For my third entry into my blog and following on from a presentation by The PFA’s, Jason Lee – I’m going to focus on the academic opportunities that are offered to young players like myself who are striving to become professionals.
The first and most obvious observation is that not every player that starts out on this path is going to have a long term career in the game. The other certainty is that even if you become a footballer and have a long career, it is going to end at some point.
There may be different reasons for this, like contracts not being renewed, injury or indeed the simple passage of time that catches up with everyone at some stage.
As I said in my last blog entry, football can be a cruel game. It can force players to finish when they have no appetite to and while you’re a player it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking for the present and not planning well ahead.
For this reason some people in the game come to the end and face the realisation that they have nothing to fall back on. No qualifications, no steady income and no plan b. It’s easy to see why so many ex footballers end up in financial ruin or face an uncertain time while they decide what career to pursue next.
However at Derby County we are lucky that the club and LFE is doing something to help prevent this situation arising. While becoming a player is the main focus of our efforts, a considerable amount of time is also spent building up our qualifications, our CV and trying to give us the platform to be able to work in the outside world when football finishes.
We all appreciate this and understand the need to ensure we’re as prepared as we can be, after all, approximately just 15 per cent of players that enter the game at 16 (like me this summer) will still be at clubs after the age of 21.
If you work hard though a raft of career options are available, including staying in football and working through the coaching badges from Level 2 upwards or even looking moving across into other backroom support roles like sports science, performance analysis, fitness and physiotherapy.
There is support to help us move in to Higher Education and or other vocational qualifications. I have to say here that in this aspect our trade union, The PFA really comes into its own.
Once you have joined the PFA, you’re a member for life and the range of guidance and financial support they offer is unparalleled and unlike any other Union in the world.
At this moment in time all the apprentices at Derby are being put through a Level 3 BTEC Diploma or Extended Diploma in Sports Excellence.
We study this at Loughborough College and will travel there every Thursday for the best part of the next 18 months or so. This course is an A Level equivalent and will provide the UCAS points required to get into University at a later stage.
Furthermore we also work through an NVQ Diploma. Most of the learning here takes place at our training ground classroom and is managed by our Education and Welfare Officer, Simon Ord.
On top of that we are training to become qualified Level 2 coaches and The PFA’s Brian Borrows (the former Coventry City full-back comes in to put us through our paces on that course.
We’ve also completed a workshop in financial education through the club and Kingswood finance and have been involved in social media workshops with Cathy Wood to help us stay safe over the internet, concluding in the production of our own Derby County academy twitter page.
We all feel very privileged to have such a wide range of options open to us via our club and LFE. Everything we get here (not only the fantastic chance to become professional players) hopefully augers well for the future and should help us all to become well rounded individuals.