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Sport & Recreation careers

Ball Games: Football, Rugby, Cricket & Others

Why work in ball games?

Former Liverpool legend and arguably the greatest football manager of all time, Bill Shankly, once said: “Some people think football is a matter of life and death. It’s not. It’s much more serious than that”.

To some, that may seem a tad extreme, but for those people who have a genuine passion for the game, as millions of people across the globe do, it’s perfectly plausible.

The same can be said for any sport. Beauty, after all, is in the eye of the beholder. Some people feel about rugby and cricket the same way that Shankly felt about football. If you’re one of those people, what could be better than a career associated with your biggest passion?

How can I advance in this field?

So many youngsters dream of becoming a professional sportsperson: the next Jonah Lomu, Andrew Strauss, Mia Hamm, Ryan Giggs or Emile Heskey. However, for the majority of people, it remains just that: a dream. However, for a select few, the dream can become a reality.

Cricket, football and rugby are amongst the most popular sports in the UK, so it’s not surprising that it’s so competitive. All professionals will have started playing from an early age and usually will have around ten to 12 years of experience before turning pro. This trend applies to most ball games: football, cricket, rugby and even the less mainstream sports, like volleyball and handball.

In the UK, most kids will play their sport of choice in school and competitively at weekends or on weeknights. If they’re any good, they’ll get snapped up and will play for their county or a nearby school of excellence. This is make or break time, really! Either you’ll develop into the sort of player who could make it professionally or you’ll not quite make the grade. Unfortunately, a lot of people fall in to the latter category. Take a minute to reflect on that and then listen to these words. It’s. Not. All. Doom. And. Gloom. There are plenty of other roles you can pursue in each sporting field.

You’ve got coaches, physios, managers, health and fitness coaches, trainers, medical assistants, and that’s before we even begin to talk about all the people who work behind the scenes, including: the agents, the marketing guys, journalists, talent scouts, promoters, groundsmen and kit men.

For medical positions, such as health and fitness coaching or physiotherapy, all employees will need to have the relevant qualifications that each role requires. It’s a competitive area, so getting work experience before applying for more permanent roles can be the key to finding employment. You could even volunteer at local sports centres or physiotherapy centres.

For coaches, there are certain badges that you’ll need to earn before you’re qualified to coach at a senior level. For example, to become a football coach, you’ll need to get your FA or UEFA coaching badge. From then on, you can improve on your current qualification and coach people to a higher standard.

No matter which role you decide to pursue it is of the utmost importance that you display a genuine passion for the sport you’re interested in. Playing it from an early age, watching it on TV, attending live events; it all helps you to build up the relevant knowledge that you need to make it, especially in roles such as sports journalism. It’s also definitely a good excuse for spending hours on the BBC Sport website!

What options do I have other than playing?

If you want to get into coaching, you can work with any age-group and your work can take you all over the globe. Usually, coaches, managers and trainers start their career with younger athletes, typically at Sunday or Saturday league level, and work their way up the ranks.

Physiotherapists and health and fitness coaches specialise in keeping the body and mind of their athletes as fit and healthy as possible. The mental side of things is easier said than done. Imagine the challenge of mentally preparing some of the most volatile and arrogant footballers in the world. We all know who they are! With football, cricket and rugby, the physical part of the job can involve anything, from making sure players do the right stretches before a big match to making sure they eat the right foods and generally keeping them in tip-top shape.

Behind the scenes, there’s a whole world of activity going on and PR, advertising and marketing executives play a big part. PR people can represent brands, such as Nike or Adidas, or individual players within the sport. The same can be said for the marketing guys. Advertisers work tirelessly to make sure the right adverts are seen at the right events, or the right sports brand names are plastered across the shirts, tracksuits and boots of the right players.

Player agents aren’t the most popular guys in sport, often demanding huge wages for the athletes they represent (we’ve all seen Jerry Maguire), but it’s a fulfilling position to work in. You’re basically the person who negotiates new contracts for your players and acts as the go-between between the talent and the clubs they play for.

If you’re liking the sound of this then there’s only really one question left to ask…are you ready to play ball?!