Debbi McCulloch

Debbi rose up from groundsman to Deputy CEO at Spartans Football Academy.

"My course was great and Abertay was a brilliant university to learn at. It was a challenge I thoroughly enjoyed."
Debbi McCulloch | Spartans Football Academy | Deputy CEO

I left in sixth year of school without particularly good grades. I wasn’t academically strong and I went to do an HND in Nautical Studies at Glasgow College for two years. That got me into university.

I wanted to push myself and Abertay gave me the opportunity to do that. It was a fantastic two years. The course was very new and I’m sure it’ll have developed a lot since I did it, but it was great and it was a brilliant university to learn at. It was a challenge I thoroughly enjoyed.

I was actually on the dole for several months after I graduated, but fortunately Dundee Utd gave me an opportunity. I worked part time as ground staff at Tannadice and part time as a community coach. So from 8 o’clock to 2 o’clock I would do grounds work, and then after that I would do coaching.  That was my passion, but I understood that getting a full-time coaching job would be difficult and I didn’t have much experience at the time. I’m very grateful to Dundee Utd for that opportunity. I ended up getting a move to Ross County, and I was there for 5 years working in the biggest community coaching programme in the whole of Scotland, doing lots of travelling, meeting different people and working in schools. In the end, I wanted to move closer to my family - I’m originally from Glasgow – and I was fortunate enough to get offered a post at Spartans. I accepted it, and I’ve not looked back since.

I’ve been with Spartans Football Academy, a social enterprise for over 10 years. Our job is about making an impact on our local community in north Edinburgh and on young people’s lives and to do that, we have to run a business. As Business Operations Manager, my day-to-day job was very much about running operations and running the business side of the facility, ensuring we were generating as much income as we could to invest in our social impact programme. I've more recently taken on the role of Deputy CEO. I suppose the biggest change is going from being a “doer” to a “thinker” as my new role is very much focused around the strategic element of our organisation and community engagement. In other words, my focus is on our long-term vision around our business and social impact (premiership of community engagement), building close relationships with key stakeholders and likeminded community organisations, and leading the team to be the best they can be so that we provide positive opportunities and experiences for people in North Edinburgh.

If you’re thinking about studying sports coaching and development at Abertay, I’d encourage you to volunteer and get work experience to see how different sporting organisations work and operate. Meet people and build relationships. At the end of the day, it’s about who you know and how you come across as a person. 

View the BSc (Hons) Sports Development and Coaching course

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