Despite the well reported troubles at Bolton Wanderers in recent years, football operations have continued behind the scenes at youth level. Amongst the coaching staff is UCFB graduate Adam Cooper who works at the League One club as a Foundation Phase Coach. Here, the BA (Hons) Football Coaching & Management graduate tells us more about the role of a youth level coach and his time at UCFB…

How long have you been working for Bolton Wanderers Community Trust and what does your job entail?

I've been working at the Community Trust in changing capacities since 2016, the year I began my undergraduate degree with UCFB. Similar to many coaches within football, this seems to be a natural starting point in the profession. My current role has a variety of responsibilities, though mainly I oversee the grassroots provision which entails delivering coach CPD events (one of which was exclusively for UCFB Etihad Campus students earlier this year), facilitating the engagement of our coaches with local grassroots clubs and providing these clubs with sessions/experiences on match-days. In addition to this, I also oversee the Foundation Phase of our development squads (U8-U11) whilst also coaching the U14/U15 development squads. Further to this, a large proportion of my role is also taken up working within the Foundation Phase at Bolton Wanderers Academy, helping to develop players currently within the age group I coach. This combination has been ideal to develop my knowledge and experience base over a range of areas, particularly within coach education which has been a huge learning curve over the past year. Prior to my current roles, through the Trust, I have also had the opportunity to coach with the Bolton Wanderers International Football Programme, both domestically through coaching teams on tours from abroad, and also internationally when representing the club in Philadelphia.


What does a typical day look like for you?

A typical day for me is ever-changing, especially with the opportunity to pick up some priceless hours working within the first-team environment since January on several weekday mornings through pre-match/opposition analysis. On these mornings, I've reported to the training ground early and throughout the week produced a pre-match report to provide to the manager and coaching staff by analysing our upcoming opposition. However, typical weekdays will often consist of sessions within the community setting during the day or preparation for other events through office time at the stadium. The late afternoon and evenings will almost always consist of several hours of coaching delivery; this will either be with the academy group I am currently with or with our development squads at Bolton Wanderers. On weekends it is a different picture. Saturdays consist of academy training in the morning with attendance at the first team game in the afternoon, whilst Sundays are match-day for the academy teams.

With an organisation like the foundation, how important is networking and building contacts when working in the football and sports industry?

I think regardless of the setting networking and building contacts is essential, particularly for coaches who aspire to develop and refine their coaching ability. This development of connections and a support base can be vital not only for progression, but also to have reliable people to bounce off should you ever need help or are going through difficult periods and situations. From a personal perspective, I really enjoy going to observe other coaches, both internally through the club, and externally through developing relationships with others. This can be beneficial for any coaches looking to learn as much as they can and it has certainly been a big factor in my own development pathway so far.


As well as working for the foundation, you also coach Irlam FC U18s. How are you finding this role?

I've really enjoyed this role since starting at the beginning of the season. Working with an age group within the Professional Development Phase is something that I had previously never experienced, apart from working with one of the teams at UCFB, and has been a thoroughly enjoyable process. Throughout the season we’ve had to the opportunity to compete in the FA Youth Cup and were looking in really good shape in the league as well. This role has particularly highlighted the difference when working with different age groups and having the ability to coach a group of players at a very good level each week has been extremely beneficial. I'm looking to continue this role into next season, with some good plans in place to help players develop and reach their potential which will hopefully ensure a successful year!

What skills have you been able to take into the workplace that you learnt during your time at UCFB?

UCFB taught me a lot, with the most valuable lessons being the ones taken from lecturers and guest speakers who possess the experience and knowledge within a footballing environment. These are the insights that UCFB are able to create, not only through their guest speaker series, but also through guest lecturers in each programme such as academy or first-team coaches. There are also some fantastic opportunities that UCFB can provide; I was able to coach during the summer of 2018 with the Long Island Rough Riders through connections that UCFB had developed which helped improve my coaching ability. Fundamentally, UCFB provided a really good underpinning of the football coaching and management environment during my degree, combining practical and academic experience well.

What advice can you give to prospective students thinking about studying a degree at UCFB?

My advice for prospective students would be that if you are looking to pursue a career within the sports industry, then UCFB is the place for you. But don’t think that a degree alone will be enough to set you apart; try to use the connections that UCFB have and develop your own as well to progress both academically and in your chosen field throughout your degree. This will put you in a fantastic position at the end of your UCFB journey. My key advice, though, would be to have a relentless work ethic, always look to assess your own ability and identify areas to improve. By doing this you can ensure your own constant improvement which will help you stand apart from others that you’re competing against.