Middlesex University had a good reputation for both its masters course in Strength and Conditioning and the quality of lecturers. At the time it was an emerging field and Middlesex was one of the first universities to run a course in this area. I had heard good things from former students and was also impressed by the university's links with industry.
I had studied strength and conditioning a little as part of my undergraduate degree but a masters in this area gave me the opportunity to build on this. It was quite a new area and the course gave me a qualification recognised by the UKSCA. I really liked the fact the course was relevant and being able to take what I was learning into work was an important factor for me.
The practical nature of the masters course was a massive positive for me. I was studying part time but Middlesex really made sure that the one day we spent on campus was made as effective as possible. We could study the theory in our own time so to spend our day on campus in lectures that were based in gyms and other sporting environments was brilliant as we really got to learn about the practical aspects. I think it is really important for all sports degrees to have practical elements as jobs like coaching aren't just based on the theoretical. You have to really focus on the human element.
The other students on the course and the links I forged with them. We are still in touch and bounce ideas off each other. As it is an emerging area, many of those who studied the course are quite high profile in league sport and some are now lecturers in the area so are up-to-date on all the latest research. It's really helpful to learn more about this from them.
My advice would be go out and get as much practical work experience as you can. You have to be able to apply what you have learnt in a pressurised environment. You need the theory, yes, but you have to build on this with practical experience.
It gave me more in-depth knowledge, allowed me to specialise in the area of strength and conditioning and increased my knowledge and practical competencies.
I played football at a good level when I was younger so always had an interest in sport. The area of strength and conditioning really interested me when I was studying for my undergraduate degree. I am now a coach so have stepped back from strength and conditioning but having knowledge in this area has certainly enhanced my coaching ability in terms of developing players.
On the plus side, it is fantastic to do what you love doing, witness the benefits and have a chance to be involved in developing young, aspiring athletes.
That said, a lot of people think professional football is all about kudos and glamour but the reality is that it's hard work, long hours and there are heavy administrative duties. You also have to be able to deal with all sorts of personalities as it's a pressurised environment so tempers can fray.
I got my foot on the career ladder thanks to a coach who had coached me when I was playing football. When I finished my undergraduate degree, he gave me a chance to work at Luton and I stayed on.
When we took one of our young teams to a major European tournament last year and they beat Bayern Munich in the quarter finals. That was a big moment for me!
Who knows! In football there isn't necessarily a definitive path so it is important to keep options open, keep developing and take advantage of opportunities that come your way.
Experience is key. You really have to practice what you have learnt and put your knowledge to good use by actually working with athletes.
CPD (Continuing Professional Development) is also really important. Coaching and player development is evolving all the time so it is important to keep up with the latest scientific rationale and theory. If you don't keep up-to-date, others who have can get ahead of you.
Lastly, I would say that when you are working in a sporting environment, it is all about people so you really need to develop your people skills. You can have all of the knowledge and theory but without decent people skills, you won't.