In this week's Academy column, we speak to head of Academy business Andrew Powlesland about his journey from a former professional basketball star to life in football with Liverpool FC.
I joined Liverpool as head of Academy Business Operations in the summer and I look after a lot of things behind the scenes from a business perspective. It might not be as immediately visible as the coaching side but it is a challenging and enjoyable position. Myself and Nick Marshall directly support Alex Inglethorpe, our Academy director. Nick and I are very much aware that we are there to support Alex in creating the best elite sporting environment possible. Alex is a top coach and it's a waste of his talents if he is not out there on the field coaching as much as possible, so I manage the office-based infrastructure to allow him to do more of this.
My role is to make sure the operational processes that support football performance on the pitch are in the best shape possible. That involves operational practice and business acumen. I have spent the last couple of months fine-tuning our budget. It's probably not a role that has a big appeal to a lot of people but it is so important if we want to be the best that we can and use our resources most effectively. This involves understanding what we want to do and what it might cost to achieve it, and maximising the efficiency and effectiveness of how we do it. I am also the Academy lead for HR, safeguarding and employee engagement, all important parts of operational infrastructure and the environment at the Academy.
I have thoroughly enjoyed life with Liverpool so far. It certainly hasn't been wholly what I expected, but that is not necessarily a negative comment as it has been a challenge for me to learn how football expects things to be done and it's also a challenge to try to show that there are always other ways to do things. This role supports all aspects of the performance environment; for example, we recently put up banners depicting Academy graduates across the whole site. They signify those players who have had success through the club and they are there to inspire the next generation of Liverpool players.
I've taken time to notice the players with their families looking and reading about the many different stars that have come through this Academy and to me it's important that this kind of success is celebrated and recognised in synergy with the how big this club is. The look and feel of the football environment is very important to us, and there have been some major works both internally and externally on the site which have all improved this aspect. This is not the end of the works and there are more to come - watch this space!
I love sport and I used to be a professional basketball player. I played for quite a number of teams but probably the most famous one was Crystal Palace back in the days when Alton Byrd was probably the best known basketball player in the country. I also played for Reading, Brixton, Derby and Plymouth. I am sure it's a very different life to a footballer but there will be a few things you can draw comparisons to. I also used to coach basketball at a high level and I have had quite a few coaching-related conversations with staff here, many of whom study basketball coaching techniques and philosophy. I've actually done a few basketball sessions with the players here, which they enjoy prior to doing their futsal sessions. There is a lot of transfer between the two sports, in my view, especially in regard to footwork, spacial awareness and man-to-man marking, so I've done a bit of coaching when they have let me loose!
Before I came to Liverpool I was previously the Director of Sport at London South Bank University, managing their facilities, community and performance programmes. This role was the strategic lead for sport at the university. Sport is one of the mediums through which institutions differentiate themselves. In addition to the sports course and research portfolio, sports is a big factor in why students choose to study there. So it was a varied role, involving supporting someone who wants to play badminton once a week to people who were going to represent Great Britain in the Olympics. In this role I continued to be a hands-on coach with the university basketball team, winning the British University Championship along the way, the England University team in the home nations events, and I was also a sports coach UK tutor.
I would also like to express my gratitude to Academy co-ordinator Dean Brooke, who has been a big help for me in my role since I arrived in Kirkby. Dean reports to me on a day-to-day basis and he supports me operationally, and with Phil Roscoe (head of education and welfare), covers off the player facing work that is such an important part of the wrap around service we provide at the Academy.