have ambitions to “top up” with a degree by completing a third year in order to further my knowledge of sports coaching and improve my career prospects. Conclusion Looking back on my placement I think it was a very good experience for me in terms of my coaching, personal and professional development. I think that the experience was a success for both parties, and I hope to continue coaching with the academy as often as I am able to.

    In my final observation Andrew stated how well I got on with the students and pupils at both Stourbridge College and at Redhill School. The reason behind this is that I believe that in order to be successful a coach needs to try and gain the respect of the players or group that he or she is coaching. This is also suggested by Portrac et al. (2002) who found that coaching practices are often influenced by the coach’s need to establish a strong social bond between themselves and their players; a bond which is based upon the players’ respect for their coach’s professional knowledge and personal manner. I always maintain a professional approach when coaching and look forward to developing my professional knowledge further.

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