Former Dutch player Gijs Luirink among first in retired footballer health program
28 May 2021
Gijs Luirink was among the first footballers to take part in a pilot project developed by FIFPRO to help players with their career transition.
Luirink’s 15-year career included stints at AZ Alkmaar, Sparta Rotterdam and FC Groningen, among other clubs. With the Dutch national team, he won the UEFA U-21 Championship in Portugal in 2006.
The pilot - ‘After Career Consultation’ - program was developed by FIFPRO and the Amsterdam University Medical Centers, and carried out in collaboration with the national player union and football association.
Luirink spoke to us about how the consultation with a doctor helped to shape how he now looks after his health.
I quit playing in summer of 2016, and when you leave football you are transitioning from training for six days a week and being very fit to thinking: what I’m going to do now?
The consultation was a couple of months later. I knew the doctor who did the consultation very well, at AZ Alkmaar. When you join a new club you do a lot of new tests, and it was a similar experience. I talked about my new life, my previous injuries and how I was exercising now.
There was a blood test and a running test on the treadmill, with the oxygen mask.
What was the doctor’s advice?
I had a lot of knee injuries in my career and the doctor told me that I did not have much cartilage in the knee area.
He told me not go to go running, at least not more than 5 kilometers. He advised me to exercise more on the bike and only play tennis or football occasionally.
“I started kickboxing. I had no problems with my knees doing that - and it's a great workout”
Did you end up doing what he said?
Yes! I knew I couldn’t run a marathon. I ran sometimes but not further than 5km, but I found out running on your own is pretty boring.
I started kickboxing. I had no problems with my knees doing that. It’s a very full workout - in 45 to 60 minutes you feel exhausted.
I also train on my own spinning bike, at home twice a week . That’s also good for my knees.
Did you have any issues with your career transition?
I didn’t have mental problems myself. I arranged to have psychological training in Amsterdam to prepare for my transition.
You go from having a structured life – weekend game, recovery on Monday, training on Tuesday – to a completely different existence. Some people can have psychological problems: you are not famous any more, you can lose your identity.
I had already made plans and was getting started with a coaching career. I was coaching the oldest youth team at my club, and had two coaching badges.
Would you recommend After Career Consultation to others?
It is really good idea for everybody do it. I think I am disciplined and conscious of my health but it’s always good to have some extra tips.
Everyone is different and has different needs.
It is great if there is also the possibility to send a player for psychological help if needed. Not just one consultation, but a series of sessions.
Are you still working in football?
Last year I decided not to renew my coaching contract with AZ. I found out I wanted to do different things in life. I didn’t see myself as being coach for 20-30 years.
I enjoy learning new things and wanted to do something outside football.
I did some research about what motivates me and in September I started studying to learn how I can coach people about their personal development. Beside my studies I am still working in football, I have the privilege to individually coach young players.