What are the chances of non ex pro’s actually working at the top level?  Very slim I imagine. I recently read an article article where Chris Earle, the new head of FA education discussed Steven Gerrard being put through his UEFA A Licence without having to complete his Level 1,2 or UEFA B Licence as these courses are very ‘time consuming’ (minimum 120 hours). Fortunate for Steven the FA decided to look at what skills he already possesses as a coach and have been able to offer him a ‘personalised individual route’ to the top. Earle then goes on to claim well if he knows about the player and knows about the game then thats good enough, “its not fast tracking its personalised learning”. I can only wish I was offered a personalised learning opportunity.

Cooke (2007) states that while there may be some advantages (gaining respect of athletes) elite level success as an athlete is no guarantee of being a quality coach. As a coach looking to progress up to the elite level after reading the article I really started to question is it really worth it? I’m spending £27,000 at university, paying for coaching qualifications to better myself as a coach and just because these athlete’s have played the game they are being handed coaching roles on a plate. I would say as a coach I know my players and know the game so why am I not being offered the opportunity to have a personalised individual route rather than having to complete each qualification funded by myself or kindly by the club I work for all the way to the top, which even then won’t guarantee myself a job.

At the beginning of the 2013/2014 season in England and Wales, 90 head coaches of the 92 men’s national professional football league clubs and 20 of the 22 men’s professional rugby union clubs had tenure as a professional elite player in their respective sports (Mielke, 2007). Therefore, highlights the importance of fast tracking opportunities for former elite athletes who dominate head coaching roles in professional sports clubs. Rynne (2014) defined ‘fast-tracking as the special concessions offered to former elite athletes so that their progress through formal accreditation structures is expedited. Fast tracking are usually based upon the assumption that the skills and knowledge acquired as a professional elite athlete, via practically embodied and informal learning contexts, are essential for the successful fulfilment of the elite head coach role (Kelly, 2008). This is something that I find difficult to understand, it seems to me that NGB’s have an expectancy from ex professional’s that there playing experience will make them better equipped to succeed as a coach than a grassroots’ coach or student looking to fulfil a career in the elite game.

Relating back to the article a common complaint amongst former players is that FA Qualifications are too academic and that sitting in the classroom for tens of hours being taught about the game they have spent up to 20 years playing is boring for them. Surely they need more of an academic understanding based around coaching rather than relaying on their experiences as a professional, I imagine a high percentage of ex professionals left school at 16 and therefore, will have limited exposure to academic studies and understanding of what coaching really is. Earle then goes on to outline ‘my job is to prepare a breed of coaches at the top level who can stand up against any other foreign coaches’, I really wonder what we would be like as a country if every coach was offered the opportunity to a personalised learning journey and not just the ex professionals who it seems already possess the majority of coaching tools in their box.

As a young coach it is pretty demotivating when I am investing hundreds of hours and money into my learning when ex professional are being provided with opportunities at the top just because they have played the game. I wonder why 18 year olds who have just finished school don’t get fast tracked to being teachers just because they’ve been in school for 13 years.


Cooke, G. (2007) Many paths to coaching, Sports Coach, 29(4), 24􏰀25.

Kelly, S. (2008). Understanding the role of the football manager in Britain and Ireland: A Weberian approach. European. Sport Management Quarterly, 8, 399–419. doi:10.1080/16184740802461652

Mielke, D. (2007). Coaching experience, playing experience and coaching tenure. International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching, 2, 105–108.

Rynne, S. (2014). ‘Fast track’ and ‘traditional path’ coaches: Affordances, agency and social capital. Sport, Education andSociety, 19, 299–313.





3 thoughts on “Are the pro’s are taking over

  1. Some good points really well made. There appears to be a lack of understanding about what theory actually is and how it helps coaches develop. I wonder if they believe that the higher the level of playing ability a player performed at the more coach education exemptions they will be credited. On that basis Messi is already a qualified coach.


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