Darius Vassell swapped his boots for a BMX bike last month to aid his coaching career as part of a Premier League programme.
The former Aston Villa and Manchester City striker became an academy coach at Championship club Wolverhampton Wanderers after retiring as a player. He also enrolled on the Premier League’s Elite Coach Apprenticeship Scheme (ECAS), which was why he found himself on a BMX bike at the Manchester velodrome earlier this season.
The two-year ECAS course offers selected coaches from clubs the chance to draw experience from other elite sporting environments as well as the business world and other disciplines outside football as part of their learning towards a Higher Education Diploma.
Vassell and his fellow cohorts have also tried bobsleigh to understand the importance of teamwork and have recently experienced a workshop in stand-up comedy to hone their communication, listening and presentation skills as part of their learning.
The course’s aim of developing the person as well as the coach is fundamental to the programme, with each coach challenged to develop his or her own mindset.
This is something that is certainly being felt by Vassell.
'Taking the craft of football coaching further'
"They've really pulled out the stops this year to try and get the best coaches together, to get us really bouncing off each other to take the craft of football coaching that little bit further," he says.
"ECAS has given me a platform to begin to look into that and look at myself among other coaches in similar situations as myself, and create a fraternity in which we can share information and knowledge and improve the standard of coaching across the board."
Ultimately, the coaches are expected to take their learnings back to the clubs in order to create elite learning environments for the Academy players, with the end goal of producing more and better homegrown players for the Premier League.
"Two years is quite intense, in terms of lots of residentials and lots of new knowledge, where they come to environments such as the environment here, and the second two years is focused on trying to create change when they're back at their clubs continuing their learning," explains Marc Canham, Head of Coaching at the Premier League.
"And we see a change over two to five years."
For Vassell, the impact is already being felt.
"I'm trying to take a lot of it in. It's a lot of work and a lot of assignments, but I do see the links," he says.
"It's about being as good as I can be so that we can get these young players through the system and making it and to get the standard of these young players as high as possible.”