PFA launches fitness programme to help ex-players manage move into retirement

The first RECONNECT session took place at Loughborough University.

Recently-retired players who could be at risk of feeling “in limbo” at the end of their careers are being offered the chance to join a new union-funded fitness network.

The RECONNECT initiative has been launched by the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) to help ex-pros manage the physical and mental transition away from playing full-time.

Leicester’s 2016 Premier League title-winning captain Wes Morgan took part in the initial session at Loughborough University last month alongside former England striker Ellen White and ex-Leeds forward Jermaine Beckford, among others.

Jermaine Beckford taking part in the RECONNECT session at Loughborough University
Jermaine Beckford taking part in the RECONNECT session at Loughborough University (PFA Handout/PA) (Barrington Coombs)

“A lot of players that I speak to who have recently retired struggle with finding what to do next,” Morgan said.

“The routine they are so used to gets taken away at retirement and they can feel slightly left in limbo.

“The benefit of the RECONNECT sessions is that they’re structured, which helps massively. The physical side is all taken care of and so former players get the opportunity to catch up with people they’ve not seen in a while and maybe have played with in the past.”

The network is part of a wider PFA effort to help its members succeed both during and after their playing careers.

Sessions will begin from early May, to be hosted at Leeds Beckett, Hull and Liverpool John Moores universities, with 17 higher education locations across England and Wales provisionally set to be used in the programme.

Euro 2022 winner Ellen White took part in the RECONNECT session
Euro 2022 winner Ellen White took part in the RECONNECT session

These sessions will consist of two-hour gym classes being delivered by performance coaches and there will also be access to sport and recovery therapies like massage and yoga. Sessions will be bookable via the PFA website.

White, who was a key part of the Lionesses squad which won the European title in 2022, said: “I think it’s a great project and something that could help a lot of players who are just coming out of the game.

“When you’re used to training every day and being around team-mates it can be a shock to the system when that suddenly stops.

“I think for a lot of people there is a big link between how they feel physically and how they feel more generally in terms of their well-being.

“Having something to help keep you in that routine and connect you to other former players can only be a good thing.”

PFA chief executive Maheta Molango added: “The physical impact of moving away from full-time football is often overlooked, but it can have big knock-on effects at what is often a really challenging time for players.

“Players spend years in structured training environments. Because it’s your job you can often take it for granted, but when you retire, you are suddenly left to look after your own fitness and exercise for the first time.

“The PFA’s RECONNECT network will give members who have recently retired a structured fitness resource that can help them build and maintain new exercise habits during this stage of their life and career.

“It’s an opportunity for former players to connect with each other in a social environment and to speak to the PFA to take advantage of the many services and opportunities that we provide.”