Footballer’s careers don’t last forever no matter how much you want it to or how well you look after yourself. Whether it be age, injury or a falling out of love of the game, there will always be a reason to retire at some point.
However, there are a lot of options available for players to enable them to prepare themselves for life after playing football. The PFA (Professional Footballer’s Association) offer many different opportunities for footballers who are still in the game or have just come out of it. I know a number of players that have completed different courses/business degrees and their coaching badges.
I can’t imagine life after football in anyway at all, and am not in any way contemplating that yet, but a little bit of planning and commitment now can’t do any harm. So I decided to start my planning by continuing my education and choosing to undertake a distance learning Sports Journalism Degree. This was a wide-ranging course covering written articles, radio segments, TV presenting and also match commentary. Journalism is varied and is a logical choice for a career after football and interests me personally but that doesn’t mean I haven’t turned away from other options.
I would also like to do my coaching badges at some point so that I can potentially teach what I have learnt from the game to a younger generation of players and help them through their careers. Since finishing my degree I have done several things that have piqued my interest while I haven’t been able to play football. In the last two seasons I have had reasonably lengthy injuries totalling six months, and with the covid protocols in place the only way into stadiums to watch football was to be part of the media team. I was able to do the summarising on the radio and writing the match reports. Being the only way into stadiums it was a small price to pay to watch live football when sadly no fans were allowed.
Many professional footballers once they retire may become pundits on television or have columns in national newspapers. This is beneficial for the current generation of players still playing in the game, the retired pros can give their insights and knowledge into the day-to-day life of a professional footballer that maybe a sport journalist that hasn’t played the game won’t know. Then again, this could also be detrimental to the players, as an ex-player will know “all the tricks of the trade” and there is nowhere to hide from someone that has been there and done it.
I know that my career will end at some point. All I can hope for is that it is my choice, and it isn’t made for me and until that time I want to play as many games as possible while I am able. Then once I hang up my boots, we shall see what the future holds but it doesn’t hurt to be prepared for when that time comes.
by Lewis Ward, Swindon Town FC