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We caught up with ex-Belper Town academy goalkeeper Jack Repton who is currently studying a degree through the ESPFA blending learning degree programme. Jack has aspirations of making a career in sports coaching and has used the NPLFA to gain experience in this field while also working towards a BSC Hons in Sports Coaching. He currently works for Derby County Community Trust, where he works in talent identification and is head of goalkeeping for Under 8s, 7s and 6s. Alongside this, Jack helps out coaching his old academy side, Belper Town while also studying a degree in Sports Coaching.

Q) How did you hear about the NPLFA and what made you join in the first place?

A) I originally planned to join in the pilot year in 2014 with Mickleover Sports but for different reasons I didn’t end up going through with it. Then the following year I had a friend who was signing up to a football academy and liked the sound of it, and realised it was the same one and we both applied to Belper Town.

Q) What were the main reasons as to why you wanted to join the NPLFA?

A) There was a big appeal of playing at semi-pro grounds and the travelling to and from training and being full-time Involved in football really. It’s really appealing as a 17/18-year-old, learning different things and learning what is expected of you at higher standards. You could really see the change from going to training and having a kick around with your mates to actual tactical training. Also working with coaches who want to develop you as a player and as an individual. It was a nice step up and a good challenge.

Q) How did you find the mix of education and football when you first started the program?

A) I enjoyed it because the football and education are both done to a high standard. The football is a big step up from JPL and Sunday league sides and It’s good to be training three times a week and playing on Wednesdays, it has a very professional environment behind it so it bodes well for development. On the education side, it’s really good to be around your team mates all the time and have full days with them, it builds a good atmosphere and team chemistry. The work and the topics are quite relevant and focuses on sport so if you’re looking for a career in sport it is definitely a good course to be on, there are lots of different pathways you can on with it. Some of the lads like myself have gone into coaching, some are focusing on sports science and all sorts of sporting ventures.

Q) What was your favourite part about being able to carry on studying while progressing in

your football as well?

A) It keeps everything quite relevant. If you went to a normal college it is quite a broad range of people there all doing different things. With the NPLFA everyone is on the same page and that can add to the camaraderie of it all and you feel like you’re part of something with likeminded people. In College you’re just another student but when you’re with a group of lads and you’re part of a team, you’ve all got your own role within that. Instead of just being part of a 30+ student class at college you’re in a nice group of 20-21 lads who are all mates and you all get on so it’s all really good for the team environment.

Q) Was it an easy decision to make to join the NPLFA? Did you think about other options after finishing school and why did the NPLFA appeal most?

A) When it came up that I could go to Belper, I didn’t really hesitate. Playing football every day when you’re 16/17/ sounds like a dream but being able to study alongside that is brilliant.

Q) How did the NPLFA prepare you for after completing your BTEC level 3? Were there different options outlined for you/ did they provide different pathways to higher education etc?

A) We had quite a lot of different organisations come in to talk to us about different options, like going to play abroad and studying in different parts of the country and also while I was there the degree option was introduced so already just through the NPLFA there was lots of different pathways to explore. In the first year I think we had two lads go over to America and gain scholarships and in the second year we had another couple go out there, so there is loads of different pathways. UCAS was also quite important and we got helped out quite a bit with our applications and writing our personal statements.

Q) Would you recommend the degree course to students finishing their education?

A) Yes, it’s a good level of progression and there are lots of options, I know they’ve brought in a sports science one now and there are lots of different pathways. I know there is a sports management degree, sports science, sports coaching so there are three different alternatives to go down while still playing football. Or if people wanted to step into the coaching side like I did then it’s a good platform to get your experience and a degree out of it as well. There aren’t many places you can go out and help coach a side three days a week and help out on match days.

This is just one of the many pathways that a student finishing their education with the ESPFA can take. Other player progression updates are will be published shortly and you can find out more about Scholarships to College in the US and also progressing onto Higher Education in England.

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