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Institute of Continuing Education (ICE)

Sam Squire football

Sam Squire’s pathway to pro football began aged just eight. Twelve years later, he’s about to start his own life coaching business. Inside ICE talks to Sam about life’s twists and turns, including the unexpected chat that led to his study at ICE.

If you’re into football at eight years old, you’ll play wherever and whenever. That’s why Sam Squire thought he was turning up for a kickabout, only to find out afterwards that he’d attended an open trial for Cambridge United. From that session, Sam’s immediate future was always in football, eventually signing a scholarship at 16 to train with United’s youth team.

Discovering the Cambridge United in Learning bursary

Fast forward to 2019, with Sam now a professionally contracted midfielder at United. Few make it that far, but Sam wasn’t sure if his contract would be renewed. It was all he could think about until a chat with a team physio changed everything.

“He asked if I’d heard about the partnership between the Cambridge United Community Trust [CUCT] and ICE offering bursaries to a staff member and a fan,” says Sam. “He told me I should apply, and I said, ‘There’s no chance of me getting that!’ But I thought about it and knew my contract was uncertain, so what did I have to lose?”

Sam’s first challenge was figuring out what course to apply for. “I saw ‘Coaching’ and thought it meant football coaching! I’d never heard of any other sort. But when I read the description, I realised it was describing me.

“I was on a beach on holiday when I found out I’d been accepted. I was sure they’d emailed the wrong person.”

Joining the ICE learning community

In autumn 2019, Sam began an Undergraduate Certificate in Coaching. The combination of playing semi-professional football, working for CUCT and studying was, he admits, “A very busy period” during which he learned a lot about managing himself and prioritising his workload.

By now, Sam had learned that his United contract wouldn’t be renewed, but he was at peace with it, especially after meeting his fellow coaching students: “I’d never been in a room full of so many amazing people. I gained so much from meeting such a diversity of people from different countries and backgrounds. I learned with them and from them. It opened my eyes, discovering so many different perspectives.

“I’d never experienced a learning environment like it. The tutors almost felt like classmates, leading discussions, encouraging me to think critically. It transformed the way I think.”
Completed in summer 2020, Sam’s coaching certificate had big benefits for his role as Youth Development Officer at CUCT, where he works with eight- to 18-year-olds in disadvantaged areas of Cambridge, using football to steer them towards positive pathways.

“The young people I work with don’t realise I’m coaching them,” explains Sam. “I give my course and tutors so much credit for helping me build relationships and, hopefully, bring about change.”

A new career is born

But there’s a new chapter about to be added to Sam’s story – having found his calling thanks to a bursary to study at ICE, Sam, still only 20, is about to pursue his passion full-time: “I’m setting up my own coaching practice, working with 18- to 24-year-old men to give them clarity, confidence and commitment about the lives they want to live. Young men need a space to talk about these things.”
Having been the recipient of an opportunity he might otherwise never have had, Sam’s keen to pay it forward: “Not all young people have the means to access coaching. I’d love to serve them without charging, so they can flick the switch on their futures.”

What final advice does Sam have for anyone who might be thinking about applying for a bursary at ICE? “Just three words really: go for it. You’ve got nothing to lose. At worst, you’ll have a chance to reflect on yourself by writing your application statement. I’ve had so many great experiences, but studying Coaching at ICE has been the best experience of my life.”

Find out more about the range of bursaries available at ICE.


This article was originally published in our Long-Vacation - Michaelmas issue of Inside ICE.


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