Jim Hicks is head of coaching at the PFA Charity and has been with the organisation for 17 years. Throughout the year, Jim’s team deliver coaching courses all over the country to male and female players as well as scholars, opening up a pathway into a possible career in coaching. Here, we caught up with Jim to find out more about how this key department operates, and what their hopes are for 2020.
Hi Jim, what has been the biggest achievement this year for the coaching department?
Nine out of ten people who come onto our Level 2 coaching course complete it, and maintaining that percentage year-on-year is no easy thing. When you’ve got a 90% pass rate, you know you’ve equipped people to go out and work within the world of football, and to me that’s a success.
How important is diversity in coaching?
Over the last 25 years as the coaching department has evolved, we’ve become more diverse. We have 15 coaches in our team, four of them come from a BAME community, with one a former England Women’s international.
When we line up for a team photo, I think it sends a compelling and positive message about what we stand for. When people can see that diversity, it looks exciting and inclusive, and we find that encourages them to want to come along and take part.
We have a growing number of BAME candidates on our courses, so hopefully, in ten years’ time, they will be out there working in the professional game as managers and coaches because representation on that level is vital. Similarly, to better represent the growing number of professional players in the women’s game, it would be incredible to have more retired female players becoming coach educators.
Can coaching courses open up other career pathways?
The game is so sophisticated now that within the academy or first-team system at most clubs, you’ve got a whole range of people doing things with players on a daily basis, that isn’t specifically coaching. There will be fitness coaches, sports psychologists, nutritionists and analysis experts. Most people access these jobs through coaching. Many of them will start as coaches and then think, ‘Actually I’m really interested in this particular area,’ and go on to specialise in that.
There are nearly 3000 jobs in the professional game now, which include a variety of multi-disciplinary roles, developed in and around coaching. This has resulted in more opportunities for people, which is fantastic.
How important is mentoring as part of coaching?
I never thought it used to be, but it’s incredibly important now. All the people in our team are great at keeping in touch with candidates. As a department, we’ve started doing it organically because we don’t have a formal mentoring programme in place.
Mentoring has become a prominent part of our job, and even though our job title is currently coach educator, I think we will eventually evolve into coach developers. Building and maintaining these strong relationships will be a key part of that process.
What are your hopes for the coaching department in 2020?
Our aspiration every year is to stretch ourselves more as a department. We’re always thinking about what we’re going to look at, which games and tournaments we’ll attend, and how we can scrutinise that information so we can bring it back to share with our candidates.
We’ve got to make sure we remain contemporary, otherwise we’ll lose our authority within the game. We’re all about trying to make people employable longer term, and providing them with a foothold so no matter how long their playing career lasts, they can maintain their status within football if they want to.
Find out more about Coaching...
Over 70% of PFA members have claimed a desire to stay within football when their playing days are over.
The PFA Charity’s coaching department is focused on preparing current and former players for a secondary career within the professional game, possibly coaching or management.
To find out more about our coaching courses and to access course application forms, visit here.