Rasmus Haagensen graduated in social science and sports science while he was a professional handball player in Denmark. In 2007, he set up the player development unit of the Danish football player union "Spillerforeningen". He and his union colleagues have helped hundreds of players to prepare for life after football. Rasmus spoke to "Mind the Gap", a FIFPro initiative, about his work.


Is it difficult to convince footballers to study?

We need to be a bit pushy. It’s easy for players to postpone things. We need to find that motivation in them to do something. If we find that motivation, then we will 'hold their hand' to get them moving in the right direction. Then we slowly start to let go off their hands. Very often it takes us one or two years of coaching before players come to a conclusion as to what they want to do after football. The first times we speak with them they often find it quite difficult to identify areas of interest besides football.


Can footballers fit studying into their schedule?

When we started out in 2007 we began by speaking to all the universities in Denmark. Back then some universities had courses designed for athletes but now there are more and more. These courses allow athletes to do courses online, postpone exams and prolong courses; for example, we have advised a young player at Aalborg University doing a 5-year engineering program over 10 years. These courses also have a contact person for athletes whose job is to help them with their schedule. It is fine for players to study with regular students – they will discover the world outside football which is meaningful for them – but it’s not always possible because of their training and match schedules.


Do clubs mind players studying?

We signed an agreement with the Danish league and clubs four years ago that we will visit clubs regularly and speak to players. This is a great starting point. The clubs together help fund our work with 1.8 million Danish kroner per year (about $280,000). There will always be an issue if coaches are against players studying but gradually the culture is changing: there are role models and a realization that studying doesn’t have to interfere with football. It is very important that the club leaves the impression on players that it is ok to study. The more they encourage the players, the better. We estimate that about 25% of players in Denmark today do some kind of further education.