For many, when their child is spotted by a scout for a professional football club and is selected to be groomed as a future football star, it is a dream come true. Parents get to see their child start on a journey to fulfil their ambitions and fantasise about future glory and six-figure salaries that will secure them for life.
However, what should parents consider when their child joins a football academy? What can a parent expect when their child is signed by a professional football club? How do they plan for an academy star’s future and what are the options if their child is released by an academy or the child decides on a career away from football?
One of the biggest difficulties families face when a child is selected to join the academies of professional football clubs is that the child’s career very quickly can become the families career. In many cases parents have to change jobs and relocate and the whole family has to make sacrifices.
It puts an enormous burden on the young academy star and the consequences of them not succeeding and being released by the club can have far-reaching knock-on effects for the whole family.
Newleaf specialises in helping academy players and professional footballers to find new careers and succeed in life after football. Here we share five rules for parents with children who have been spotted by a football academy.
Understand the realities of football academies
All too often I hear parents at football academies joking that “that’s my pension playing out there”. While it’s just light-hearted fun, parents must fully understand what they are getting involved in by signing their children up to a football academy.
Understand that the sole objective is to develop the children as football players and also understand the reality of the situation and what the percentages are. More than half will be dropped at age 16 and around just one per cent of the players who join an academy at nine-years-old will make it as a professional footballer.
It’s a huge challenge for the youngsters and, for most academies, their family must live within an hour’s travel of the training ground. That often means parents have to relocate to chase the dream and it can have a big impact on the rest of the family.
Remember it is your child’s dream to be a footballer
The commitment of parents whose children are in football academies is unbelievable. They make huge sacrifices and commit so much to the development of their child and their ambitions for life in professional football.
However, it is the child who is being trained and who’s aspirations you are supporting. Too often parents – with one eye on their retirement fund – place a huge burden on their children. With the family making many sacrifices, it can be a huge cross to bear for children and you have to do your best to keep that responsibility off them.
If they are one of the 99 per cent who don’t make it, it will be hard enough for them to find a future for themselves without also having to worry about the family.
Let your child be the decision maker in a football academy
Your child will be faced with key decisions during life at a football academy and you have to let them take their own path.
As parents, you obviously have to help them make the right decision, but you must also respect their views, opinions and desires.
Don’t be tempted to try and live out your own football fantasies through your child and help them to find the best route to fulfilling their ambitions of becoming a professional footballer.
Understand that children in football academies can change their mind
Despite their talent and clear passion for football at nine-years-old, seven years in an academy with everything focussed on making them a professional footballer can take its toll. There is pressure in academies to deliver and, unsurprisingly, children can, and do, change their minds.
Children can simply fall out of love with the game and, despite the sacrifices you’ve made and the hopes and dreams you have, you have to accept that they now have different ambitions of their own.
Make sure you are aware of what the other options are. Help your child to consider new qualifications, different career choices – inside and outside of football – and help them to investigate all of the options.
Remember it is their dream and their decision – not your retirement plan or chance to fulfil your own ambitions.
Academy life can be tough on all, but there are always options for everyone involved.
If you have any questions or experiences to share around getting involved in football academies or want to discuss how you can support your child to consider other options and find a new career, please get in touch.