Sport case study

Simon Harris - BSc (Hons) Applied Sports Coaching Science 
FA Skills Coach -The English Football Association

Why did you choose to study sport at Newcastle College?

I had no interest in moving away from the North East and I knew that Newcastle College had good links with Newcastle United Foundation so that was a big draw for me. I wanted the real-life experience that the Foundation Degree offered and I ended up going all the way through to my full Honours Degree.

Did you have the opportunity to go on a work placement as part of your course/what skills have you gained as a result?

I had a placement with Newcastle United Foundation coaching young people in football skills and that played a massive part, huge in fact, in giving me the confidence to go into coaching as a career. It helped me get a foot in the door and set up valuable contacts. I also did some work on the ECFA at Blakelaw, working with challenging young people and did extra certification via a youth module- the tutors at Newcastle College were always advocating advancing your development and building up extra relevant qualifications. The course content was all relevant and gave me tips and transferable skills but I loved the practical element of the placements.

What are the staff at the College like?

Brilliant, I’m still in touch with some of them now and occasionally bump into them at coaching conferences. I took a lot from the teaching staff with regard to maintaining a positive attitude.

What was the highlight for you?

During the second year of my placement I was offered a job with the Newcastle United Foundation, so it was excellent to know I had paid work locked down before I’d even graduated. And Graduation too, that was a great day- celebrating with fantastic friends you realise that in addition to the course, the friends you’ve made are the added bonus. I actually met my best friend through the course; we bought houses next to each other and still see each other all of the time!

What’s Newcastle like as a student city?

It’s the best!  I think that’s why so many students flock here, there’s not a boring day in Newcastle. As well as all the restaurants, beach and night-time student haunts, there’s lots of facilities for independent study and research, like City Library in the city centre. I spent loads of time there whilst studying.

Now that you’re employed, what does your role entail?

As an FA skills coach there are two major sides to my job; PE class delivery in schools working to the national curriculum standards with 5-11 year olds and the Skill Centre workshops which are open access groups for kids to play and learn about football. On top of that the FA runs Skills Extra, which is an invite-only group to encourage higher ability players to prepare for professional academies. I get to work with a wide range of ages and abilities and it’s is great fun.

What are your plans for the future?

Each year I give myself a list of goals, last year it was to work with a semi-professional team, which I managed to do in Consett giving me more experience with more senior players. In the short term, I plan to complete my UEFA A licenses as I am currently at level B. Ultimately, I would love to become a football manager and who knows? I just keep on working hard!