UCFB students recently visited St. George’s Park, the training headquarters for all of England’s national teams, to attend the FA Talent Identification Conference. With theme of ‘disruptive thinking’, guest speakers were invited to explore the thinking behind potential, developing ways of identifying talent and lessons from different industries. Arjun Sharda, a BA (Hons) Sports Business & Coaching student, spoke to us afterwards to describe events on the day…

You recently attended the FA’s Talent ID Conference at St. George’s Park. Can you give us a brief overview of the day?

I met with my fellow UCFB students and UCFB staff member, Oli, where we were sat on a table with a number of ex-footballers who now work in recruitment for Blackpool and Stoke City. It was interesting to find out about their daily routines and what duties their jobs involved. Once we had all gotten to know each other, Mark Clemmit (BBC presenter and host for the day) introduced different guest speakers to the stage where we were able to have table discussions about each guest speaker. I found it really insightful to be able to understand different perspectives from the experienced scouts that were sat at my table.

This years’ conference was all about the idea of ‘disruptive thinking’, can you tell us a little more about that?

After listening to the guest speakers, my interpretation of disruptive thinking is that it’s a process which revolves around thinking outside the box in order to innovate. We were given different frameworks on methods to alter your thinking rather than the traditional route. This was really focused on when Kirk Vallis (Google Head of Creative) gave an example of how the idea of roll on deodorant was from the ball point pen, where the action of transforming ink to paper from a ball point pen allowed the innovative idea of roll on deodorant. This idea encourages us to think differently, and to try and use knowledge from alternative sports which could be implemented into football

UCFB host an annual conference at St. George’s Park, so we know first-hand how impressive it is! Can you describe what it’s like to experience England’s National Training centre for those who haven’t been lucky enough to visit?

It was a great experience arriving at St. George’s Park. I felt honoured to be at such an iconic venue amongst experienced scouts and representatives from various Premier League clubs. The complex is huge; it boats a vast amount of pitches and at lunch we were guided into the executive lounge which was a great experience.

You heard from the likes of Google Head of Creative, Kirk Vallis, and former Manchester United coach Paul McGuinness. Can you tell us what it was like to hear from so many speakers from different areas of the game discussing the idea of disruptive thinking?

Kirk Vallis was very interesting to engage with; I thought his perspective on life was very inspirational as he believed the way to improve performance is dependent on the errors you make and insights you have. For example, the connections you have and your creative thought process to resolve a solution, which as a first-year student I believe to be very useful. In addition, I also enjoyed Paul McGuinness’s insights. It was fascinating how he identified goal scorers on deception of a run, a willingness to get into awkward positions, timing, rearranging their body to adapt to the position of the ball and their bravery. We analysed real-life goal scorers on how they think, how they deceive opposition with their runs and what skills they use to beat an opponent. This method could be linked to Kirk’s belief of not always following the traditional way of thinking.

Can you tell us how your scholarship helps you in your studies and why you’d recommend potential UCFB students to apply for one?

I have the Coaching Access Scholarship and this provides me with the opportunity to experience different events such as this conference, where my travel expenses were paid for and it ultimately helps aid my individual development. I would strongly recommend applying for this scholarship as you will be provided with numerous opportunities to network, whilst you’ll also be able to meet some very influential people who may help you during your journey to work in the sports industry.

Ahead of the 15th January UCAS deadline, what would you say to students looking at applying to UCFB?

My message to students looking to apply to UCFB is that I’is a great way to get into the sports industry. As a first-year student, I have been able to network with the right people and gain knowledge through my experiences, which could also potentially help me in my academic journey at UCFB.