Life as a professional sportsman or woman can end in an instant. Injury, a cut in funding or a contract ending - only 30 per cent get to control the way they end their careers.
When Robbie Simpson’s career threatened to be cut short at just 26, training by himself for several months, he admitted he was anxious, confused and at a loss as to where to turn.
That’s when he had his light bulb moment - setting up a business to help find careers for sports stars out of work.
Life After Professional Sport (LAPS) is an online platform for the pros to begin thinking about their careers after their careers.
Simpson, whose route into football saw him graduate from Loughborough University, set it up at the start of 2017 to help others who were not as lucky as him to have a second chance in their sporting life.
“I’ve spoken to plenty of players not just in football but in rugby and cricket too – it can end before you know it and it hits you like a brick wall. It’s a real cross-roads in someone’s life. You can either deal with it well or you can really struggle.
“A former team-mate of mine, when his career ended, he tried to take his own life. And he now works at LAPS with me. There are lots of things that has added to this topic over the years that have fuelled my passion.
“It got to a point where, in October time, I was training on my own, thinking ‘how long do I go on like this?’ I was constantly looking at the transfer list, and there were 400 other names on there.
“I was feeling anxious, my savings were nearly gone because I kept up my lifestyle expecting a new deal. If I was feeling anxious, so were the other 400 players, who maybe didn’t have my academic background. But it can end that quickly.”
Mental health is a hot topic in society of late. With high profile examples like Clarke Carlisle and Frank Bruno seeking help for their issues, Simpson believes LAPS can help give prevent retiring sportsmen and women from spiralling into depression.
He said: “Everything coming out at the minute: it’s OK to talk if you’re depressed. It only makes me wonder why they are depressed.
“Roughly 70 per cent of chances come about as a result of ending their sporting career. I believe LAPS can help with that.
“We help footballers and other athletes find interests away from sport and produce a pathway for them to have a career.
“Suddenly, the brick wall they hit when their career is over isn’t as bad because they’ve got another passion.”
LAPS offers advice on nearly 200 different careers, with businesses signing up to be a part of the platform.
Now 33, Simpson believes he still has time left in his career on the field, but already has eyes on his life after football, and hopes he can help others be as relaxed about retirement as he is.
“Sports people get a lot of time to rest, but mentally I like to keep myself busy. Rather than sit at home on the PlayStation, I’d rather do work and help other people. I like to spend my days off with LAPS.
“When I first launched LAPS, a team-mate of mine left Exeter, went to non-league and is now about to take his final exams to become a financial adviser, and he did it all through LAPS. It fills me with a lot of joy and pride, and there are a lot of others we have helped.
“It’s nice to know that all the feelings I had when I had that light bulb moment, I’m doing something to prevent that anxiety in others.”