Whereas most teenagers are known for spending countless hours on their phones doing nothing useful these days, Jordan Haskell decided to put his time to good use. His passion for concocting football training drills gave him a focus and he never imagined where it would take him.
“I used to sit there at night in my bedroom putting them all together on my iPhone and that’s when things really took off,” he says. “It started off as just a hobby where I could share what I had been working on but it has grown into a real business.”
Haskell – a former academy player at Wigan, Morecambe and Southport who decided to become a coach when he was 18 after realising that he “wasn’t really physical enough” to play non-league football – set up his UltimateplayerHQ page on Twitter in 2017 when he was about to complete his FA level 2 coaching badge.
“I was looking online for drills to use but I found that so many were too static and had too much detail,” says Haskell.
“I’ll always remember when I came up with the idea: I was driving back from a coaching session at a school in Liverpool and decided to create my own platform where I could showcase some of my drills.”
Six years later and still only 25, he has his own website and app, has produced five coaching manuals and counts Steven Gerrard, Ole Gunnar Solskjær, Míchel Salgado and Phil Neville among those to have used his sessions.
Haskell’s business got off the ground when his animated drills caught the eye of the Brazilian app TacticalPad, which asked him to design sessions for it and offered to sponsor his new page.
“There were a few sessions that I remembered from my days in the academy but every coach will tell you that they use drills and give them their own variation,” he says. “In my head I’ve got thousands of drills that can cater for all players from grassroots to pros.
“Ultimateplayer is similar to Netflix but for football coaches – it gives managers any topic they want in the drill library. If they have training they can say: ‘Right, what are we going to do tonight?’ and all the drills they will find with a little animation of the setup.”
Haskell set up the UltimateplayerHQ website in 2020 and an endorsement from the former Bolton striker Kevin Davies kickstarted its popularity among former professionals.
“They really like the platform because there is nothing out there like this,” says Haskell, who coaches Bolton’s under-10s and for Everton in the Community.
“When you are doing your badges as a coach it’s really hard to find good resources and a lot of them have said Ultimateplayer has been really helpful.”
Haskell was invited to Dubai to meet the former Real Madrid defender Salgado at his academy and to Barcelona to watch them train after connecting with a first-team coach in 2020, while he met Solskjær when the Norwegian was appointed by Manchester United. “He used some of my sessions when he was at Molde,” says Haskell. “Ole loved the website.”
About 15 professional clubs have signed up for paid memberships, which allow access to a resource library of drills for all ages, “drills from the pros”, including the former Tranmere manager Ronnie Moore and West Ham’s Carlton Cole, and a whiteboard room that allows coaches to formulate tactical plans. There are a number of free drills every week, with names such as Ajax AFC Playing Out From the Back, Real Sociedad Quick Attack and Shot and Bayern Leverkusen Get Across Dribbling providing colour and variety.
“It’s trying to be creative for coaches,” says Haskell, an Everton fan who admits it is his dream to coach at the highest level one day. “We have 1,000 different drills and it could be just the same: shooting, shooting; passing, passing.
“I had to think when I was launching Ultimateplayer how I could make it unique and that’s why I decided to use different clubs and their different styles of play as a way of characterising the drills.
“It’s mainly quite random but I want every coach to enjoy what they are doing and hopefully this can really inspire them to open the sessions up and try new things.”