The Way Of Life For A Professional Footballer

When you hear football lifestyle you may think of exotic holidays, high-end restaurants and luxury cars. Yes, all of these are perks for SOME but what about the way we have to live every day, to ensure we can perform to the high standard that is expected day in, day out?

Lifestyle: “The body is a temple

I’m sure that you’ve heard that saying before? Well in football, we have to live by this. We have to look after our bodies and make choices away from the football pitch that will allow us to have the best chance of success on the pitch. 

From an early age, we’re told how to live a lifestyle to perform and give ourselves the best opportunity to play for as long as possible like:

  • What we eat and drink 
  • Quality sleep and rest 
  • Doing injury prevention and strength work
  • Right and wrong social activities

The few examples above allow us to be in the best condition for training and games. Whilst we may be able to get away with not preparing correctly for a while, eventually, it WILL catch up on us. We will pay the price for the bad lifestyle choices continuously made, through injuries and poor performances in the short-term.

Long-term repercussions for bad lifestyle choices will be finding ourselves out of the game at an elite level. 

This was who I began my Crystal Palace journey with. The importance of our lifestyle was stressed to us from an early age.

As players, it isn’t possible to have careers in professional football spanning many decades. We’re fortunate if we have a 15-year career in the game across all levels. Injuries are a big reason why they may be cut shorter. Although injuries can’t always be prevented, paying attention to our lifestyle can help in avoiding them.

Lifestyle: Priorities

As we get older and closer to the professional level, we understand and appreciate that we have to prioritise football and our career over most things. We have to accept that we must remain disciplined within our social and private lives as well as in our football.

Outside distractions that can affect performance and take our focus away from football, have to be managed correctly and this can sometimes be hard to do. The best players in the world and the ones who stay at the top of their game are there because of their ability of course, but also because of their strict discipline and management of their lifestyle choices. 

Dedication, hard work all the time and belief”

Cristiano Ronaldo

You only have to look at someone like Cristiano Ronaldo and his lifestyle off of the pitch to appreciate the benefits of good lifestyle choices throughout a career in professional football. There is no doubting that his dedication and discipline in his lifestyle, have contributed to him going down as one of the greatest footballers of all time.

Lifestyle: Social life

Football can be extremely stressful and the demands can take their toll on the body and mind which is why we have to allow ourselves some downtime. We are human after all and we can’t perform at our optimal level continuously, without some form of enjoyment away from football.

Some ways to enjoy downtime are:

  • Low impact activities like golf and cycling
  • Spending time with family and friends
  • Playing video games
  • Day trips like shopping and sight-seeing

There are many ways to enjoy our time away from football without affecting performance. Every player has their preferred ways to shut off with some bad choices inevitably made, but our time away from the pitch is an opportunity to reinvigorate our minds and bodies.

Of course, there are times when players enjoy nights out and other things that aren’t seen as being great for performance. However, I would argue that such choices can have a positive effect on performance, but only when made at the right times!

Regardless of stature, players have the same rights to a social life as everyone else and shouldn’t be scrutinised for how they choose to enjoy their lives away from football.

It is a game of constant pressures so at times we need to completely switch off, with our social life being a great way to find that release. Without having that downtime, the pressures would have a detrimental effect on our mental health and well-being which would then affect performance.

Every one of us knows when it is time to work and when it is time to relax. We wouldn’t be playing professionally if we didn’t!

The key to a good lifestyle within football is moderation. We have to find the right balance for high performance and relaxation whilst also still enjoying our lives as human beings!

Everyone at some point needs to switch off and unwind. Footballers are no different.

Lifestyle: Leave nothing to chance 

Things will happen that are out of our control but that doesn’t mean that we can neglect our lifestyle. We have to take pride in our lifestyle and give ourselves no room for regrets if something goes wrong.

I have always wanted to be able to know that whatever happens, I can look in the mirror at the end of my career and know that I have done all that I could do, to give myself the best chance of success.

Injuries happen, bad performances happen and bad luck happens, but I never wanted those things to be the outcome of my bad lifestyle choices

So I make sure that I:

  • Do my injury prevention sessions
  • Get enough sleep (as much as is possible with 2 young children)
  • Maintain a healthy diet
  • Avoid activities that exhaust my body and mind during my football schedule (except parenting!)

All of these are things that I have done throughout my career, to ensure that I give myself the best opportunity to perform at the level required in training and games. 

I always try to make the right lifestyle choices to aid my performance on the pitch. Image by Portsmouth FC

Lifestyle: You can’t be perfect

Some days I feel rubbish. I am frustrated, tired or sore and I make bad lifestyle choices.

We all make bad decisions away from the pitch, we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t. However, we can’t beat ourselves up over mistakes, but we can make sure that the majority of our lifestyle choices are good ones. If we can limit the bad choices then it will increase our chances of being on the pitch, which improves the chances of success

Those who are happy just coasting along and performing inconsistently are normally making bad lifestyle choices. However, if we want to be successful and enjoy our career as much as possible, then we have to make sure we give ourselves the best chance by DEDICATING OUR LIFE to football on, and off of the pitch. 

Always remember, it’s a SHORT CAREER and the lifestyle you choose to live AWAY from the pitch will REFLECT in your performances. There is no denying that it can be difficult at times and temptations are everywhere, especially as a young player, but avoiding the pitfalls will be pivotal in the route your career takes.

Trust me when I say… IT IS ALL WORTH IT!

Next week I will be focusing on the SACRIFICES made throughout our careers. Stay tuned for that post because there will be things that are taken for granted by many, that players and their families long for!

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Twitter: alexwynter_

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