My journey so far...
Student at The University of Birmingham - Semi Professional Footballer
Former Trainee Footballer and Scholarship Athlete. (Swansea City, Kidderminster Harriers, Newport County, Merthyr Towm)
Tell us briefly about your career to date...
I always played football as a youngster and quite quickly got picked up as a schoolboy by Swansea City academy at under 9’s. I captained the side, and spent seven successful seasons there, competing against other academies across the country and also tournaments across Europe, against team such as Juventus, Fiorentina, Udinese and Fulham.
At the age of 16, I left the club having not been offered a full time scholarship. I the had a few offers from football league clubs but ended up joining Kidderminster Harriers which meant I had to move away from home at the age of 16. I became an integral part of a side that reached the second round of the F.A Youth Cup where we were knocked out by Carlisle United. During this season I suffered a bad injury that kept me out of action for a big part of the season.
During the following pre season I was offered the chance to join Newport County and jumped at the chance as it meant I could move back home. I started the season well and soon became captain of the youth team, and began to train with the first team at every chance possible under Justin Edinburgh, and featured in a number of reserve team games. However, Newport County were promoted to the football league that year, and I subsequently wasn’t offered a long term contract.
I was lucky enough to be able to fall back on my studies and began studying towards my A-Levels at this point. In the mean time, I joined semi-professional outfit Merthyr Town where I racked up nearly 100 appearances in two seasons, in a side that won promotion to the Southern Premier League with a record points tally.
Unfortunately I had to leave Merthyr Town as I gained a place at The University Of Birmingham to study Economics, which is where I am currently. I joined the football team here, and in our first season we gained promotion to the BUCS Premier League. Also I managed to make a few appearances for semi-professional Halesowen Town in the Northern Premier League. I have also recently signed for non league side Stratford Town FC, and I can't wait for the season to get going!
How did you first get involved in your sport? And when did the opportunity come to start competing at an elite level?
I did try out a few sports at a young age like tennis and cricket, and competed at a high level in both, until I had to choose to concentrate on football, as training within an academy became too much. My dad got me in to football by taking me down to the local club that he played for himself at a young age, and after impressing in trials I signed for Swansea’s Academy.
To date, what’s been your biggest sporting achievement?
I’d have to say gaining promotion with Merthyr Town. It was a long, hard season personally, as at the time I was also studying for my A-Level exams, so the day we clinched the league in front of 2,000 fans was a very special moment for me.
Tell us a little bit about what is it that you are currently doing now?
I am currently in my second year at the University of Birmingham, studying Economics. I have recently signed for semi-professional outfit Stratford Town FC and hope to find the time to also compete with the Uni football team in the BUCS prem.
How do you manage competing at an elite level, whilst in full time education?
At some points in the year it can get extremely stressful trying to keep the high levels of performance I expect from myself, whilst focusing on my main priority which is now my education. But I try to plan each week ahead to fit in as much training as possible, but at the same time I do think keeping up a good social life to relieve stress is vital. Growing up, I always had to fit in education and football, often with football being the main priority, so in that aspect I've learnt from experience. The difference now is being able to prioritize my studies.
Having grown up and developed through professional/elite level clubs such as Swansea City, what are the key behaviours you have learnt through competition and training?
I have learnt that sacrifice is one of the elements to being able to balance both my studies and sport. Whether it be sacrificing late nights, a few drinks with your mates or even your relaxing time, these sacrifices make a big difference to being able to perform at the highest level possible. This is particularly hard at university as there are many distractions. Good self-discipline is key to sticking to these sacrifices. Being disciplined and self motivated is something that I developd through football, especially whilst at Swansea. This has left me in good stead and I am now able to apply this to my every day life.
Do you have any advice for other students who are going through career transition from elite/professional sport?
If you want to fit everything in, and progress in both your studies/career and sport, it is vital you use all the time you can effectively and this takes planning. Also being committed to sticking to sacrifices is vital. You will often have a much busier, more demanding lifestyle than other students who are not involved in elite competition. It is hard to maintain the sacrifice and commitment, but to give yourself the best chance of doing the best you can in both education and elite competition, being disciplined to these sacrifices has been my biggest success factor so far. I believe that putting in the work now, will give me an advantage in the long run against other students.