Imagine becoming a professional sports star. What an incredible life to lead. Every year, hundreds of thousands of young people chase the dream. Of course, most of us know the chance of stardom is slim. But what’s surprising is how many aspiring stars go from the cusp of success... to no pro career at all.
Just 0.03% of high school basketball players will play in the NBA. And in the world of football/soccer, where clubs have academies custom-built to produce pro players, only a few teenagers will make the grade.
For Liverpool FC’s academy, just one of their 2016development squad made it to the club’s first team. Within two years he’d won a European Cup Final and was playing for the England national team. An amazing success, no doubt.
The rest of the 16 academy players didn’t just miss out on playing for Liverpool, though. Not a single one of them became a professional player - at any level.
Here’s the real tension point. This is a serious business. Pro clubs invest millions in development programs. Football academies start with players from eight years old.
To stay the course, the kids - and parents - have to be all-in.
For the many who don’t make it - especially in the older age groups - this intense environment often means no meaningful backup options or qualifications. And unlike the rest of us, they got almost zero exposure to all those formative teenage experiences - challenging as those can be. All this has a big impact.
To help bridge the gap is a new initiative called ‘After Academy’.
It supports ex-academy players going into sports-related careers -creating jobs that recognize and make use of the transferable skills academies equip them with.
The goal is to offer young people a route towards an alternative, attractive future at a time when they might otherwise feel disconnected and helpless.
The figurehead leading the charge? He’s called Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Yup - that academy kid who now plays for Liverpool and England.
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