When this new Jobs In Football project was first proposed, I was of course excited to be given an opportunity to be a part of it. After then learning it was to interview industry professionals from the world of football education, I couldn’t wait to get started. As somebody with a deep interest in all things football, I knew that, much like the Career Insights Project I’d previously worked on, I would be speaking with and learning from, insightful individuals.
First up was Joshua Guest, Sales Director at MiMentor, and I was very much looking forward to finding out more about this online education provider. Offering a variety of thought-provoking courses for football coaches of all experience levels, it was going to be a real, ‘Beginner’s guide to…’ for me. My experience with football coaching is limited so having the opportunity to learn about the academic courses available for this vocation was certainly going to be interesting.
So what does MiMentor do? Why is it different to other online course providers? And what do they mean by a holistic approach to education?
“As with most things, MiMentor was born out of necessity. Two of our Directors (and Founders) have been involved in education within sport for the majority of their careers. One Director was a university lecturer who taught an online football studies degree and the other, ran an organisation which delivered training courses to the sporting sector, including sporting governing bodies, football clubs and not-for-profit organisations. Both Founders have extensive experience in education in sport, particularly football, and they recognised that educational habits were changing; digital education was becoming more prominent. The options for delivering high quality online education weren’t fit for purpose in today’s day and age either. Essentially, they found that either the content was outdated or the platform in which the content was delivered was difficult to use or… it was a mixture of the two.
“They (Founders) set out to create a learning environment for the modern world, whereby the content is of a high quality and the platform is user-friendly; it considers the way people consume media. If you go onto the platform, you will see there is a layout and usability that is in line with companies such as Netflix and Amazon Prime so actually, a lot of people will instinctively already know how to navigate around the MiMentor platform. That means, that one of the barriers to online learning has been taken away before learners have even started.”
And the high-quality content and user-friendly platform is just the starting point for MiMentor’s approach to providing flexible and first-class online education, as the company has opted for a holistic approach to teaching. This they believe, enables them to offer their learners a thorough, well-rounded insight into the world of football coaching.
“In our minds, holistic education is education that covers everything that an individual needs to know. There is often a perception in coaching that it’s all about bibs and cones and that tactical and technical content is ‘king’. But realistically, coaches are dealing with a plethora of different things on a daily basis; they are dealing with people after all. Therefore, for us to solely focus on drills and skills would be one-dimensional in what is a multi-dimensional educational need.
“By holistic education, we focus on as many, if not all, of the elements that football coaches are going to need. For example, studying aspects of psychology and nutrition, as well as looking at how to develop a high-performance culture and be an effective mentor - there’s a lot to it. We take all of those areas and try to deliver education in a way that is digestible, understandable and covers all the bases.
“Rather than looking at things in a binary way; is the course technical and tactical or emotional and social? All of our courses have most of those elements. A holistic, or blended approach to learning, is about bringing those four elements into one place.”
So was the decision of a holistic approach something that was consciously thought of, or was it a by-product of an industry that is changing? The pandemic has cast a spotlight on the emotional intelligence side of many industries, with football being just one of them. What was a week full of training sessions and high-pressured matches soon developed into the need to consider the health and wellbeing of players and staff, as well as the impact that football has on society. It became evident that football isn’t just about 90 minutes on the pitch and in fact, coaches and senior leadership teams have far more issues to consider.
“It was a conscious decision to take a holistic approach. The world is moving forward – not just the world of football – and I think if you look at the last year and how people have dealt with the situation thrown at them, having strong, high levels of emotional intelligence, empathy and understanding etc., is going to help everyone in moving forward. However, coupled with that impact, is James’ (Director) background in delivering courses in football studies; he knows that it is pivotal to have an understanding of a variety of subjects in regard to a coach’s education.
“It doesn’t mean the social and emotional elements of our courses are more important than tactics and techniques but the best coaches in the world are also expert people managers.”
It is certainly a unique and modern approach to education and with such a range of courses available to study, it was extremely difficult to choose just two or three to ask Josh to discuss further. However, I opted for ‘Decision-making in Football’ and ‘Emotional Development of a Youth Player’.
“Good choice. Decision-making in football is a big course; there’s a lot to it. It’s really beneficial for those coaches working at a higher level because it goes into some real detail and finer points. It’s not a simple answer to, ‘Do I pass it left or do I pass it right?’ There’s a lot that goes into decision-making in football, such as considering the situation you are in and looking at external factors. The course aims to identify how coaches can translate a whole host of relevant information, to be able to teach their players how to make a decision and become quicker in their decision-making too.
“All of the content is theoretically underpinned; there is amazing information in this course about the process of how decisions are made and the factors that can influence decision-making. Even aspects such as the type of day an individual may have had, or the particular situation that a person is in, can affect or influence decision-making. It is a real, in-depth look at this subject.
“If a coach is teaching at a high level, they are trying to help their players make decisions in a split second and often in high-pressured situations. Emotional intelligence and tapping into a player’s psyche are key. We use theory from individuals who have studied decision-making; look at what they have found and how coaches can use this theory to impart onto their players. We are really pleased and proud of this course.”
It certainly sounds like an interesting course and having recently interviewed a Sports Psychologist (Michael Caulfield) for a Jobs in Football feature, as well as seeing a headline from an Arsene Wenger interview in which it read, 'Training the brain' is football's next frontier’, it is clear that the cognitive side of coaching is fast becoming a hot topic. And with The Emotional Development of a Youth Player listed as a course to study, it looks as though MiMentor are considering the cognitive development of players of all ages when it comes to the educational provision for their learners.
