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Thursday 7 August 2014

Football Studies graduate talks landing his dream job

Here, Jack Thurlow talks about his time studying on Southampton Solent University’s BA (Hons) Football Studies programme, and explains how he landed his dream job as a full time skills coach.


I recently landed my dream job as a full-time skills coach with Essex County Football Association as part of the Sport England funded FA Skills Programme. My job is to give young children a quality introduction to sport and make them understand that sport is fun.

Focusing particularly on girls’ football, I’ll provide specialist coaching in primary schools for 5-11 year olds, run after-school sessions for young children in skills centres and coach local grassroots Charter Standard clubs.

The FA Skills Programme is recognised as a life changing scheme. It’s made a difference to students’ grades and helped kids to get away from the TV and enjoy playing sport. I’ve been coaching since I was 15 and it’s always been a dream for me to work in the football industry, particularly for the FA, and this is a fantastic programme to be involved in.

Sky Sports Fantasy Football – through my work at Hampshire FA

My lecturers and the Sport Solent staff at Solent University, namely Matthew Bishop and Julia Tucker-Blackford, were instrumental in me getting the role. As part of a guest lecture from Hampshire FA, organised by senior lecturer Tracey Bourne, they told us about a volunteering opportunity with them.

Over 20 people applied, 5 were interviewed and I actually didn’t get the role. But the FA saw I was willing and gave me some other work to do for them on the side. By the end of the year I’d worked really hard and gained more responsibility than the volunteer had. I was a mentee of the FA Skills Programme from my second year and it was a combination of this and my voluntary work with Hampshire FA that helped me to get my full-time coaching role.

Previously, through the ‘Mars Just Play!’ initiative, I worked as a volunteer with Chamberlayne Athletic Football Club. When I arrived at the Charter Standard club, it had 10 male teams and the Charter Standard (youth) award. Through my work, particularly in women’s football, the club now has 17 teams, including 1 women’s and 2 girls’ teams, and have achieved the Community Charter Standard Award. I created a brand new ladies 11-a-side team in the 2013/14 season which competes in a Ladies Monthly League.

Chamberlyne Athletic Ladies FC collecting their trophies

As Head Coach I organised kit sponsorship, training sessions, fixtures, and worked closely with the players which really helped me to develop my ability to build relationships with people and encourage them to enjoy sport. Due to the success of the first season, other players joined and formed a new team within the club in the same division.

At a time when adult football was declining this was a huge achievement. But it wasn’t always easy. At one stage I only had 1 player signed up and I felt like it wasn’t going to work out, but my never give up attitude kicked in and I gave it another big push which got the numbers in and the team up and running.

Chamberlyne Athletic Ladies FC in their brand new Adidas kit

My Football Studies degree from Solent taught me the technical side of coaching but I really honed my abilities through volunteering and actually working with both adults and children in coaching situations to see how my technique worked in action.

My advice to anyone would be to work hard in your degree, but also make sure you get your name out there; volunteer as much as you can and do whatever you can. No matter what happens, never give up.

It was because of Solent that I managed to get the links to be where I am now but my volunteering work helped so much. I’ve endured some tough times and things did not always go swimmingly well for me. Don’t dwell on the mistakes you make, learn from them as this will help you move forward in life.

I’ve always wanted to go out and really make a difference and improve lives. I’ve just returned from Arsenal School in Kuwait where I’ve been coaching children aged 4-17 years using FA Future Game resources and now I’m about to start a full-time paid job with the FA before I’ve even officially graduated. This job is a dream come true and I’m really looking forward to it.