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Behind the 90 Minutes
Perth Glory goalkeeper Nick Feely shares his experiences and advice on the importance of having an eye on life after playing, and the opportunities available to players through the PFA’s Player Development Program.
Perth Glory goalkeeper Nick Feely can pinpoint a defining moment that changed his outlook on football and life, which has set him up for the time his professional playing days come to an end.
The light bulb moment occurred when Feely was 20 years old at the end of a two-year contract and in talks for a third year with Scottish giants Celtic.
“I had been at Celtic for two years and I could have possibly stayed there for another year but I wasn’t going to get the game time so I thought, ‘hold on, do I try and find a new club or what do I do?’ I was at a crossroad,” recalls Feely.
“I went looking for some other clubs in lower leagues in and around London. There were a couple of offers but nothing that was really jumping out at me so I looked at some other options and university was one those.
“I had to weigh everything up and looking back I think I made the right decision.”
That decision, which Feely contemplated for a few months, was to apply to a number of universities in the aim of studying engineering.
At the age of 20, Feely would commence and spend the next three years undertaking and then graduating with a Bachelor of Civil Engineering with Honours at Cardiff University, a decision that largely went against the natural grain of a talented, aspiring young professional footballer wanting to make it in the big time.
“I had to step back from the life of professional football for a period which was a big sacrifice,” said Feely.
“To stop getting paid for something that you love doing is a pretty big decision to make so that was a huge motivation to study hard and get my degree.”
Fast forward to the present day and Feely, now 25, finds himself not only a contracted player with Perth Glory but also a Structural Engineer at global engineering and infrastructure advisory company Aurecon.
Feely admits his situation is unique in that he took three years out from the game to study, but says the underlying theme of players considering the option of undertaking some form of education or learning away from football is the same.
Feely is thankful that he came to realise the significance and importance of thinking about life after football now rather than before it was too late.
“As a footballer you have so much spare time that you’ve got to try and make the most of it,” said Feely.
“I’ve done the solely professional footballer thing where you get home after training and sit on the couch and play FIFA all day.”
“If I had to give young players any advice finishing school would be the first thing. I’d never encourage any of these youth programs to start dragging kids out of school.
“You just have to look at the stats to see how many players actually make it professionally and from there how many actually set themselves up for life – it’s not many.”
The PFA’s Player Development Program is dedicated and committed to giving players the support, assistance and guidance to consider some form of study or course to ensure they build a life after football.
“I think the PFA’s Player Development Program is fantastic. We’ve got Robbie Gaspar as our Player Development Manager in Perth and all of the other A-League clubs have their own delegates so I’d encourage players to get the most out of them because they’re only there to help you…as you’re essentially paying for it,” said Feely.
“The PFA is putting in a lot of hard work to provide these elite player programs, and they’re not available to everyone. As players we’re in a very fortunate and privileged position so you’ve got to get the most out of it while you can.
Often the most difficult part can be working out what course or industry to get into but that is just one of the many aspects PFA Player Development Managers can assist with.
“I like building things and making stuff so it was always going to be something in construction and the structural side of things was probably the thing that interested me the most,” said Feely.
Furthermore, Feely sees a host of positives that can help players become even better on the field.
“I think it can definitely make you a better player. I’ve had plenty of days training where you haven’t put in the best session and you can get tied up on it for a week if you don’t do anything else.
“To be able to step away, clear your mind and come back the next day refreshed is great. I don’t think studying or working can be detrimental in any way to your game and it gives you a different perspective on how things can be achieved.”
Feely can relate to feeling overwhelmed and agrees that initially juggling football and a job or study can seem difficult, but he believes the key is a simple one.
“The secret to balancing and putting your best foot forward in both areas largely comes down to time management and both Perth Glory and Aurecon have been extremely flexible and supportive with the situation I’m in,” said Feely.
“I know when I first started doing both I was tired a lot but you get used to it and your body adapts, and it’s quite a relief now going to work at Aurecon because the football environment is such a high pressure one and it allows you to step away and take your mind off a good or a bad day’s training.”
“I personally enjoy it and I know it might not be for everyone but it is working well for me and keeping my head in the right place.”
“They say football is as much mental as physical so if you’re in the right head space your game is halfway there.”
For now, Feely is determined to do his utmost to give himself the best chance of prospering as a footballer. While that may be the current priority, what Feely has done is set himself up to enjoy a fulfilling profession and work life when the professional playing side of football comes to an end, whenever that time comes.
For more information on the assistance the PFA can provide to members looking to pursue study or other professional development please contact your Player Development Manager or PFA Player Development Executive Shannon Beck via firstname.lastname@example.org
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