“It’s another interesting course and is one that we have had a lot of positive feedback on. The course aims to teach coaches about the mindset of a youth player so that they can help them to develop. We want to teach coaches to put themselves in the place of their youth players and in doing that, show them they will be able to help their players more effectively.
“What’s great, is that we have a lot of learners who coach their own kids and have given us feedback that not only has it been really valuable in their coaching skills, but it has also positively impacted their relationship with their children; they are able to relate to their own children more strongly."
And what about those coaches who are starting out? The user-friendly platform and assurance of high-quality content is a great start but after subscribing to MiMentor, where would an entry level coach start with their educational journey?
“Our content is split into what we call a ‘series’. I’ll refer back to the Netflix analogy, which, if you have used Netflix before, you will know that you are greeted by different carousels of content when you sign-in, whether it be a carousel of horror movies or comedy television series because you have watched X, Y, Z previously. At MiMentor, our content is segmented in a similar way; when a user logs in, they are greeted by several, different series.
“It’s a clever approach because it uses a similar format to how people are already consuming content in this modern age and one of the series available is the coach’s toolbox; this is the perfect place for an entry-level coach to start.”
It certainly sounds like MiMentor have thought about the educational services available for coaches at all experience levels and the coaches’ toolbox certainly sounds interesting, even in name.
“The toolbox doesn’t look at the tactical and technical elements but instead, looks at the basics: how to create a coaching identity, how to look at yourself and figure out what type of coach you are going to be… all the things that build a foundation for coaches before they start to practice. It even contains planning, preparation and review lessons, which helps coaches to plan and prepare for a session and then consequently review their sessions to understand how best to improve. There is also a reflective practice course, an art of effective communication course and an introduction to emotional intelligence.
“We collaborate with experts in their chosen fields to ensure we provide great content and theory. For example, the reflective practice course is a collaboration with Sarah McQuade, who is renowned in the soccer coaching world, particularly in the United States. She has a vast amount of experience of helping coaches to develop their careers and to reflect upon their performance. We have recently partnered with Sarah on a mentoring course too.”
As the interview progresses, it becomes more and more obvious that MiMentor have a clear vision of what they want their platform to be but in a competitive market flooded with online courses, what is it that makes MiMentor stand out from the crowd?
“There are two key factors that make us stand out. I certainly think that the content –the depth and breadth of the content that is– is one of the key factors but the way the content is delivered is also really important because it needs to fit around the coaches and their lives. It’s important, not just because it makes their lives easier, but from a content digestion and understanding perspective, our coaches can come to MiMentor when they want to learn, not when they have to learn. For example, if learners attend a course via a formal academic institution and lessons take place in a lecture hall, they may be attending lectures when they are ill or have personal distractions, purely because they have to be there for content delivery. However, that means they are not getting the best out of the content when it’s being delivered. Self-paced learning is so important at MiMentor and we know that everyone who is using our platform, is there because they want to be there and they are in the right frame of mind to learn; they are able to effectively digest the information and apply it effectively thereafter.
“So yes, the method of application is just as important as the quality of the content. In a busy world, people want their experiences, services and products to fit around their lives. A coach may not have the time to study between nine and five but it doesn’t mean they don’t want to learn at all - they just need to study and develop their skills when they have the time to do so.
“Those two key points are what sets us apart from other providers.”
It’s clear that MiMentor has already developed a successful service in the short space of time that the platform has been operating (two and a half years) and Josh speaks confidently and passionately about what has been achieved thus far. It sounds as though the early feedback indicates that, those coaches who have studied the courses, are just as happy with the service too.
“There has been a lot of great feedback but what is even better, is that we receive feedback from coaches working at all levels. We have received feedback from coaches in elite, premier league academies right through to parents who are coaching their children’s team on a Saturday and to those individuals who are running their own coaching businesses. All of the learners providing feedback have commented that MiMentor has added value to their coaching and that’s really nice to hear.
“MiMentor is a platform designed to be used by all coaches so it’s great to receive feedback from individuals at different experience levels.”
At this point, I felt like I had covered the key areas for interested, future students to gain an insight into MiMentor but I was conscious of missing a key feature that prospective learners need to know...
“Ultimately, they need to know that MiMentor is on-demand learning that has been designed to fit around them. Also, while the content is applicable and designed for coaches, there are courses which would prove valuable to many people working within football, such as learning about the principles of nutrition or the principles of psychology.
“It’s important for people to understand that MiMentor isn’t solely a technical and tactical coaching platform focused on creating and building training sessions but it’s about delivering holistic education.
“Lastly, I want to mention our recent collaboration with United Soccer Coaches (USC), who are the largest coaching association in the world. We are an official education partner of USC and we have worked with them to put together a diploma on the subject of mentoring. This is available on the MiMentor platform and we feel it is such an important and timely subject. Again, it’s a subject that is applicable to many people working within football, not just coaches. It’s another fantastic course.”
Without a doubt, the interview with Josh could have been a lot longer. There are a variety of courses on offer and the detail in which Josh can explain their value is interesting, insightful and creates the image that MiMentor is very much putting their learners’ needs first. The foundation is well and truly in place for the platform to develop so my last question to Josh is where MiMentor is heading in the future; what is the end goal?
“We want to continue to deliver educational material in a holistic way. We have an exciting idea of where the platform can go but the principle of what we are doing – and will continue to do - is based on the idea that people want to learn but they want to learn in a way that fits around their life; the timeframe to learn is dictated by the user and not by a formal schedule.
“MiMentor is filling a gap that clearly existed – a need that was required to be met. There’s a long way to go and we are at a relatively early stage in our journey but we have great ideas for the platform and its content to continue developing.
“We are pleased with where we are right now but we are also excited to move it forward and connect with as many coaches as possible around the world.”