Case study

Moving to Derby as a semi-pro footballer

A good reputation 

I am originally from Prague in the Czech Republic. I am a student-athlete playing for the University of Derby men’s first team and the University’s partner club, a semi-pro club in Derby, Mickleover Sports. I spent seven years in a professional academy with Sparta Prague and we won league titles from under 12s to under 21s level. I was also involved in Sparta Prague FC’s senior team during the pre-season just before I moved to the UK.

I chose to study at this University due to the BA (Hons) Sport Management course and its link to Derby County Football Club. I enjoy the managerial and admin side of sport as opposed to the practitioner side and believed this was the best course for me. Additionally, the University football team has a good reputation and I had heard another good footballer from my home country had been playing here previously. Overall it is much more difficult to combine university and football in the Czech Republic.  

Adapting to another language

I have experienced a completely different culture and environment and I have managed this in my second language which is challenging at times. This was the first time when I actually had to take care of myself as there is no one else who would do that for me. Thirdly the academic system is different from the Czech Republic, I was expecting that, however, I still had to adapt. From a sporting perspective, the game in the UK is more physical and more competitive as there are many clubs and players but I feel I have improved and become a better player since leaving my home.

Football scholar, Jiri Boula wearing a Team Derby shirt and holding a football.

It has been a good environment to train in as it feels like a professional setup in terms of the support services I have accessed. I have felt supported and I have enjoyed working with the other sports scholars from all the sports.

Jiri Boula
Men's Football Scholar

Learning through workshops

Personally, I’ve found the most important and beneficial aspect the access to the performance suite with sports and conditioning coaches and to the physiotherapist. The workshops delivered by our Sports Psychologist, have been valuable and I enjoyed the importance of sleep, performing under pressure, and time management workshops this year.

Experiencing a real-work environment

Other benefits include gym membership and academic support if needed. Also, the course encourages us to take part in work placements that Derby County offers. This helps us when considering our future careers as we experience a real work environment. Most of the course modules are focused on real-world learning which I find really important and valuable. Additionally, we have supported the Derby 10K event alongside Derby County Community Trust.

University of Derby students playing social sport football.

Balancing act

I try to think ahead so I can manage my time to complete my University work and dedicate the time I need to my sport. I would say my time management skills are a work in progress. My girlfriend helps to keep me on track which is very beneficial and also I have a paper diary, so between the two I am trying to improve.

There are times when there is a clash of sporting and academic schedules but fortunately both the module leader and lecturers have an understanding of sport and it can be difficult to balance both sport and academics at busy times throughout the year. There are other sport scholars in my class and a number of footballers and they understand we may have to be absent from class due to a sporting commitment occasionally. They have provided one to one appointments, all the lectures are recorded and lecture presentations are on the website so we are able to maintain a good academic level too.

Goals for the future

I would like to be a professional footballer before the end of my bachelor's study. However, I am aware professional sport doesn’t last forever and I need to prepare for life after my sporting career. Following a career as a professional footballer, I would like to be a football scout as I feel with my background this is the industry I know best.

Student on a bike in the performance suite at the Sports Centre.

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