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Next up in our student progression update series, we catch up with ex-Mickleover Sports student Cameron Higgins, who after a successful two years at the NPLFA has gone on to study a degree in Football Coaching and Development at the university of South Wales. Although based in Wales, Cameron’s course allows him to study the degree remotely from home, allowing him to help coach with Derby County in the Community as well as Derby County Ladies and host of other clubs. Whilst having goals of using his coaching degree to become a full time coach, Cameron is thinking about widening his horizons by gaining teacher qualifications and studying a PGCE with Derby University.

Q) Could you describe what your time at the NPLFA was like?

A) I Started in September 2015, I played for Mickleover Sports and stayed there for two years and did my B-TEC studies alongside that. We’d usually spend the mornings training and doing the football side of it up until about 12 o’clock and have a lunch break and then we’d be spending the afternoon studying till about 3 o’clock so it was almost like a 50/50 split of education and football. I loved it, everything about it, the training, playing in a match days and stuff like that was a really good experience.

Q) What was your favourite part about being able to carry on studying while progressing in your football as well?

A) You’re able to get good qualifications, that was the main thing that attracted me. You’re able to study, get your qualifications and play football and do something you love at the same time so you’re almost working towards a career at the end of it so that was kind of the best part about it for me.

Q) What were some of your highlights of your time at the NPLFA?

A) So personally, I got ‘Player of the Year’ for Mickleover Sports in my first year surprisingly, I did not expect to get that and then second year I also got student of the year so I got two personal accolades which I was really happy about. In terms of performance as a team, we did okay in the first year, finished about mid table and in the second season we picked it up in terms of performances, I think we just missed out on the league title and finished second and it was kind of a fell at the last hurdle, but both seasons were really enjoyable in the end.

Q) When it came to joining the NPLFA, was it an easy decision or did you look at other alternatives before making up your mind?

A) Yeah it was a no brainer really, originally I was thinking about going to sixth form. In GCSE’s I got a few decent grades, particularly in science and things like that so I was looking at the possibility of studying them further but then as soon as I found out about this programme I looked into it a bit further and I just wanted to get straight into this course.

Q) What did you think to the set up and structure of the programme in terms of having FA sanctioned leagues, all games filmed and UEFA B level coaches?

A) It was really good and kind of added to the professional feel to it, almost like you’re playing at a semi-professional standard. Even though you’re playing in the academies, it still had that feel to it, obviously we are playing at all these different grounds and different clubs at that sort of standard so that was a really good experience for players who haven’t actually done that before. Being able to watch highlights back is brilliant and also kind of gave us an opportunity to reflect on the game and do match analysis which again adds to that feel of a professional club. I thought that was amazing and it really made a difference compared to something we might have done before.

Q) What’s it like to have that realistic aspiration of being able to break into the first team while playing for the academy?

A) It’s really good, it gives you that target to try and achieve and the fact that players who I’ve known and players who have been at Mickloever after me have gone on to play first team football and seeing players that have gone on to actually play first team football regularly and go forward from there is motivating for new players coming on to the programme.

Q) How did the NPLFA prepare you for life after completing you BTEC level 3? Were there different options outlined for you and did they provide different pathways to higher education?

A) Firstly, you have the option of carrying on and playing so if you do end up breaking through into the reserves or playing first team football at whatever club you’re at you can carry on with that and get paid if you’re signing on for the first team. Also you’ve got the higher education route so you can go to university in England or America. If you’re doing the extended diploma you can get up to 168 UCAS Points so you can apply to where ever you’d like and I know the NPLFA have also linked up with Loughborough University offering a sports science degree so that’s an option to go down as well. You can be studying a blended learning degree and also carrying on with your football. At the end of the day it’s what you want to achieve with your qualifications. The NPLFA gives you the platform to learn these qualifications and then you can go down whatever career path you want to in sport.

Q) What does a usual week (pre lockdown) look like in your university week?

A) Usually what would happen is on Monday I’d go to the Derby County Community Trust offices to use them for uni studies, go in and listen to lectures, complete course work, I’d usually be there from about 9 o'clock till around 2:30 and be there for most of the day really and then Monday through till Thursday is all used for getting my coaching experience so I do a lot of work in schools, so running sessions for the schools and breakfast clubs that sort of thing and then I’ll also be working at the Derby County development centres as well, so all that takes up my evenings I also work with Derby County Ladies as well and then Friday I’m back doing my Uni work all day so quite a busy week!

This is just one of the many pathways that a student finishing their education with the ESPFA can take. Read the other player progression updates to find out more about Scholarships to College in the US and also our own Degree programme in partnership with Loughborough University.

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