Chris Higgins on preparing footballers for life after the game

Chris Higgins combines playing with the Methil men and his role at PFA Scotland. Pic by Kenny Mackay.Chris Higgins combines playing with the Methil men and his role at PFA Scotland. Pic by Kenny Mackay.
Chris Higgins combines playing with the Methil men and his role at PFA Scotland. Pic by Kenny Mackay. | Other 3rd Party
Chris Higgins believes he’s perfectly placed to help footballers prepare for life after the game - because he’s stood in their shoes himself.

The veteran defender combines playing part-time with League One outfit East Fife with his job as personal development officer at PFA Scotland.

Part of his remit is to work with players who want to ready themselves for a second career when their time in the game comes to an end, and ensure the transition out of football is as seamless as it can be.

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Over the past week players have been taking to social media to describe how Higgins and the PFA have been assisting them.

With the help of the former Queen of the South and Ayr United centre half, Falkirk’s Aidan Connolly and other members are starting a bespoke gas apprenticeship with JSS Training Services, former Dundee United defender Stewart Murdoch is taking steps towards joining Police Scotland while St Johnstone’s Jason Holt has joined other members in learning a second language.

Higgins says it’s crucial players prepare for what comes after their short football career is over.

He said: “It’s about helping players plan for the next stage and it’s a message I know well because I’ve been through it.

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“I always try to tell young players about my journey at events I organise and the lightbulb moment I had to plan for my second career.

“I was 25-years-old and in between contracts at clubs and that’s how things are for the majority of people within Scottish football.

“It’s something I’ve lived and experienced so I want to help players get to that point sooner.

“But even if they don’t, I’ll still assist them in any way I can to find something they can do, and want to do most importantly, once football ends.

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“It by no means sees them take their eye off the ball, it’s helping players be the best they can be on the pitch but helping them understand the importance of planning for their future.

“Scottish football is so difficult that not many players up here will be able to retire from their wages and earnings.”

Players who have been lucky enough to enjoy a career in the game since youth level may know little more than life as a footballer.

But when the time comes to look further ahead, Higgins says it’s key they think carefully about the right path for them and the beginning of that process shouldn’t be rushed.

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“It may start with just a coffee and a chat,” said the 34-year-old.

“Just that initial face to face conversation because a lot of players don’t know what they want to do.

“That’s fine - I totally understand that - so it’s my role to ask questions and help players build, whether they are young or approaching the end of their career.”

After potentially 15 years or a couple of decades in the game, thinking about what comes next could be daunting.

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There are plenty of options out there, but the confusion of a complete career change is never easy.

Higgins, though, says he tries to match members to new professions to suit.

“I’m very much on the front foot with it and think of ideas for them,” he said.

“Because I’m still playing I have loads of mates in the game and think forward about what they might like to do.

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“I approached the police to see if they could arrange something to help players out and they really enjoyed it.

“There’s a company in Stirling called JSS Training Services who I was introduced to by a friend.

“Players are really interested now in courses which could end in a trade.

“So I got the lads into a very good course there.

“We also have players doing languages, some doing IT stuff and other courses.

“I’m trying to cross over as many different industries as possible because it’s not a one size fits all for players.

“That’s the same as in any walk of life.”

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