How ‘What Next?’ Moved Me Past My Sliding Doors Moment

guest post from Jason Severiano Lampkin

Sliding Doors

At some stage in life, most people will find themselves with a moment to spare and imagine what might have been. It’s an impossible and inescapable reality that idle minds are inherently inclined to dive deep into reverie and begin to imagine how a surreptitious stroke of good fortune might have altered the course of their lives.

‘Sliding Doors,’ ‘the Butterfly Effect;’ call it what you will – we’re all susceptible to conjuring up illusions of better outcomes in the narrative of our lives, none more so than sportspeople.

Everyone is the hero of their own movie and we all enjoy manipulating and manufacturing the screenplay so that it appeases the desires of our inner audience. Sure, trials and tribulations are fine – welcomed, in fact, to add spice to the story – as long as the main character overcomes them to go on to glittering success and a subsequent happy ending.

But life as a professional sportsperson is often not like a movie. We aren’t completely in control of the script, the characters or the unraveling storyline like a director is and we might hear ‘CUT!’ well before we’re ready.

Having had my professional sporting career cut suddenly and surprisingly short through injury, it’s fair to say that I’ve often found myself pondering where I’d be now had I not caught my blades in the turf at Villa Park on a cold, wet night over ten years ago.

It was a week before my 18th birthday and I was progressing well at the club. A cameo appearance as a first team substitute in a pre-season friendly against Oxford United was the only action I had seen so far at the top level but in the academy, I felt I could claim to be a valuable member of our talented side.

Approaching the culmination of the campaign we found ourselves top of our respective division and in the semi-finals of the coveted FA Youth Cup where a first-round tie at a floodlit Villa Park against Newcastle United beckoned. It was the climax of my season but turned out to be the anti-climax of my career.

Tussling against an opponent whilst chasing a through ball, I stretched out my leg to try and get in front of the man and head towards goal. Yet with a little clip of my heel and a big twist of my knee, I was sent tumbling to the ground, cradling my joint in agony. I knew from the immediate searing pain that it was serious and, retrospectively, it was the night I not only said goodbye to my ACL, MCL, and 25% of each my medial and lateral menisci, but also to my chances at the club and prospective professional career.

There was no way I could have prepared for such a tragic unforeseen occurrence. All of my daydreams to date had been of scoring goals, providing assists, winning games, trophies and accolades; not of knee-braces, crutches, learning to walk again and slamming the book shut on my story as a professional sportsman.


Therefore, it’s no surprise that my transition took some time for me to accept and I’d be lying if I said I’ve completely come to terms with it, despite being a decade down the line.

Like a lingering hangover, I still feel bitterness and disappointment that I wasn’t able to have the career I’d envisioned, but I’ve always maintained that one cruel twist of fate shouldn’t define the trajectory of my entire life. The last thing I wanted was to become the drunkard propping up the end of the bar preaching to anybody who’d bother listening that I’d have ‘made it’ if it wasn’t for my bad knee.

Being within touching distance of achieving my dream to being propelled a million miles away from it in the blink of an eye was a crushing blow to take. I don’t doubt that Charlie Bucket would still be sobbing into his cabbage soup had Willy Wonka waved the golden ticket in front of his face, only to whisk it away without notice or unnecessary niceties.

Though a traumatic experience, it instilled an important trait in me: the will to succeed and prove to myself and others that just because I didn’t quite make it in football, it doesn’t mean that I can’t make it doing something else. The resilience to overcome obstacles and adversity whilst forging forward is a fantastic quality to possess, particularly in today’s trying times.

What’s next?

I’ve been applying the invaluable skillset that my unique journey through football helped me cultivate in my other endeavors. My passions and interests still stem from my first career, but the fruits of my labors now blossom off the field of play.

After my career-altering injury I went to the United States to earn a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and an MBA from a reputable school in New York. I then went on to create a successful career for myself on the corporate side of fitness, working for some of the biggest names in the industry. During that time I also helped to co-found My Football Mind, whose mission is to help create the next generation of resilient footballers, as well as publish and contribute content in written and spoken form to shine light on the topic of mental health in football. Most recently I’ve been heading up the partnerships team at Freetrain.

In no way do I mean my previous paragraph to sound braggadocious, but I am at least proud that I haven’t let myself spend too much pondering ‘what if’ and instead focused on ‘what’s next.’ I’ve always thought it better to be a doer than a dreamer. It’s action, not mere imagination, that turns our dreams into reality after all!

Jason is Global Partnerships Manager at FreeTrain, co-founder of MyFootball Mind and provides consultancy on special projects in the sports, fitness and architectural industries in the USA, England and Germany. Reach out to him using the links below.

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