Norwich City hosted a seminar for parents of the Club’s Academy players with two panels of experienced guest speakers invited along to discuss player welfare and working with intermediaries.
The event held at Carrow Road was the first of its kind for the Club and was organised to demonstrate Norwich’s commitment to supporting players both on and off the pitch.
Parents of the Under-14 to Under-23 players were invited along to listen to the two topics being discussed by a group of experts brought together using contacts from different areas of the Club.
Michael Calvin, one of the UK’s most accomplished sportswriters, was the host for the night. He has years of experience and a wealth of knowledge in both player welfare and intermediaries and is the author of many books including No Hunger in Paradise, an in-depth study of the Academy system in this country which has also been turned into a documentary for BT Sport. He also spoke about his work with former professional rugby player Gareth Thomas on his autobiography Proud.
Michael Calvin praised the Club for encouraging honest discussion and described the evening as “progressive” and “impressive.”
He said: “It is really important that people who go into the football world understand that world, and I applaud the Club because I don’t see too many clubs doing this, looking at pretty tricky issues without fear or favour.”
Former professional footballer Cedric Anselin, who played for Norwich City Football Club, was one of the panellists and spoke openly about his mental health struggles throughout his career and how support was not available to him at the time. Now aged 41, he uses his experiences to give help and support to footballers about depression.
He said: “I was severely depressed when I left Norwich. I remember driving from my flat to go to Colney and I was so anxious and crying in the car, I was looking at myself crying and hoping no-one saw me. I was petrified to go through the doors at the training ground to face my teammates. I was scared to fail.
“I was not educated and prepared to have challenges in my football career. I came from Bordeaux where I was just a young lad from the academy playing in the first team, and at the age 17/18 I was playing the UEFA Cup final against Bayern Munich with big players. I was not prepared for the football world and I was not prepared to be a footballer professionally.”
The first panel also included Clive Cook, Norwich City’s Academy Professional Development Phase Player Care Manager, who recently worked at Liverpool FC and England FA Women’s Youth teams aiding the psychological, emotional and social development of young players. He was joined by Pete Lowe, Director of PlayersNet, an organisation set up to support players, parents and clubs in all aspects of player welfare. He previously worked for many years at Manchester City Academy as Head of Education and Performance Management.
Pete Lowe said: “Cedric said things that many players during my career had brought to my office, knocking on my door saying ‘Can I have five minutes with you?’ The reality is they wanted a lot more than five minutes. I spoke to them, not as an expert - because I have yet to meet one of those - but as someone with life experience and an understanding of the fundamental value of mindset.
“Their experiences in life often hit them from leftfield and at the time they didn’t have the skillsets to be able to handle things and understand the factors at play. Big emotions can be overwhelming and frightening, if you let them take over. When a boy is walking down a tunnel for the first time and everyone is saying to him ‘man up’ and there’s 22,000 people inside the ground and a deafening noise on the other side, you don’t say ‘man up’ because what you really want is that boy to do his best and perform at his optimum.”
The second discussion panel was made up of Zoe Ward, Norwich’s Business and Project Director who has nearly 20 years’ experience working with the intermediaries of players both at Academy and First Team level and Alan Redmond, an FA licensed intermediary working in the UK, Italy and Spain.
Alan Redmond said: “We are trying to construct a career for a player. The chances of their career being at the club where they came through the academy is probably small. Whether it ends up being an enormous club or a smaller club and then they work their way through, what we are trying to do is get them to the foot of the mountain, and the foot of the mountain is when someone says, ‘I’m going to pay you every week to play football for my team.’ And once they are playing professional football then the level will dictate how much they get paid and what size club they play for. What we are trying to do is make sure they are focussed and that they are rounded people.”
Parents also heard from Catrina Lewis, a senior manager and coach within the sport industry. Catrina is also the mother of Norwich first team player Jamal Lewis and spoke first-hand about her experience as a parent who has been through the Academy system at Norwich.
She said: “The Club has been massively supportive to Jamal all the way through since he came here at 16. We’ve had a really positive experience as a family and Jamal has had a positive experience as he is now playing First Team football. He is living his dream and taking every moment as it comes, relishing it and still learning every day.
“We were always able to ask questions when we needed to throughout the process and I think that is key because sometimes you feel bad hassling someone or asking a silly question. The Club has always been very approachable, and as a parent I felt that was very reassuring because we want our sons to become men and to be successful and I feel 100% that the Club were there all the way for Jamal.”
Commenting on the event, Zoe Ward said: “The evening was a real success, and this was largely down to the honesty of the panel in sharing their experiences. The feedback from parents and Academy staff has been really positive and we hope to be able to deliver another seminar again in the near future.”
To find out more about the work of PlayersNet, email firstname.lastname@example.org