Michael Blanchard – NHL Coach Earns PhD Place at Leeds Beckett with MSc at Portobello
MSc in Sports Performance Analysis
With a degree in Human Kinetics from the University of Ottawa and 10 years working in sports performance under his belt, Michael Blanchard might have been forgiven for relying on his established experience.
However, as anyone who works in the world of athletic performance will tell you, you can never be too qualified. And that ambition for further qualification has brought Michael to Portobello Institute to gain his MSc in Sports Performance Analysis.
Michael is a French-Canadian sports performance coach. He grew up in Gatineau, Quebec, on the banks of the Ottawa River in Eastern Canada.
From a young age, sport was a major passion in Michael’s life.
“I started to play baseball first. I transitioned to Olympic weightlifting, MMA also. I’ve always been involved in sports. That’s how I started in this business. I was doing MMA for over six years. Realised I wasn’t going to make it as a pro. Not even sure if I wanted to either.
“I decided I was going to train them instead,” he said.
Michael enrolled in the nearby University of Ottawa where, after three years, he earned a degree in Human Kinetics from the University’s School of Kinesiology and Exercise Science.
Upon completing his degree, Michael then made the trip across the border to the United States, moving to California.
“Once I did my undergrad in Ottawa, I moved to San Francisco to work with the Delta’s in the North American Soccer League, which now doesn’t exist. It was the equivalent of what is now the United Soccer League. I worked there for a season,” he said.
After a stint in the US, it was back to the homeland for Michael trading Ottawa for Toronto, as he followed his passion and began to work with players from the National Hockey League with teams such as the Philadelphia Flyers and Nashville Predators.
“From there I moved to Toronto and worked with NHL players. P. K. Subban, Mark Friedman, and some others,” he said.
More recently, Michael has been living and working in Edmonton, working primarily with the Edmonton Elks, a professional football team playing in the Canadian Football League.
Why did Michael Choose Portobello Institute?
Despite a plethora of professional experience, Michael did not feel like resting on his laurels and thus began to look at Ph.D. qualifications that could take him to the next level.
What he found in his search was that before making a jump to Ph.D., he first had to earn a Master’s qualification and so a new search began. A search that brought him to Portobello Institute.
“I was taken to the first cut of a Ph.D. and the only reason I didn’t make the final cut was that I didn’t have my thesis or masters. They did take into account my professional experience. I’ve been working for over five years in professional sports.
“So, I had to get that middle step done. I started looking around, mainly focusing on the sports science side of things. I was looking at the options for sports science masters and something that my wallet could afford. There were options in the States that were $30-40k.
“I Googled maybe 100 programs, looking at curriculum, prices. I talked to maybe 20 different universities, going back and forth on the phone trying to find out what was their program.
“In the end, it was between Portobello and Ole Miss,” he said.
The University of Mississippi affectionately referred to as Ole Miss, is one of the most well-established universities in the States, with a rich sporting tradition.
However, in the end, Michael decided to enroll in Portobello’s MSc in Sports Performance Analysis, for a number of reasons, he says, one of them being that the course is accredited by Liverpool. John Moore’s University (LJMU).
“I liked the curriculum more from Portobello overall. It fit more into what I was looking for. Especially going towards sports science. Once I talked to Dr Susan Giblin, she mentioned LJMU and that changed things and made my final decision.
“Within what I wanted to do, it was the most affordable and the most reputable one I could get.
“Having the recordings and being able to re-watch the videos was helpful. Especially when you have a really busy schedule,” he said.
Michael began the program in the Autumn of 2021 and has since completed it in September 2022. It was a challenging experience, but one Michael says was fully worth it.
“Semester-wise, this was the hardest one I’ve had, including my undergrad. There was no close book exam and that’s something I feel I’m really good at. Being able to read something, memorise it and replicate it and then forget it. That was a big problem with my undergrad is that I didn’t retain as much of the information afterward.
“One of the reasons I chose this program was to put the educational side with my professional experience. Writing scientific articles, and understanding the statistical application within a scientific paper. That’s all we did when it came to assignments. It was such a better way for me to learn.
“You spend a lot of hours researching and applying information instead of just reading slides and writing on paper the next day. It was a better learning experience. I thought it was really good.
“The teachers were responsive and really helpful. Answering questions and giving feedback and being able to help. Especially for me, my biggest weakness is writing. Structuring it and making it as professional as I can. Having them give feedback on the paper was really helpful,” he said.
And, most importantly, this journey will eventually lead Michael to his goal of studying at PhD level.
“I definitely want to go to Ph.D. Finance will play a role in that. For me, it was the link to getting the Ph.D. and also going towards Europe and opening more doors when it comes to professional opportunities,” he said.
Michael has been able to accomplish exactly what he set out to do by securing a place in a Ph.D. program with Leeds Beckett University in the United Kingdom. All of us at Portobello Institute wish Michael the very best of luck with his future studies!
If you are interested in learning more, read our article to discover sports performance analysis in your sports science career.