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Football Teaching Team

Chris Smietanka - Lecturer in Applied Sports Science for Coaching

"I have been involved in community football for over 20 years.  I am the founding member of the award winning FA Charter Standard Development Football Club, “Plymouth Marjon FC” that was developed with club volunteers and the University of St Mark and St John.  Applied practice in football development will enhance your underpinning knowledge, experience and employability and I act as a bridge from your academic programme to the community club. I oversee the sport science support programme for Plymouth Argyle FC Youth Academy and the operational management for their Centre of Excellence. I can support you in gaining important volunteering or placement opportunities. I am a Coach Mentor for the FA and as part of the degree programme; students can apply to become part of the FA Young Coach Development Team. Once accepted onto the programme you can draw on the expertise of FA Coach Mentors and attend county, regional and national FA workshops and conferences to develop your theoretical understanding and coaching practice.

I have several areas of interest that the sport science disciplines underpin. This includes skill acquisition, performance analysis, physiological testing relating to performance, coach mentoring and the development of football within the wider community. My research interests are linked to the mentoring of coaches and how this impacts on the development of youth football players at grassroots level."


Ryan Thomas - Senior Lecturer

“I have been heavily involved in the design of the new football degree programmeand  I work closely with our partners at Plymouth Argyle FC. I work across various modules and am a personal tutor to many students on this programme, and take primary responsibility for the coach education and development programme that is delivered alongside the academic programme.

I enjoy teaching across various related disciplines, and aside from my personal interest in talent identification; I particularly enjoy sessions related to both coaching and event management. I enjoy seeing academic topics from the classroom being delivered in real-life practice, and both of these topics allow me to see the students attempting this.  Real outcomes from learning are crucial to enhancing knowledge and understanding.

I’m currently involved with PhD study that specifically analyses the Talent Identification process in Youth Football.  There has been an increasing level of interest in this topic in recent years, and much of this research has focused on the process itself, with many studies adopting a very ‘science’ based approach.  My own study proposes that the process of talent identification is far from linear, and that the feelings and inter-relationships between the various stakeholders involved in this process need to be better understood.

I am an active Centre of Excellence Coach at Plymouth Argyle Football Club.  I am also an FA Licenced Coach Educator.  This involves the delivery of the FA Level 1, and the FA Youth Award Module 1 courses across the county, and engaging in various workshops and CPD events nationally.”


Ian Stonebridge - Associate Lecturer in Sport Coaching and Physical Education

“With a background in the professional game, I am well placed to link the theoretical underpinning principles of coaching to their application in real-life football contexts. Having gained  UEFA ‘B’ Licence and FA Youth Award coaching qualifications, I have an understanding of the football-specific knowledge required to coach in a range of different environments, from ‘grassroots’ to the elite game.

My recent MSc in Sport Coaching and ongoing PhD studies provide me with an up-to-date perspective of the research landscape relating to football. In terms of teaching, my work focuses on the coaching process, coaching philosophy and behaviour, and the coach-player relationship. My research interests focus on the study of coach behaviour and coach learning, with a particular focus on socio-cultural influences on specific coaching contexts.

Having been an apprentice at Tottenham Hotspur, I subsequently played professionally for Plymouth Argyle and Wycombe Wanderers, representing England at Under 18 level. I retired through injury and am now coaching in Plymouth Argyle’s Youth Academy.”


Aaron Cusack - Lecturer in Physical & Coach Education

“As a UEFA ‘A’ Licence holder I am able to create a learning environment that aids students in developing their coaching philosophy along with the critical understanding and appraisal of the coaching process. This is deployed and evaluated through the use of different coaching styles, behaviours and methods to enhance coaching effectiveness. My teaching interests are based around the application of sport science principles to performance, skill acquisition, performance analysis, participation and performance coaching.

My research interests are based around elite youth development in football focussing particularly on decision making during game play as part of a development pathway. Furthermore, I have a keen interest in neuroscience and how the brain functions under varying stressors in football. Currently, I am exploring how fatigue impacts on decision making in game situations.

I have been a Lead Coach within the Plymouth Argyle Youth Academy for the past 12 years and currently I am responsible for the Under 16 age group. I also Tutor on the FA Youth Award for the Football Association.”


Dwain Morgan - Social Inclusion Manager at PACT

“My role at the Community Trust is to oversee all Inclusion projects, including the securing of funding, management of practical delivery and the monitoring and evaluation of government programmes. My role requires me to work with key Sport Development partners such as the Premier League, Sport England and sport-specific NGBs, to deliver projects in order to ensure that sport is accessible to all.

My role within the BA Football Development and Coaching programme is to delivery lectures across a number of modules, in particularly Football in the Community. My role is to link academic studies to practical sport development opportunities, bringing theoretical content to life. Using links with local partners and the professional football club, my role is to further enhance learning by bringing together students and potential employers within the sporting sector to gain first-hand experience.”


Mark Lovell - Head of Community

“My role is to oversee the management of the Argyle Community Trust, to develop programmes, manage staff, complete development plans and budgets and liaise with key stakeholders on a daily basis.

I currently deliver a number of lectures and seminars based around a number of modules, these are a mixture of practical, theoretical and learner led. I aim to help link theory to practice and build upon previous learning.  I provide insight into the football industry and into football development and coaching through the Trust’s work and through regional and national programmes that Plymouth Argyle FC are involved in.”