Dale Brunton, Head of Education and Welfare at Luton FC, believes that apprentice footballers with interests outside of football have better mental health and are more prepared to handle the rejection of not securing a professional contract, than those who focus 100 per cent on their career as a footballer.

Dale recently worked collaboratively with League Football Education and Switch the Play (StP) to raise this important issue at a careers fair attended by apprentice football players and staff from Luton Town, AFC Wimbledon, Aston Villa, Northampton Town, Millwall and QPR.

Colin Wall, StP Associate, and former professional football player, Marcus Gayle, spoke to the young players about the importance of planning for life outside of football. Marcus also spoke about his own transition out of professional football and encouraged players to think about maintaining other interests outside of the game.

Dale helped to organise the event which was attended by players aged between 16 and 18 years old.

Dale explains, “This education is vitally important for young players in the early stages of their career. We must encourage these young people to see themselves as an individual first and a footballer second. This makes them more able to handle unpredictable situations.

“Players found the event useful and were surprised at the range of career options available outside of football. Learning that some companies actively pursue elite athletes because of their transferable skill also injected confidence.”

Despite committing years of their childhood to playing and training, a small percentage of young footballers secure professional contracts, leaving hundreds of young players, and their families, picking up the pieces of shattered dreams.

Colin, StP associate says, “Every year, hundreds of young footballers are rejected from professional football clubs, with many unprepared to pursue any other career. Most of them don’t have a clue what to do next.

“Clubs know it is a big issue and recognise the importance of supporting players which is the reason for careers fairs like this. Working collaboratively, we can support players and open their eyes to the bigger picture.”

Also speaking to the players was Marcus Gayle, an ex-professional footballer and former manager of Staines Town FC. Reflecting on what he would have said to his 16-year-old self, knowing what he knows now, Marcus said: “I would tell myself, it’s not the end of the world if you don’t get a contract. There are options to carry on in further education if football doesn’t work out. In the meantime, keep training hard and as you progress, and gain experience, consider what you could do within education just in case you get injured.”

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