Crystal Palace defender Nathan Ferguson told children at a local primary school that hard work and preparation are essential to achieving your goals in life.
The full-back shared his inspirational advice over a video call at a Palace for Life Foundation Team Mates session with a small group of children at Bandon Hill Meadow Field Primary School in Carshalton.
“I started playing football when I was about eight, but the decision to play football as a career probably didn’t come until I was 13 or 14. When you make that decision to become a footballer, there are things that you need to change, such as your diet, your dedication or your friends.
“Luck comes through preparation, getting an opportunity is often luck, but it’s the hard work that gets you there,” he explained.
Taking part in a group activity where the children discussed what they would like to be when they are older, Ferguson added: “I love football; I hope I can play it for the rest of my life. But if I wasn’t a footballer, I might become I chef; I really like cooking - or I’d be a coach, I like helping kids to play football.”
The 20-year-old, who has been out of the game since January with a knee injury, explained to the youngsters how he was going to take positives from his current situation and would also like to help his team mates.
“Short term, I want to get myself out of this injury and back to where I was, or even better, then hopefully I can get myself into the team and help to develop other players while I’m also working hard myself.
“This is my first setback, I’ll come back and this will make me stronger through the rest of my career.”
Ferguson’s thoughts chimed well with the aims of the Team Mates programme, which encourages children to speak openly about how they are feeling and uses positive psychology to help them become more resilient and improve their social skills.
Mental Wellbeing Officer at Palace for Life Foundation, Tom Prance, explained: “Through Team Mates we work in a small group setting to help children grow and develop so they are better equipped to deal with life’s many challenges. In today’s session, we were discussing our goals and how we can achieve them, so hearing Nathan’s positive mindset was incredibly inspiring for the group.
“Team Mates is all about stimulating conversation and helping children to speak more openly about how they’re feeling and it’s not every day you get the chance to do that with a Premier League footballer!”
Speaking afterwards, Ferguson added: “Communication is so important, it’s good to teach it from a young age so that they learn that it’s ok to talk about your feelings.
“Even if I can inspire just one kid, that’s good enough for me, hopefully I can encourage them to step out of their comfort zone and go on to do what they want to do when they’re older.”
Find out more about the Palace for Life Foundation's Team Mates programme.