Student: Ceri Bowley
Company: Welsh Football Trust
Academic Supervisor: Ian Mitchell
I felt that doing a PhD would give me something that nobody else had, giving me an area of expertise within the game of football: Although my project was based at grassroots level, a lot of the work can be applied to the professional game.
My KESS project is a collaboration between Cardiff Metropolitan University and the Welsh Football Trust. The project focusses on life skills development and resilient coping within adolescent footballers at a grassroots level, working with clubs but also with coaches. The aim is to develop a coaching education programme that will educate coaches within the Welsh Football Trust to then be able to go out and integrate the life skill and resilient coping development within their coaching.
I’ve attended a couple of conferences and have been invited to a big one in America in January. I went to this conference last year as a delegate, and over 10,000 coaches pass through in 10 days. The KESS budget is something that is really helping with these types of additional activities.
I think there’s value in going out to the industry first, before thinking about coming back to an academic career.
There is great interest in the work that I have been doing from the Football Association (FA), They have even mentioned the possibility that a similar project could be rolled out with the FA post PhD, which for me would be fantastic exposure.
There is a need for the programme because there is very little emphasis on social development and psychological development and general personal development of young players; a lot of the coaching courses have been geared around the technical and tactical. As part of the project we consulted with key stakeholders at the grassroots level, through focus group interviews. I was able to identify what life skills were, why they were important, which ones were important for adolescence and which ones could be developed for football. That, accompanied by the research, is the intervention programme that has been developed. The programme focusses on the education of coaches, raising awareness around life skills, along with how they can be used in a practical coaching environment.
I now have a better awareness of other people’s workloads.
I’ve learned that I need three or four different hats for what I want to do based on timescales and access, and other people’s input, such as my academic supervisors and the company partner.
Communication is crucial in terms of keeping everybody in the loop, and I’ve learned that less is sometimes more. Pestering the partner about the small things may mean that they miss the really important queries.
Key organisational skills are linked to managing workload and advertising.
The coaches were surprised by the expectations of players and parents when taking part in football at a young age, it was powerful to have a slide with percentages of responses where social skills, respect, discipline, personal control and football skills were at the fore.
Social skills came out on top, this again was very powerful for us in selling the intervention to the Welsh Football Trust. There were one or two of the coaches who challenged the results, we asked those coaches to contact the parents of their players to find out why they got involved, and they came back with the answers that we had from the study.
What makes KESS different to other PhDs is the integrated approach to the study, being able to see the results as they develop, and working in a real life setting.
When I’m speaking to potential employers I can mention that I’ve developed this programme as part of my PhD, and that the programme is being delivered by the Welsh Football Trust, I think that certainly adds value.