Jason Lee is a former professional footballer working on behalf of the PFA Charity across both the Equalities and Education departments. After a 20-year career in the game, Jason now spends his time delivering diversity workshops, helping to tackle discrimination in the sport. Supporting members with further education and advising players about their future prospects, is something Jason is passionate about, so we caught up with him to find out more.
Hi Jason, what does dual education mean?
It’s difficult to label, but there is 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. However in this industry, the reality is that the average football career is only around 8 years, so most players will need to think about another career when they leave the game. In my experience, the longer you’re out of education, the harder it can be to come back to. This is why we always encourage our members to think ahead, and consider pursuing an education in another area of interest. Players can be over reliant on other people and we try to get them out of that mind-set. It can be harder to adjust when you come from an environment where other people take care of everything for you.
Why are some people opposed to it?
Some players don’t like the idea of it because they believe you can only focus on one thing at a time, but I disagree with that as people can multitask. In my experience, I’ve found its good to have something else to focus on than just your performance, especially if you’ve had a bad game. 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.
Why is it important for members to think about education while still playing?
There can be a false sense of security when you sign a contract. We want players who find themselves abruptly out of the game, to avoid rushing into things when they haven’t given themselves 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.
Does the PFA Charity support players who want to pursue their education?
If members have an interest in any area, we 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?
What advice would you give players who think studying might impact their performance?
There’s no point wasting your time for the sake of it, but I left school with no qualifications, so for me going back into education was really difficult. 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.
Being out of your comfort zone is a difficult thing, and it takes a lot of dedication to be a high-level sports person like our members are. However, if they applied just 10% of the effort they put into being an athlete into anything else, I have no doubt they will be successful.
Any current or former professional football player can access financial support for an accredited course via the PFA Charity. Find out more about Education options click here.