By David Horrocks, MSc Football Coaching & Analysis programme leader at UCFB Etihad Campus

Sensible Soccer chairman and Central Coast Mariners sporting director Mike Phelan this week delivered a higher education masterclass to third year coaching students at UCFB Etihad Campus.

The day opened up with a discussion on the elite performance culture and environment with a Q&A focused on Phelan’s Manchester United years, including Sir Alex Ferguson’s working practice and the handling of elite players such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Paul Scholes and Dimitar Berbatov, to name a few.

UCFB academics Tom Wenham and David Horrocks, who are BA (Hons) Football Coaching and Management and BA (Hons) Football Business and Coaching module leaders respectively, commented: “This really brings to life the students’ studies, adds practicality to the theoretical journal articles we have studied this week and gives our students a real shot in the arm as they work towards assignment one – designing and evaluating a coaching intervention .”

Students then took part in a session dealing with a day in the life of a Premier League football club and the evaluation and preparation with regard to a past and future fixture. Scenarios were evaluated using real match footage, and tasks were set asking students how they would analyse and reflect on a game and how they would coach going into the next fixture and why. The icing on the cake was the students then being taken onto the full size pitch at Belle Vue and taking part in a real life Premier League football training session.

Wenham, who’s also the head coach for England Lacrosse, added: “This was a great experience for our students, and it was amazing to see the coaching process unfold and the performance of the students improve before our eyes over the 45 minutes. It’s fascinating to be able to observe one of the world’s greatest coaches in action at such close quarters. This was a unique experience for all concerned and a day these budding young coaches won’t forget.”

This year the students are working towards their level six understanding of holistic coaching, elite environments and interventions in elite level football. Many also pressed Phelan about their impending dissertations, and a broad range of topics were raised and discussed in what all in all proved to be an invaluable day of curriculum enrichment.

About the author

David has recently submitted a PhD thesis on elite performance completed with players and staff from Manchester United. The thesis has two published papers to date: Manchester United and Serial Winning, and Gary Neville – A Case Study. David also has a first class degree in Sport Psychology from the University of Central Lancashire.