Going Full TimeDalton Harris
Throughout my final year of GCSE’s I wasn’t playing regular football and my football fitness and conditioning soon left me as I concentrated on my GCSE’s, of which, I’m proud to say that I achieved well in. However, as soon as school had finished I left home at 16 and moved to accommodation in Scunthorpe where I lived for the next 18 months. I was living with 2 other team mates with a family, where we became paid for playing and our life was football. Leaving home at 16 the be with a group of players who are almost 2 years older than you is daunting and was very difficult to start with. Due to not playing regular football, I was unfit and due to homesickness I wasn’t bonding with the team very well.
Unhappy First Year
My first year as a scholar, was spent largely on the bench for the Youth team and I would be lucky to get 15 minutes at the end of the game. If someone else was injured I was lucky to get a rare start, but however, due to lack of match fitness and lack of confidence, I often performed poorly and was a glimpse of the player I was at Nottingham Forest, just the season before. Combined with the daily football, I was attending college 1.5 days a week and decided to extend my course so as to allow for if I didn’t make it to the first team, I could go to University.
I often look back and see this as the darkest time in my football career, however, in terms of character building, mental resilience and certainly football intelligence I became a much better person. One advantage of being on the bench often was that I sat next to the coaches and observed from their point of view what players were doing well and what players were doing wrong on the pitch.
Coping with Homesickness
To cope with homesickness, I saw the football psychologist weekly and in order to become fitter I would often stay late and train in the gym. Alas, this was too late in the season to make any difference on my squad profile. Off the pitch I was excelling in college and furthering myself at home in the evenings after training. My home sickness often meant I didn’t integrate into the squad very well and meant I went home every weekend to get away from the football 24/7. I soon learned to grow up throughout that year and cope with the practical jokes and the banter of which, before I had never encountered and often felt targeted.
Youth Team: 2nd Year
The following season, I realised was my last year to earn myself a first team contract. For this, I spent the off season training with a personal trainer where I was able to drop my body fat percentage to 8% and become the leanest I had ever been. This meant that in the pre-season testing I was top at most things, and become a respected member of the squad and mentally I became stronger than ever and determined to make it as a professional.
Alas, the year below which were promoted to the Youth Team, there was a favoured striker in which the manager preferred, so once again I was sat on the bench where I became increasingly frustrated. In the performances I did play, I felt I added something to the team, however my goal drought due to lack of confidence soon became a problem. With only 2 goals in my first year and 1 goal currently in my second year half way through the season, which was in stark contrast to around 18 goals in each of my 4 years at Nottingham Forest. I increasingly became disillusioned with the game and my coach.
This is when I decided to look around Universities as I knew I would not be taken on professionally.
Please help me!
However, over the Christmas break, I called Peterborough United up and begged them to take me on loan, knowing one or two of the coaches from previous trials. In the February they agreed to loan me until the end of the season, which again meant that I moved around the country to follow my dream.
Back to my old self
Living in Peterborough and entrusted with 90 minutes each game, from February through to the end of the season in April, my goal scoring record, form and fitness returned scoring 9 goals in 14 games. I felt fit, strong and in form again and back in love with the game. As the season neared to an end and with college completed, my contract expiry meant that I was almost certainly heading to University, frustratingly having left my loan move too late.
However, Peterborough decided that once my contract had finished I could stay on with them and look to train with the first team in the following pre-season to try and earn a professional contract. I spent the off season in the gym and really got into Crossfit which is a cross functional fitness, which use a mixture of gymnastics and weightlifting to again reduce my body fat from 10% to 7.5% and really give myself a good chance of turning professional.
The Last Chance
Pre-season arrived and again I was the fittest and strongest member of the Youth team squad, and I became more integrated with the first team, I found myself performing well in training sessions and felt comfortable performing in front of the first team manager. Once I started performing well, the manager explained that he would like to sign me, however he would need to sell a few players in order to make enough money to sign the players he wanted. Unfortunately, he didn’t sell enough players and prioritised transfer money and therefore didn’t sign me.
This therefore meant that I went to the exit trial games in order to try and achieve being recognised by other clubs. I was approached by several semi-professional clubs, but felt that for personal development I would be better going to University, educating myself and still playing professional football. Throughout my time at University, I played for the University football team and also for several semi-professional football clubs, however, I have now decided to focus on a career and bring my knowledge to you!