Football and Education: A balancing act

In her debut column for Her Football Hub, Leeds United footballer Megan Hughes tells us about her everyday challenges when juggling semi-professional football and her education.

Football has been my life since I was six years old. Starting off as the only girl at my local grassroots team, I built a tough skin that I’ve used in my footballing career ever since.

My love for football has grown as I have over the years. Now at the age of 17, the balancing act of semi-professional football and academic studies has become more challenging than ever.

Early years

I started my journey at Wigton Moor JFC when I was six. I played here until the age of 15, before joining Leeds United RTC.

This was a huge step up for me as I really wanted to begin to take my football seriously and play at the highest level possible.

My year at the RTC saw me playing against the likes of Manchester City, Manchester United and Liverpool. All challenges that I was itching to take on.

Managing football and school has always been tricky for me, as I understand and value the importance of each. However, I really felt the pressure when my time with Leeds RTC clashed with the start of my GCSEs.

I had to be really careful managing revision alongside training three times a week, plus game day on Sundays. It was by no means easy, however, I quickly found the line between the two and managed to come out with results that I’m extremely proud of.

Megan Hughes in action for Leeds United WFC.

This juggling act was ten times harder when I came to starting my A Levels. Following the RTC, I joined Guiseley Vixens for my debut season in women’s football. I then moved on to join Leeds United this season.

I have to be really strict with myself to ensure I commit fully to both football and school, whilst maintaining a healthy balance of both.

I’m coming into my last year of sixth form this September, meaning I’ll be working when I’m not playing and playing when I’m not working!

Strict social demands

Alongside the physical demands of the game, comes the social demands. Life as a footballer at the level I’m currently playing at means I often have to sacrifice nights out with friends, parties and other social situations.

Eating habits are another important thing to keep control of. This certainly makes life a lot harder when all your friends are having pizza and you only get to watch!

Although – personally for me – while it’s frustrating at the time, it does have a huge benefit in the long term. Feeling good and playing better on the pitch is such a great reward.

My advice for any footballer who is currently having to juggle education with their sport is simply to stick at it.

It will seem difficult to start with but planning and organising will soon become your best friend. All you need is a well-scheduled timetable and to make sure you’re strict with yourself.

If you master these, you’ll soon see the rewards… and trust me, it’s the best feeling in the world.

Be sure to follow Megan on Twitter here!