Education and professional development is important in any sector, whether it is directly related to a current role or with a view to developing for something in the future. Exactly what this looks like will differ between professions but the crucial thing is to use it as an opportunity to plan for the future. With the average professional football career lasting for about 8 years there is a need to make proactive decisions about what to do afterwards. Whilst there are roles in coaching and sports development that may be attractive to some, there are many more opportunities to explore in the wider sporting and business context. Many players will move into coaching or management, and some look for employment in the media. A larger number choose to use their financial situation to invest in business projects, portfolios or the leisure industry in areas such as hotels, bars and restaurants. Education and development can provide the opportunity to be more than a walking wallet, embedding skills in management, marketing, finance and entrepreneurship meaning that you can carry on striving for success in other areas.

Financial stability is going to be a long term project for any former professional player. Simply investing and trusting the advice and decisions of others does not need to be the only approach to achieving this. Taking the opportunity further your education alongside developing your career can provide you with the opportunity to look at future employment prospects early on and to also take a more proactive role in the way that these develop. Qualifications in Business, Leisure or a more specific Sports specialism will give you the opportunity to plan ahead for retirement from the professional game. Waiting until retirement will likely lead to problems in deciding on a suitable direction and lead to poorer financial and professional choices.

Looking forward to retirement is an important part of career planning for any professional sports person, but what happens if you don’t make it that far? 90% of academy players won’t make it into the first team and an ever smaller percentage of those will make it into a top flight team. Many of those who do make it fall by the wayside for reasons outside of their control, it is not down a lack of commitment or drive. Whilst the dream may be professional sports, ensuring that this is strived for alongside a good education is essential. Not making it doesn’t mean the end of the road in terms of involvement. Many sports people who fail to make it as professionals are employed in other roles in game, in coaching and development, team administration and management as well as marketing and promotions.

Making good education decisions both before, and during a professional sports career is an investment in future proofing yourself and will allow you to continue being successful long after retiring from the professional game.

Benjamin M. Silverstone BSc MSc PhD (Wales) PGCE FWBI FRSA is a member of Network90Club and Programme Leader at Arden University

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