During my career I faced many tough decisions that determined my future. It is the same for every player. You are constantly dealing with coaches, media, fans, agents as well as coping with good and bad form, winning and losing, recognition and criticism.
The life of a player is full of challenges and uncertainty. Moving to Scotland after just turning 20, I had to manage this without being able to speak the language and in an unfamiliar culture far from my family and friends.
In those days it was a lot harder to maintain a close connection with those at home than it is today. I desperately needed guidance from those I knew had my best interests at heart but, instead, was left to face many situations alone. I was forced to grow up quickly and learn to stand up for myself very early on.
Taking good decisions was the key to my success.
Who to listen to?
This isn’t to say I didn’t make a lot of mistakes. I did and every one was the result of blindly following the advice of other people. Firstly, I am at fault as I should have analysed the situations and taken responsibility but those around me are also to blame. As a player with a promising future, you attract lots of people that want to take decisions for you because they see an opportunity for their own personal gain.
They take advantage of the fact you are focused on making it as a professional and fail to develop the knowledge about everything off the pitch.By allowing others to take control of your life without any supervision, you risk not only damaging your playing career but discovering the consequences of earlier bad choices after retirement when it is most difficult to bounce back from.
I was one of the very lucky ones because the impact of my bad decisions was small. I was able to learn without paying too high a price.
Learning the lessons
I learned to start to question the people around me and ask why they wanted to be involved in my life. I was disappointed with many of the responses I received. I realised they were there for money and their own benefit rather than supporting my development and progression. From that moment on I challenged the advisors around me and demanded more from them. They will always tell you they are doing a great job for you. If they are, they won’t mind being tested.
No-one else knows about what you need, your current situation and what direction you’re heading like you do. I had to find out how they could help me and how they could be a positive influence on my journey. You have to realise they work for you and you don’t work for them. They are there to help you achieve your objectives and ambitions, not the other way around.
All the former players at Player 4 Player have been through these situations, seen the good and the bad and are determined to make a change so players’ interests are always put first.
We mentor, advise and support players. We will never take decisions for them or try to control them.
It is about asking them questions to understand their profile, challenges and ambitions. Then we work out together how to fill the gaps where they need help with these. Once we clarify their needs, we empower them to be able to be independent and adopt the right approach for success. We want them to understand the implications of their actions and the possibilities so they can make informed choices according to their needs.
It is about them, not about us.
Stiliyan Petrov was speaking to Doug Reed.