Ben Smith

“I always tried to embrace rejection and use it to motivate myself.”

– Written by Ben Croucher

Why are we telling this story?

Rejection is hard to take, and being passed from club to club, is as demotivating as it is unsettling – for many, but not all. Faced with this, we either crumble, or we channel this into a force, a motivation, that provides us with skills and a tenacity that very few possess. Attributes that would arguably be at the top of the list for employers.

 

 

Profile

Name: Ben Smith

Sport: Football

Club: Brighton & Hove Albion

Previous Clubs: Arsenal, Reading, Yeovil Town, Southend United, Hereford United, Shrewsbury Town, Weymouth, Crawley Town, Kettering Town, Aldershot Town, A.F.C Sudbury, Thurrock

Job Role: Head U16 Coach

Be it the manager picking you, the referee’s decisions or mother nature, so much in sport can seem out of your control.

 

What many don’t realise is just how much say the individual has on their own career, both during and after their playing days.

 

During a 17 year career, Ben Smith played in every division from the Championship to the Ryman North. 12 clubs later, he describes himself as a journeyman, detailing his career lessons and experiences in a book carrying that name.

 

Amongst all of these teachings, Smith believes the most important influence in any player’s career can be found by looking in the mirror.

 

“The key person was me,” Smith says.

 

“I was the person who had to install the drive to better myself.

 

“I don’t particularly lean on people as much as I should. I like to take time to reflect and work out in my own mind what I felt I did wrong and how I can then rectify that going forward.

 

His self awareness would be the making of him.

 

Never spending more than three years at the same club, Smith had to become independent and adaptable to new surroundings.

 

“I always tried to embrace rejection and use it to motivate myself,” he continues.

 

 

“I work best when someone tells me I can’t do something, especially if they seem pretty adamant they’re right.”

 

After leaving Arsenal without featuring for the first team, Smith spent two barren seasons at Reading.

 

Such early disappointment was tempered by a largely productive league career, and success in non league football, claiming titles and promotions with Weymouth, Crawley Town and Hereford.

 

With so many varied experiences, a bank of skills that can be used away from the cut and thrust of the professional game is quickly built.

 

For Smith, football was his classroom.

 

“Football is a hugely competitive, pressurised industry,” he explains. “You are constantly under pressure to perform and have to work in a team environment.

 

“I’m not sure there are many industries where employers wouldn’t have those attributes at the top of their lists for ideal skills.”

 

Armed with so many skills, nurture and direction is then required to make sure an individual can make the most of them.

 

And whilst many see the move into professional football straight out of school as giving up on an education, it is never too late to go back to the books.

 

Whilst plying his trade in the west country, Smith enrolled in a Business Management degree at Birmingham University, studying in the days and ample time off afforded to a professional footballer.

 

Even at the age of 25, and approaching his peak and most fruitful footballing years, Smith was planning for the future.

 

“I needed to be able to support myself even if football didn’t go the way I hoped,” Smith says.

 

“Over the five and a half years it took me to complete the course, I moved clubs four times. I had to be very dedicated in completing my work.

 

“I was determined to make that part of my life a success. I do not like quitting so there was no way I was going to stop without completing it.

 

Smith’s inner competitiveness, that served his so well as a tough, combative midfielder, was serving him well off the field too.

 

After hanging up his boots, Smith volunteered at Maltings Academy before taking up his current position as Under 16 Lead Coach at Brighton & Hove Albion.

 

“It was important for me to show future employers that I was willing to give my time to retrain,” he explains.

 

“I didn’t particularly enjoy it and there were were days when I didn’t know how to get through the day.

 

“Initially I thought I might have made the wrong decision but I don’t think I would have the brilliant job now if I hadn’t taken that leap of faith.

 

“The experience was invaluable, especially the skills I developed to build relationships with students.

 

“The resilience I built up as a footballer stood me in good stead when battling the really tough times teaching. My strong mentality and refusal to quit got me through that year.”

 

Now enjoying the reward for those years of dedication, Smith wants more of the current crop to think ahead and take control of their own destiny.

 

“I would encourage any player to do some additional learning,” he concludes.

 

“It allowed me to switch off from football and took the pressure off as I knew I had something to fall back on.

 

“I felt I was pretty well prepared and I struggled so I dread to think how hard some of my former teammates have found it.

 

“Each individual’s education is their own responsibility.”

 

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