Liverpool defender Joe Gomez claims he would have liked to have been a PE teacher if he hadn’t made it in professional football, and says the subject taught him how to discover his talent at school.
Speaking at an event in partnership with EA Sports to reward winners of a national Premier League Primary Stars competition, the England centre-back talked at length about the importance of the subject in terms of bonding and teamwork.
The 22-year-old began his youth career with Charlton Athletic in 2007 at the age of just 10, and moved through the ranks at the south-east London club, making his debut for their Under-18 team at just 13.
In 2014 he made his first-team debut at 17-years-old, and less than 12 months later he was in the red of Liverpool.
On paper, his rapid rise from the playgrounds of Catford to the bright lights of Anfield looks like the stuff of dreams, but it was a love of physical education at school that played a huge part in his success story.
“PE was my favourite subject in school,” says Gomez. “I wasn’t bad in school, but I wasn’t the smartest, so I think it was the time that I could just enjoy myself and purely have fun.
“I think that fun and enjoyment is the main thing in school. If I wasn't a footballer I would have liked to be a PE teacher.
“I knew that I couldn’t let my school affect my football by behaving badly and getting detention and all that sort of thing, so I made sure my homework was done.
“Obviously, at that age, your parents emphasise that it’s important that you do well in school, otherwise they might take away your hobby.
“It’s really important, not just for the health benefits but just for having fun. Psychologically it’s important that children get a chance to express themselves and sometimes PE is the best way to do that.
“I found my talents in PE and it gave me a chance to have fun and enjoy time with my friends, so it is definitely important.”
Gomez also talked about learning the basics of sports other than football, and the advantage that gave him as he learned his trade.
And it was those skills that laid the foundations for his eventual success both domestically and internationally.
“You need to have basic coordination, but having the confidence in yourself from that age - that you can do certain skills - is the main thing that helps you when you get older,” he says.
“I loved sports day and all the races, so athletics and running were my other favourite sports.
“But football is not an individual sport, and if there is no chemistry within the team, regardless of what talent you have, then you are not really going to succeed.
“I think that shows within the team. Where you have got a good bond, you will all play for each other, play for the manager and play for the supporters.
“I think it’s important that you are all one - not just within the team, but within the community and the supporters as well.
“It’s important that we live our lives the right way, not only for performance but to be role models.
“I think it’s important that we do our best to lead an example for the younger generation.
“For any kids that want to achieve a dream I think you have just got to ask yourself, is it something you enjoy? That is the fundamental aspect.
“If you don’t enjoy it, then you are not going to put that extra effort in to be the best that you can.”
To find more information on the Premier League Primary Stars, click here.