The goal was to prepare for life post football. Now on the verge of completing his Certificate Four in Residential Planning Adelaide United star Nigel Boogaard tells the PFA how hitting the books has given him much more than he bargained for.

Pressure and uncertainty can feel like a constant companion for many footballers. The dedication required to forge a career can make it all consuming and leave little room for life off the pitch.

Nigel Boogaard knows the effect it can have. The defender has seen many teammates struggle when faced with not only saying goodbye to the sport they have dedicated their life to but also being unsure of what to do next.

On signing with Adelaide United ahead of the 2010-2011 A-League seasonBoogaard knew it was time to start taking steps to ensure this would not also be the case for him.

“I realised I was getting older, I’m not at the end of my career but I’m midway through and I needed to start studying to prepare for life after football,” said the 27-year-old. “Over the past few years I have seen boys get to the end of their careers and not have anything to fall back on.”

Having always had an interest in architecture Boogaard sat down with the Adelaide United career advisor to devise a way of gaining the necessary qualifications to enable him to work as an architect.

“I spoke to people who had gone to Uni and who had done Architecture and found out that it was pretty much a full-time gig so it would be almost impossible whilst playing, so we looked at the TAFE option. I found out I could do it part-time at night and a few subjects by correspondence that would fit around training and playing.

“I have been going ever since for the last three years. Now I just have to complete 40 hours work experience in a firm and I will have a Certificate Four in Residential Planning. I’m now thinking of doing another two years to get a Diploma in Construction and Design, which will pretty much set me up as an architect.”

For Boogaard his path post football now feels secure.

“When you are young you kind of think I’m going to make a career and make enough money to survive and think that after football I might not have to work but the reality is for most players that you have to think about life after football.

“You see players who are regular starters and all of a sudden one bad season and they are out of the game. Some of them have no credentials and nothing to fall back on and I think that makes the transition even harder.

“A big thing in transition is you see a lot of boys struggle in that final year, and that six months after they finish playing. It has put me at ease knowing that when I finish playing I have something behind me and I think it wont be as stressful as it could have been.”

Whilst the goal was always to prepare for life post football Boogaard said studying had also had a positive impact on his performances on the pitch.

“I do believe it does help you find that balance and your whole world is not about football, as much as it is our job, and our life, it makes you concentrate when you are there a lot more.

“When I leave training I can leave training at training and be able to concentrate on my studies. I think having that balance gives you a lot more perspective on life, as you are not just always thinking about football.

“I think being productive away from the game is the main thing because you do leave football at football and when you are there you give it 110 per cent and you focus on that for that period of time and you don’t go home and over think it and worry about things like I should have done this and this better you are able to switch off.”

Boogaard said juggling his football commitments with his study had not always been easy but said it was possible to combine the two successfully. The Newcastle born defender said the key was prioritising what is important and using all the resources at your disposal.

“We are lucky that we can take advantage of things like the PFA Education Fund and use the knowledge of our career advisors. We also have time to study. It’s easy to be unproductive and sit around watching TV, playing a PlayStation or sitting at a café’ for two or three hours but I just made sure that I dedicated those type of times to knuckle down and that was the beauty of doing TAFE at night – it forced me to go somewhere and be productive.”

For Boogaard productive use of his time away from the pitch has helped him to be at his best on it and will ensure life after football is anything but daunting.