Mastering the game: James’s pursuit of excellence in Sports Coaching

James knew right away that he wanted to get an MSc after finishing his undergraduate degree at UCLan so he could increase his knowledge and comprehension of the Sports Coaching field. These experiences allowed him to get his current role at Preston North End F.C.

James McGown chose to study BSc Sports Coaching and Performance at the University of Central Lancashire because of his love for sport. He had playing experience in high performance sport and wanted to remain in the industry whilst improving his skillset. He said: “My playing experiences in high performance sport prior to University played a huge part in my decision to go to University and study Sports Coaching.”

James found himself intrigued by the topics of study, how they were delivered, and by the opportunities that came alongside them, he said: “recognising that this combination would put me in a strong position to enter the world of professional sport.”

Once he had completed his undergraduate degree, James immediately wanted to complete a MSc degree to further develop his knowledge and understanding of the coaching industry. He said: “The wealth of knowledge and experiences from tutors was a real factor in my decision making as I knew it would add value to my experience if I maximised the opportunity to learn from their experiences.”

James has many lasting memories of his time at UCLan, with the main memory being a week-long trip to Club La Santa, visiting high-performance training camps. James was grateful for the opportunity to gain experience on what high-performance camps consist of, as well as being able to critique and learn the processes and rationales behind running a camp. James was also fortunate enough to get some work experience as a casual coach at our on-campus Sir Tom Finney Sports Centre.

James acknowledges his UCLan journey was filled with many opportunities which came as part of the course, he said: “Networking, learning and demonstrating my commitment to self-development at these opportunities were the major influences on my journey to get to my current position.”

"My university background has really helped me in my roles at Preston North End as I am able to share knowledge and experience from an education-based background in comparison to a number of other staff I work with who have come from a background of professional playing experience in football."

BSc Sports Coaching and Performance & MSc Sports Coaching graduate, James McGown

James’s greatest achievement since graduating would be taking on his current full-time role at Preston North End F.C. as Lead Foundation Phase Coach (U7-U11). He acknowledges that gaining a full-time job in football can be difficult, and he credits his coaching qualifications to support this achievement. James has also received other coaching qualifications such as UEFA B and the FA Advanced Youth Award (AYA) coaching licence, in addition to gaining first team championship experience throughout his time as the Lead Academy Analyst at Preston North End F.C., whereby he covered absences at games. James was particularly proud of this as he had only had two years of full-time football experience on his CV at that time.

At Preston North End F.C. James is responsible for the coaches, players, and parents in all age groups from U7 to U11, as well as organising training, fixtures, coach development, player development, and parent education. He is also in charge of designing individual learning plans (ILP) for each player in his age groups and liaising with the coaches to discuss ideas around how they can maximise individual opportunities to develop these ILP’s in every session. James also works alongside other coaches on their professional development.

Asking if he has any advice for prospective Sports Coaching students, James said: “Gain experience through volunteering and investing in your future. The professional sports industry is difficult to get into, especially in a paid role. Gaining voluntary experience allows you to get your foot in the door and showcase your ability while learning parts of the trade. This was a crucial step for me in gaining the roles and experiences I have had to date.”

James McGown, BSc Sports Coaching and Performance & MSc Sports Coaching alumnus
James McGown, BSc Sports Coaching and Performance & MSc Sports Coaching alumnus