Jason Lee works with the PFA Charity supporting members with further education and advising players about their future prospects and delivering diversity workshops, helping to tackle discrimination in the sport.
Jason is a former professional footballer, and after a 20-year career in the game now works on behalf of the PFA Charity across both the Equalities and Education departments.
One area he is working to develop is around duel education. With the average career of a football player being only 8 years, most players most players will need to think about another career when they leave the game, and working on their education when not on the pitch or training ground is important.
With so much excess time when you’re playing football, it’s crazy not to do something with it. I realise when you’re young you may want a break after being in full-time education for so long.”
This is why we always encourage our members to think ahead, and consider pursuing an education in another area of interest.”
Jason understands that some players don’t like the idea of it because they believe you can only focus on one thing at a time, but in his experience he has found its good to have something else to focus on than just performance.
Later in my career, I went to university and it was good to focus on other areas outside of playing. When you’re just training and always thinking about your performance, it can be mentally draining. I believe it’s important for all sportspeople, particularly footballers, to have interests outside the sport.”
There can be a false sense of security when players sign a contract, but sometime they can find themselves abruptly out of the game and it is good to find time to plan for their future.
You’re only one injury or external circumstance away from leaving the game, and things can change very quickly. You have to maximise your earning potential, but at the same time realise that’s not going to last forever, which isn’t an easy message to get into people sometimes.”
It’s similar for older players who are retiring – we want our members to be prepared and plan ahead.”
The PFA Charity supports players who want to pursue their education and if members have an interest in any area they will financially support any accredited qualification that relates to it.
We have some good links with colleges and universities, and we even have some bespoke courses that we run in sports science, sports journalism, and physiotherapy. Many players now are into music, media and other digital enterprises. I always say if that’s where you’re focus is, why not see if you can make it pay?”
Jason himself left school with no qualifications, and going back into education was really difficult, but it something he would encourage all players to look at and there are some very positive examples of players who have taken up the challenge with the support of the PFA.
I found it tough because I’d been out of education for a long period of time. I was still naive at 30 and I wasn’t thinking about honing in on what was next, but then I had a serious injury which put things into perspective.”
Invariably an injury always gets players thinking about their future, but I would love them to start considering their options before that stage. If you’re worried about getting back into studying, I would suggest starting with a short course. What worked for me was doing something simple that I could digest.”
If time management is a concern, I’d always look to people like Juan Mata who has multiple degrees, or Vincent Kompany who has a masters. These are international footballers playing in the top leagues and winning on the pitch, and still effectively managing their time.”
If they can do it, so can you.”