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Graduate Q&A: Ben Knapper (Sports Coaching)

Hull graduate living the Premier League dream at Arsenal Football Club

From open-top bus trophy parades, to working with legendary managers and players - Ben Knapper has experienced it all.

Ben graduated with a degree in Sports Coaching and Performance in 2008. Now he is working alongside some of the biggest soccer stars in the country as Loan Manager at Arsenal FC.

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Ben Knapper, Hull Graduate

Has it always been your ambition to work in Premier League football?

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Yes. As a young footballer my focus was on playing professionally - but when that didn’t quite materialise my focus switched to other ways in which I could remain involved and build a career in professional football.

Can you describe what you do? What is your typical working day?

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As Loan Manager, I am effectively responsible for a stable of players. My role focuses around supporting them before, during, and after they embark on a loan - either domestically or internationally. As such, the role is extremely varied encompassing both sporting and commercial/economic aspects. On the player level, I am trying to help and support them to achieve their potential and to develop as much as possible. From an organisational perspective, I am strategically managing assets in order to drive revenue and help create and maintain a pipeline of talent into the first team.

What do you love about your job?

The opportunity to work with great people, focussed around a game that I love!

What’s been the highlight of your career so far?

Very difficult to pin-point one particular thing. I’ve been extremely fortunate to be involved in multiple FA Cup winning campaigns, so of course they are always memorable occasions. More generally, travelling the world with the team over the years has been fantastic, and to also see some of the young players developed in our Academy progress on to do great things in the senior game. They are all things that really stand out for me.

ben knapper with arsenal team on tour bus

Why did you want to study Sports Science at University? What appealed to you about the subject?

At the time I was just led by what I was most passionate about. I always think that if you’re deeply interested in something, that can carry you a long way. Sport has always been a central fixture in my life, so the opportunity to understand and learn about it on a deeper level was something that I really wanted to do.

Q. Why did you choose to come to the University of Hull?

ben knapper in gym as part of talented athlete programme

Firstly - I really liked the fact that it was a campus University. When I visited on an open-day I was also really impressed with the facilities, especially those in relation to the course that I was looking at. The people I met that day also gave a great impression of the University of Hull, and I guess I could just envisage myself there. I definitely feel that I made the right choice!

How did your time at Hull set you up for career success? How did you change as a person? What was the most valuable thing you learned?

In respect of the career that I have been fortunate to have had to date, my time at the University of Hull played an immeasurable part. The relationships I formed and the opportunities that I got as a result were directly responsible for my career accelerating over the first few years. Through the University of Hull, I was able to get access to amazing, applied work experience opportunities that gave me a first-hand insight into the professional football industry. Such experiences, along with my academic studies, gave me such a well-rounded education, and there’s no doubt that my career would not have developed in the way that it did without those opportunities having been afforded to me. A certainly feel an immense debt of gratitude to the department, and to the University more broadly.

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The Allam Sports Centre and playing fields

What one piece of advice would you give to any students wanting a career in professional sport?

I would say that now more than ever it is about proactively seeking opportunities to gain relevant applied experience alongside your academic studies. Professional sport is a highly competitive industry to gain access to; from as early as possible you should look to build up your offering to a potential employer in all aspects. Self-development is also imperative – having a desire to continue to learn. All of these things will also serve to increase your network and help to build your personal brand. There are no guarantees of course, but proactively taking these steps will increase your chances of success, no doubt.