To get paid for doing something that you love is a real blessing and it's well known that careers in sport can be both rewarding and lucrative. But it's not all plain sailing as for every success story their are numerous tales of disappointment and heartache.
It's somewhat surprising to learn that the average career for professional football players is now just 8.5 years which means only the few will earn enough in that short time to not need a secondary career of some sort and that's without the risk of a severe injury.
This is a familiar story, known only too well by Ashmax Associates Financial Adviser, Ryan Briggs.
Ryan was a product of the renowned West Ham United Youth Academy and was part of the successful squad of '99 that won both the FA Youth Premier League and FA Youth Cup.
Graduates included the likes of Joe Cole and Michael Carrick who have gone on to enjoy success with clubs including West Ham, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United respectively as-well as both gaining many international caps.
Ryan recalls, "I loved every moment of my time with West Ham. I was lucky enough to progress through the academy system, signing as a schoolboy at fourteen to then become a youth trainee at sixteen and then get a professional contract at eighteen."
West Ham beat Coventry 9-0 on aggregate in the 1999 FA Youth Cup Final.
He continues, "A lot of people ask me what happened and if injury was to blame for 'not making it' so to speak. Although I did suffer a medial ligament injury that put me out for 9 months and meant I missed the FA Youth Cup final, I don't think I'd put it down to that. I remember the meeting I had with then boss Harry Redknapp as my contract was up for renewal. I was absolutely petrified and having been injured for a long while, all I was hoping for was an extra year or two to prove myself."
"I remember it as if it was yesterday. Harry explained to me that what with the competition for places in midfield, it would simply take too long for me to get a chance in the first team and that I'd be better off trying my luck at one of the lower league clubs." Click here to read an article with comments at the time by Frank Lampard Senior.
He goes on, "Our midfield included myself, Joe Cole and Michael Carrick. Only a few years older was Frank Lampard and there was also other players who went on to have careers in the game such as Grant McCann (now Peterborough manager) and Australian international Richard Garcia".
"I remember the meeting I had with then boss Harry Redknapp as my contract was up for renewal. I was absolutely petrified."
Ryan then faced what so many young players then do which is to go on trials at clubs up and down the country trying to earn that illusive contract. Unfortunately through some bad luck, bad timing and perhaps fate meant that he would ultimately have to look at a 'real' job outside professional football while playing at a non-league level.
He explains, "I do feel for young lads today. It's really tough being let go at that level when all you've ever dreamed about was playing football. Unfortunately the reality is that there's an annual conveyor-belt of players all looking to get a contract in the lower leagues. Most clubs are willing to give you a trial but unless you're ready to go straight into their first team, most don't have the finances to take the chance and cover even minimal wages.
"The annual conveyor-belt of players looking to get a contract in the lower leagues meant eventually I had to get a 'real' job."
West Ham's FA Youth Cup and Premier League Champions
After a successful career in recruitment and then social media management, Ryan studied to become an Independent Financial Adviser. He explains, "My father had been an IFA for over thirty years and he'd always recommended it as something I could get into at some point."
It wasn't until fellow West Ham player Michael Carrick introduced Ryan to his personal IFA that he realised how his experience could help young players within the sport he loved.
Ryan recalls, "Michael was kind enough to make some introductions and I realised how important it was for young players to surround themselves with the right advice. After getting qualified and initially helping clients though the family business, I was in a fortunate position to focus more of my time back in professional sport.
"Michael Carrick was kind enough to introduce me to his personal IFA and it all started from there"
Now with Ashmax Associates, who are part of LJ Financial Planning, Ryan looks after his core business while also developing the sports division by partnering up with people he's known through football that are now highly regarded player agents and managers.
He explained, "It's great to be back in touch with some of the people I've known through football and I'm genuinely passionate about helping the next generation. In addition to this we're growing our business by offering a route into Financial Services to those approaching the end of their playing careers. This isn't limited to football and can be from various sports including rugby, athletics, tennis and boxing to name a few."
"We're now offering a route into Financial Services to those approaching the end of their playing careers in sport including football, rugby, athletics, tennis and boxing"
The Ashmax Academy is designed to support individuals from a professional sports background with everything they'll need to become a fully qualified Financial Adviser and enjoy a lucrative and financially rewarding post playing career. Suitable individuals will be well placed to help people from within their relevant sport and can even start the programme while still contracted to a professional club.
Ideal candidates will be driven and professional with a positive attitude towards learning and development. With modern technology, location isn't a problem so we're looking for candidates across a range of sports through-out the UK.
For more information about the Ashmax Academy or to submit your details please visit and share www.ashmax.co.uk/sport.
Feel free to connect with Ryan via LinkedIn www.linkedin.com/in/ryandbriggs and Twitter @ryandbriggs