29 Mar Paul Reid’s transition journey and how Switch the Play are helping him
Like most professional footballers, Paul Reid’s passion for the game started at school when he was just seven years old. After playing for local teams and the county, his talent was quickly spotted, and it wasn’t long before he was asked to attend the school of excellence run by his local Club Carlisle United.
By the time he was 17, Paul had signed a seven-year professional contract with the Club. For the next 15 years, Paul was enjoying playing at the top of his game and was offered numerous attractive contracts. However, when he reached the age of 32 contracts started to become scarce and were either financially or geographically unsuitable. It was at this point he first started to think about the possibility of retiring and moving into another career. However, out of the blue, Eastleigh FC offered a two-year contract and Paul was back in the game.
Now the Eastleigh FC contract has finished, Paul accepts that at the age of 35 he is unlikely to be offered another suitable contract and is mentally preparing himself for the realisation that he will probably never play football again. Despite still being registered as a player, he is now seriously starting to focus on what he wants to achieve in the future.
Despite having lots of ideas about possible career paths and an impressive book full of contacts, Paul admits, “When you are playing the game you love full-time it is so hard to think about the future and life beyond the sport, but in hindsight I do regret not preparing for life after sport much earlier in my career.
“I knew that some of my skills, such as team work and leadership, would be useful in the workplace, but I just didn’t have the experience of how to apply these to a different career and what steps I needed to take next.”
In his quest for knowledge, Paul surfed the net for advice and came across Switch the Play (StP). Reading the stories of StP Directors, Beth Tweddle and Leon Lloyd who had successfully transitioned out of elite sport themselves, Paul knew that he had found the perfect place for guidance and support for the next stage of his career. It wasn’t long before he was chatting to CEO Leon Lloyd.
Paul explains, “I was confident of my ability to be successful in any industry, but I lacked clarity about how to structure my efforts and join the dots together. Now I am embarking on a personal programme of mentoring with Chris Brindley (director of StP) which is proving invaluable. In addition to this, I will be attending networking events and have the essential support and guidance of the StP team.
“One of the key things I am learning to do is structure all my activities with clearly defined goals and measurable objectives. This is a skill I had already developed during my training as a footballer, so it’s encouraging to see a transferable skill so soon in the process. To achieve a positive performance in football you have a training plan where you must meet specific times, plus you select your food appropriately and seek advice from others etc. Without realising it, you structure your whole life around producing a high level of performance.
“I still want to perform well in my life outside of football, so that means using this experience and adjusting the process to fit my new goals. It’s quite a simple message but you can step away from professional sport and think you’re starting from scratch: thankfully that is not the case. The world of business is very different to playing football, but it’s a case of adapting your thoughts and habits rather than throwing everything away and starting again.”
Now that Paul has embraced life after sport and started the process of transition, he already has some sound advice for his fellow colleagues who may not be thinking about the end of their career yet.
“The best piece of advice I would give to someone who is still playing professional football, is to spend some time thinking and researching about what direction you would like to take after your playing career has finished. Ask yourself the question, “If my career finished tomorrow, what would I do?”, explains Paul.
“Also, make wise decisions relating to your income and investments while you are competing. Invest your money with the aid of sound financial advice. I got into the habit of investing into pension plans when I was very young. This meant that when I retired from football I could take some time to reflect and explore opportunities without any financial pressure. I didn’t appreciate how important that was until suddenly at the age of 36 years old I had no job but needed to support my family. It’s tough enough when your playing career comes to an end, but I can imagine the added pressure of financial problems would make the whole experience much more difficult.”
During the last 18-24 months, Paul has also benefited from the support of the Professional Football Association (PFA) which has provided a valuable sounding board for ideas and general guidance. Along with a pension, the PFA has also helped him with a CV, Post Graduate Diploma at JCI and a Masters Degree in Sporting Directorship at the University of Salford.
Paul believes that more could be done to encourage young players to start thinking about the transition process much earlier in their careers, suggesting workshops and work placements as possible methods for players to gain experience in certain careers. By giving players a real perspective about what different careers entail Paul believes it could help them make a more informed choice about a career path, or even enable them to eliminate some.
When Paul retired from football he was appointed Head of Player Recruitment at Eastleigh FC, supporting the Club’s progressive strategy and genuine ambition to gain league status. This position has cemented Paul’s passion to excel within any strategic leadership role in sport.
“My goal may sound quite generic, but it’s a fine line between being precise and narrowing your career options. It could mean becoming a Director of Football, CEO of a County FA, Director of Sport at a University or working for a NGB,” explains Paul.
“However, in the interim I’m preparing for these opportunities by increasing my academic knowledge through the Masters’ Degree and continuously adding to my network.”
Switch the Play is committed to helping athletes at all stages of their career. For more help and advice get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org