Digital Sport Insider: How Chelsea inspire young people to pursue careers in sport
Sport is a sector with one of the more obvious career paths. From a young, aspiring enthusiast, you can become a player or a coach. You might even have aspirations of running onto the pitch with a magic sponge or even becoming a chairman.
But, as everyone reading this knows, there are plenty of other ways in.
Last week, Chelsea’s sports tech hack day showed it off nicely: bringing in companies from all areas of the tech sector to try to help the club improve its efficiency or its fan experience in every sector possible.
On this week’s Digital Sport Insider podcast, Dan McLaren sat down with two of the people running the behind-the-scenes initiatives at the west London club, Matt Mead, Chelsea’s Head of Education, and Carl Southwell, the Enterprise & Employability Manager. The topic of such lesser-spotted roles within a Premier League football club was a topic of conversation, and made for some interesting insights.
Beyond being just a club of elite players, Chelsea has a world famous academy and a thriving community platform. Not every academy player is going to make it to the professional ranks and just like other young people in the local area, they’re going to have to find other things to inspire them, or find other ways to work in football.
“Something that I really love about our academy model here and those young players who are going to be pros is they promote dual aspirations,” Southwell and Mead told the podcast. “So yes we want those players who are going to be professionals and to go on and have great careers but alongside that we also want to promote areas of interest: education and business and things where they can have that more holistic experience. So they do great at football, play at that very high elite standard but there’s also something outside the game that inspires them and raises their aspirations.”
“If we can take that dual aspirational model and give kids at a young age access to a sports team – because less than one percent are going to make it to pro – but look at all of us in our industry, we all work with this club, we all feel like we do our bit to move this club forward in various roles. That’s far more achievable. So making that open to them gives them something to aim for.”
It’s important to know that there are other ways into the football industry than simply being a player or a coach, and they are jobs which are achievable even to those who haven’t been gifted players from a young age. The more people know that exciting and careers in sport go far beyond the elite playing level, the better off the industry will be.
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