Football – the hype comes all the way down the football pyramid into village football as young men try to mirror the professional game.
Tweeting, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchatting, building profiles like the idols you follow each day is all around us.
For a non-league player the pressure isn’t the same compared to a professional footballer, granted.
However, working your day job and then finding the motivation and determination to keep at the top of your fitness and skill level is tough.
The pressure to be lean and muscular, to be seen in the gym doing the right sessions all has the same feel whether a pro or non-league footballer.
Having recently retired from local non-league football in various roles the reality suddenly came …… what do I do now?
Training at a pro club from the age of nine for three sessions a week ,all the way through to the age of seventeen you find yourself already institutionalised.
Then bang! Spat out of the the system because you are not considered good enough to make the grade.
You are programmed by a system that makes you believe that you are on a path than no one else can touch and that only people in that system can understand.
When you come out of it your head is telling you one thing. Keep the same standards while your heart is telling you to find something that will earn you a living.
If you manage this goal of providing for yourself then you can try to claw your way back into the professional game if at all possible.
If this fails you can play as high standard as possible.
The extra income for a non-league football is very helpful indeed and it also has that stigma about it.
I am being paid to play the game I love, therefore I am better than the average Joe down the road who isn’t being paid.
Your experience means that you continue to be fit and have the image associated with you as the young nine year old boy who could be the next best thing.
You may move clubs, you may earn a little bit more money and you may have the odd bit of publicity in the local rag.
This all helps you keep that one image you wanted as that nine year old boy.
All of a sudden bang you are thirty plus and staring down the barrel.
You either start getting involved in some kind of coaching capacity or you’re finished.
Are you finished?
Your head says you can still do this, however the body is saying it’s not happening for ninety minutes any more.
You may sit on the bench but can’t accept that this is right and that others deserve their chance. In your world you’re still the nine year old boy telling yourself you are being paid and that you are good enough.
You are finished and you have a family.
You have a job, that’s ok, your time is filled and you are forfilled.
You are as forgotten as yesterday’s chip paper and the local club has a new star to focus on.
But still in your heart you need that routine that has taken over your life since you were that institutionalised nine year old boy.
Inside you there is a deep sadness about the game that you have grown up with and loved. You will no longer be able to play with the same passion or at the same level ever again.
Depression has more of a profile than ever before and more support networks are available.
Recognising who may need this is difficult.
I’m sure many non-league footballers have dealt with their own problems in different ways but I’m sure many more haven’t and are still out there fighting their own metal battles when each Tuesday/Saturday comes round.
Article: Paul Musgrove (@Paul_Muzzy)