FC Halifax Town: “It’s important to keep wanting to learn” - Wild on achieving his masters degree in sports coaching

Ever since being appointed as FC Halifax Town manager more than two years ago, Pete Wild has exuded a mixture of down-to-earth humility and steely determination.

Tuesday, 28th September 2021, 8:35 am
FC Halifax Town v Southend United, The Shay, Saturday, August 11, 2021, Photo: Marcus Branston. Pete Wild

And it is those qualities - a recognition he is not the finished article but a drive to improve - that have led to him to earning a masters in sports coaching at Leeds Beckett University.

Wild received his masters certificate on Sunday, September 19, the day after his Halifax side beat Stockport County 3-0 at The Shay, making it quite a weekend for the Town boss.

Complacency is Wild’s bête noire, but there seems little danger of that creeping in.

Wild already has an A-licence, and is in the process of applying for his pro-licence qualification.

“I probably should have done it (the masters) when I left school but I went straight into work in different industries, and probably wasn’t one for education when I left school, I didn’t really like it,” he said.

“But 15 years later I find myself walking back into a classroom with a shudder thinking ‘what am I doing here?’

“But I think it’s important to learn, it’s important to keep wanting to learn and to move forward, because it can only help you.

“Certainly in our industry, it’s cut-throat and if you’ve got one per cent on the next man then it maybe gives you a little edge.

“And it allows me to help my staff as well because the more I know about their areas, the more I can help them and give a more informed decision, and the more I understand to give me a better judgement on what to do on the football pitch.”

As part of Wild’s masters, he had to submit a 10,000 word dissertation on his third-year practical project, which centered around his work as Town boss.

“There were elements of performance modelling, building a performance plan for your football club around curriculums, working with elite players, sports science, building multi-disciplinary programmes,” he said.

“My applied coaching project was around change management in a football club, so for example taking Halifax from hybrid to full-time, how we go about implementing our ideas, how we implemented them with the squad and how we evolved the squad etc.

“It was very live for me and very real because it was actually what I was doing on a daily basis.

“There are lots of change management models out there and generally, when you go into a football club, there is an element of change management that goes off every time you walk into a new environment.

“It was very useful for me.”

What was also useful for the Town boss was the chance to pick the brains of professionals from different sports and other industries altogether.

“I wanted to do something that wasn’t just football,” he said. “On our course we had people from rugby union, swimming, fencing, lacrosse, all different sports, and I was more bothered about sitting and talking to them about what they did.

“What I did on the course was I went out and watched many different sports, tried to pick up things from different sports and even different industries around how they do things and how they deal with situations.

“I spoke to solicitors and how they deal with pressure management in the court room, because I think it’s quite similar to us and you have to make decisions in the moment etc.

“One of our tutors is commissioned by Sport England to go out and work with the Olympic teams around mentoring their coaches, so it’s really top level stuff.

“It really shaped my thinking in how to deal with the job at this level.

“It gave me more clarity in my own thinking and allowed me to work with all the departments within our football club and understand them better.

“I feel more comfortable in my own skin, having more knowledge.

“I worked for Oldham’s academy and we had a way of working, I worked for the FA tutoring and they have a way of working, nobody really said ‘come on then, what do you want to do?’.

“I think that sent my head into a spin because I then spent six months going ‘well yeah, what do I want?’ and it starts you thinking how would you do things, if that works I’ll keep that, if that doesn’t work I’ll get rid of that, it’s great because it gets the mind working.

“One thing we know about any industry is if you stand still, you get to a place of complacency and that’s where your problems start.”

Wild was able to dedicate more time to his studies during the Covid lockdown last year that brought the 2019-20 season to a crashing halt.

“Covid did me a favour, I got through a lot of my applied coaching project through Covid,” he said.

“You can do it over one, two or three years and I decided to do it over three years so it was only one subject per term, which helped because I could just focus on that and I had enough on my plate.”

Wild has now swapped his masters for a diploma in football management with the LMA through Liverpool University.

“It’s about management, covering stress management, sleep, leadership, about how we deal with communication with staff, players, media,” he said.

“In the new year it goes into finance and which areas you’re short in and how you’re going to develop those.

“It’s all-encompassing and I know a lot of managers who’ve been on the course and are on the course now, and it’s really helped them.

“It’s about us as managers. The masters was more about the job, but this is more about me.

“I’m a young manager, got a lot to learn and still get better at and I think it’s really helping me in that respect.”

Wild added: “In years gone by, everyone would see it as get your certificate, get out there and find your way as you go along.

“I don’t really buy into that, I buy into the mentality of you should always be learning, always wanting to get better.

“Things evolve and we’re no different, and you want to try and keep yourself relevant, in the moment and for me, my biggest worry is complacency, in life.

“I don’t want to be complacent, so I’ve got to force myself to do things, that sometimes I don’t want to do, to keep myself current and energised and ready to go.”

When asked where his constant self-examination and drive to improve himself stems from, Wild said: “I think previous experiences. We can all get slack, we can all get happy and comfortable.

“I think complacency in any part of my life is a problem, so I try and drive myself, which hopefully drives other people and which hopefully keeps me current and keeps me where I need to be in terms of work, family and being a good friend to my pals.

“That’s all I want to be in life, a good dad, a good husband, a good son and a good mate.

“There’s stuff in the diploma in management that’s great for my family life and which makes me a better dad, a better husband and a better son.

“I think what it gives you is more awareness, and the more self-awareness you have allows you to respond and deal with things in a different way.

“All these courses, as much as they’re hopefully making me better at my job, hopefully they make me a better person away from football.”

Wild’s assistant manager Chris Millington has previously graduated from Leeds Beckett with the same masters qualification.

“I can’t recommend Leeds Beckett enough,” Wild said, “they were phenomenal, especially with people who don’t have that educational background but have the prior knowledge in the working environment.

“They were phenomenal with us, and I’d recommend that university to anybody because they’ve been great with me and Milly.”

Wild’s achievement is something different to winning three points on a matchday, something more indelible and enduring.

“You’re proud for your family, they were all there on the day and they’re all happy, my mam’s happy, I’m happy,” he said.

“It’s nice, it’s a homely, warm feeling when you do something like that, and for my little lad as well.

“You want to prove to your lad that you can achieve what you want to achieve, people will tell you that you can’t, but everybody does it at the right time.

“If you’d said to me 15 years ago ‘go and do a Masters’ I’d have gone ‘no I’m going for a pint’ whereas now I’m going ‘yeah, dead right, that sounds like a bit of me, that sounds like a challenge, that sounds like something that’s going to put me right out of my comfort zone’.

“I sat in so many lectures, looked at the screen....Milly said what will happen is you’ll sit there, look at the screen and think ‘what am I doing here, I’m right out of my depth’, (but then) you’re sitting there thinking ‘no, no, I’ll get it at some point, just stick with it’.

“And it’s exactly the same on the football pitch, some days you stand there and you’re like ‘oh my god, what is going on today’ but then you take a minute, you take a breath and you go ‘no, no, we’ll get this, we’ll be fine, don’t worry’.

“You just relate it to different situations.”

And has all his studying resulted in a better manager than when he arrived at Halifax 27 months ago?

“I’m a million miles down the road, but so I should be,” Wild said.

“If I was the same person I was two-and-a-half years ago I probably wouldn’t be here, and that’s me being honest and realistic.

“You learn by experiences, I’m the first to come out and hold my hands up if I get something wrong.

“But if I do make a mistake, they’re honest mistakes with a view of trying to make things better.”