Lessons to my younger self

Jake Robinson is a Marketing Executive right here at LAPS. He was Brighton and Hove Albion’s youngest ever goal scorer at 16 years old, and his career has taken him to Shrewsbury, Northampton, Luton and Torquay. He is now playing for Worthing FC alongside his work for LAPS. Find Jake on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.

I’ve played football for my whole life. It’s all I ever wanted to do, and I was fortunate enough to have been employed to play the sport I love for the past 20 years. This year, however, I suffered a serious knee injury at the start of the season and haven’t been able to play since. Suddenly, I had to find a new way to make a living and support myself and my family. I’d never given it much thought, naively thinking I’d play forever.

The level of careers guidance available to young players is far, far better than it ever has been.

But despite the amount of support available, there are still hundreds of players who will be released at 18 or 21 without a plan in place. There’s an attitude amongst some players that if you are focussed on things outside of football, such as your career prospects, then you ‘don’t want it enough’.

A lot of young players assume they will finish playing and walk straight into a coaching job, but the numbers do not support this. So many people want to be a coach there simply is not enough jobs out there for everyone to do it.

Here is an actionable, hindsight, list of things I wish I had paid more attention to throughout my sporting life.

  1. Assess your strengths and interests: consider what you are good at, what you enjoy doing and what industries align with your strengths. You are retired from sport for a long time so doing something that will bring you joy will make a big difference. At some point people will start asking you what you will do when you stop playing, I used to dismiss them and say I’d cross that bridge when I came to it. It costs nothing to think long term but your future self will thank you.
  2. Network: Build connections with people in your desired field and seek out mentorship opportunities. The world has never been more connected. Use LAPS and attend a Member Meet-Up to grow your personal network. Follow people on social media, engage with their posts and build relationships. Go to events and meet people.
  3. Gain relevant experience: At LAPS, we can help you find work experience placements, internships, volunteering or freelance projects. You may be in a sport which requires 8 hours of intense training a day. You may also believe that focussing on something that isn’t improving at your sport is a waste of time, but the more you can add to your CV, the more impressive it looks when you need it. I know from personal experience, we used to be finished training by around 1pm. I would spend my afternoons in Starbucks or playing X-Box! Looking back that time could have been spent so much more productively.
  4. Stay informed: Stay up-to-date with industry trends and developments in your chosen field, as well as any relevant qualifications or certifications. Now you know what you’re interested in and the career path you would like to pursue, what do employers look for when they are hiring? Does your governing body or union offer further education courses?
  5. Consider further education: Consider pursuing a degree or certification program in your desired field to gain an edge and increase your job prospects. Check out the LAPS pages for ideas and discounts on further education. More experience to add to the CV, more skills to show you are keen to learn. If you didn’t have a chance to attend college or university, it’s not a problem. You can study almost anything from home in 2023.  Can’t commit to a full-time course? Find YouTube tutorials and educate yourself.

Just a few ideas which probably seem like common sense now but would be easy to dismiss as unnecessary whilst you’re amid a successful sports career.  I’m fully committed to rehabbing my injury and returning to football, knowing now I will be in a better position than I was before.