How setbacks have helped me, on and off the pitch

guest post by Nick Arnold

Turning Pro

My story is quite a different one when it comes to fulfilling my dream. I was late to the academy scene in joining Reading when I was 13. It was my boyhood team and I could not have been happier when I signed my scholarship and pro deal at 16. The thought of the chance to play for the club that I grew up 15 minutes away from, went to watch week in week out and many of my family were long time supporters, was such an honour.

That chance came when I had just turned 18. Getting the call from the first team manager saying I was in the squad for the Carling Cup game against Charlton was a surreal moment. The excitement in my family was high but it also came at a moment in my life when I needed it the most. Weeks before the start of the season and this game, I had lost my best mate, another lifelong Reading fan, due to knife crime. It was a massive privilege to know that he would have been proud of me representing our team.

However, maybe the writing was on the wall with what was to happen next as the game was called off due to the London riots and the lack of available policing for the match. By the time the fixture had been rearranged, my first of many injuries had occurred and I was never able to fulfil the ambition of playing for Reading.

I would go on to play for some fantastic clubs such as Wycombe, Aldershot, Wealdstone and Whitehawk. Also, I got the honour of representing England C, the non-league England side, in a game against Estonia. Football being my biggest passion, this was such an honour for me as wearing the England shirt at any level was a dream.

Setbacks and injuries

I have had a few setbacks and injuries over the course of my career, starting with not being able to play the Reading game with a 6-month groin injury. The injuries I have had in my career are not reoccurring injuries, they have been significant but isolated injuries that I have tried my hardest to bounce back from every time.

After a series of ankle troubles, my next major injury was a 20-month ACL reconstruction. Turning on the pitch, I felt a pop in my knee which meant a full ACL rupture, MCL tear and Meniscus repair. After 3 operations and a lot of hard work, I was back on the pitch in the Conference with Aldershot.

Since then, I dropped to part time and won the Conference South with Wealdstone. However, this season at Eastbourne, I have ruptured the ACL in my other knee, a full ACL rupture and meniscus tears both sides to be precise. I am now 4 months post op and getting along well.

All these setbacks and injuries have brought new challenges every time, both physically and mentally. I have had 4 major operations, endless pain relief injections and several physios and consultants helping me get back onto the pitch. The hard work and determination to get up every time after being knocked down, gets harder to summon every time. Saying this, it gives me the drive and hunger to get back and playing and being successful. The setbacks are hard, but regrets are worse.

There have been many times I have thought about giving up and giving in to my injuries but I know within myself I can get back. Injury is a part of sport and I will listen to my body and I understand when to rest and ease off but I will be determined and continue to work hard to get back until I am medically told otherwise. It is my passion, hunger and love for the game that will keep me going.

Transition to a business career

At the end of the 18/19 season, I took the decision to start a career that would run alongside semi professional football and then, over time, become my sole career and my future outside of the game. This decision was not made lightly but my footballing career was always going to struggle after the injuries and setbacks.

The reason I chose recruitment was the referral of a friend within a company. I had never been for an interview before, let alone go for an office job. After a couple of interviews at the company, I was offered a consultant role on my first go. I felt like I had a lot of transferable skills to take into a recruitment role and so far, have found myself having some success using them.

These transferable skills include resilience, a winning mentality and a knowledge of speaking with people from different backgrounds and areas. These have been influential for me to build a successful desk within recruitment.

The transition was hard. Going from a vibrant, comfortable changing room every single day to being a long way out of your comfort zone is never easy. It took time and help to do. Making new relationships and learning new skills in a new industry is not easy but I was never one to shy away from a challenge. Challenges are around us everywhere, both in and out of the workplace, on and off the pitch, and I believe how you manage and overcome them shapes who you are.

Being able to adapt and believing in myself have got me to where I am today. I have been through a lot, physically and mentally and want to always improve myself as a person for my future. I have made many mistakes that I can not redo but I can learn from and make sure they never happen again.

I am looking to the future now. Giving myself the best possible chance to succeed in a different line of career that I didn’t know I would end up in. Who knows what may lie ahead for me? Whether that is playing again part time, finding my way back to the game in a different career or finishing up with it all together, only time will tell. But what I know now is that I have given the game my everything and I have no regrets. I am now giving my business career my everything and will take the same attitude into succeeding as I did on the pitch. I am excited to see what the future holds and where my life will take me next.

I hope everyone is well during this difficult time and wish everybody all the happiness in the future.

Nick is keen to connect with people who wish to discuss any future sporting projects.

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