The first year scholars from Wolves’ Academy were at St George’s Park in Burton last week to take part in a ‘Create Your Legacy’ event run by League Football Education.
League Football Education is the group responsible for overseeing the education of the 16 to 18-year-old apprentices at football league clubs across the country, and they staged the event in partnership with The Dame Kelly Holmes Legacy Trust to encourage Academy players to develop their skills and boost their future career prospects, whether that is to be in sport, education or in an entirely new profession.
Whilst all Academy hopefuls pursue the dream of a long-term professional career in the game, it remains a hugely competitive environment from which only a few go on to succeed.
Injury, competition for places and other factors all play a part in determining the length of football careers, with approximately 60 per cent of youth team players being lost to football by the time they are 18.
Even then half of the 40 per cent who win a full-time professional contract will not be playing at a professional level by the age of 21.
The event at St George’s was therefore designed to highlight the importance of building on other skills outside of the game, with players and elite athletes able to invest in their futures by speaking to the 65 exhibitors representing employers, universities and training companies.
The players were also able to view the England senior squad, and the England U17 squad including Wolves Youth Team teammate Ben O’Hanlon training on adjacent pitches as they arrived for the event.
Former Aston Villa and England defender Ugo Ehiogu spent the afternoon mentoring young players,while double Olympic champion Dame Kelly Holmes and Bolton manager and former Wolves striker Dougie Freedman were also in attendance.
Ehiogu said: “It’s nice for the lads to see the senior England boys training outside but in here it’s more realistic and the statistics speak for themselves.
“When I finished after 20 years I didn’t know how to put a CV together or what to do at an interview but the PFA helped me understand my strengths and weaknesses and I realised that I had plenty of transferable skills.
“Leadership, problem solving, communication and working as part of a team are all pretty common to footballers but the hardest thing about this day is making them understand they need to prepare for the future.”
Wolves’ Education and Welfare Officer Nick Loftus added: “To gain an Apprenticeship place at an Academy such as Wolves requires the young players to possess some outstanding skills and abilities, but this does not provide any guarantee of any real longevity in the game for the players beyond their current contracts with us. It is vital that they recognise their own personal qualities and that they can then identify the value that they may have in alternative careers.
"Attending the event at St Georges Park last week made the boys think about ‘the bigger picture’. They have to take responsibility for their futures, and they need to know who can help them achieve their lifelong ambitions.
"There were many exhibitors from the sports industry, such as sports and exercise medicine, sports science, injury rehabilitation, strength and conditioning, the forces were represented, as well as a variety of Universities.
"The event helped our young players see that there are options if football does not work out, there are other things that they can do whilst playing professionally, or that they can do at the end of their careers.”
*Dylan Stringer-Moth is pictured during one of the workshops at Burton.
Picture: Dan Rowlands.