In our latest Setanta Student Story, professional footballer Carl Jenkinson provides an insight into his playing career, a growing interest in strength and conditioning and his studies with Setanta. 

Early Career in Football

Carl’s footballing journey began at the early age in the Charlton Athletic Academy, before moving on to play for his boyhood club Arsenal. 

“I learned a lot as a boy at this top-level academy and looking back now I realise how the extent of my learnings there helped shape me as a player and a person. At 19, I moved to Arsenal, my boyhood club and went on to play for them for many years under the tutelage of Arsene Wenger. A great man and coach, I learnt an incredible amount about the game I love but also an abundance of life skills.”

His journey then brought him then to West Brom, Birmingham and Nottingham Forest before making the move to the Australian A-League. I always had an itch to play abroad and I have no regrets, I have played plenty of football and will return a far more rounded person for the experience!”, he outlines.

A Growing Interest in S&C

Throughout his career, Carl had “always taken an interest in the strength and conditioning aspect of professional sport.”

He puts this down to finding a level of enjoyment in trying to find an edge in terms of his fitness. 

“To some of my teammates, the gym aspect of our weekly programme was a chore, but looking back I always enjoyed it. I was always looking to find an edge and extra work in the gym as well as extra fitness work on the pitch after training was my way of feeling like I had this. I also became fascinated from a young age in maximising my fitness levels during the off season. 

For me it was a time to get ahead when other players were perhaps switching off from the game. I think this came from a determination to succeed but also because I genuinely enjoyed the work and the buzz you would feel after a hard session. I have collected all of my off-season programmes over the years and its interesting seeing how different minds approach this period of training.”

Studying with Setanta

Driven by the desire to build on this interest and further his knowledge and expertise in the area, Carl was pointed in the direction of Setanta. 

“Setanta came highly recommended to me by Colin Lewin, my physio at Arsenal and someone I trust implicitly,” he reveals. “So it was a look no further scenario!”

After an initial transition period in his return to education, he soon got into his stride due to his passion for the topics. 

“Adapting to studying again after many years required a mindset shift whereby I have had to use my time more wisely and dedicate sections of my week to studying. Fortunately, I love the content of what I am learning so after a period of time this has become second nature.” 

He credits the support of Setanta’s student services team for guiding him through any difficulties encountered during his studies. “It’s also been a learning process in itself adapting to online study, when I was a kid everything was in books and you would print your assignments off and hand them to your teacher! But I can’t thank the student services team enough, whenever I have had any questions they have been incredibly helpful and guided me through any difficulties.”

Advice for Professional Athletes

He also emphasises the importance of athletes engaging in education to prepare for their life after sport. 

“All athletes have a shelf life, and our careers are relatively short in the grand scheme of things. When you get to 35, what comes next? It may seem like a long time away to many reading this but, believe me, your career flies by,” he reflects. “Ultimately we are all highly driven individuals who are used to striving to be good at our sport and also we have become very reliant on having a routine. The earlier you start to think about how you want your life to look after you stop playing, the better.”

For those considering a similar path, Carl offers encouraging advice. “I would encourage them to go for it,” he says. “With Setanta, it’s easy to manage both playing and studying, and you’ll enjoy it more than you think.” 

Impact on his training

Reflecting on the impact of his studies on his career, Carl is confident that his newfound knowledge will contribute to his longevity in the game. “Studying with Setanta has given me a better understanding of how the body works and responds to different stimuli,” he explains. “This has helped me to better understand what actually works best for me from an S&C perspective. I have been able to incorporate different exercises tailored for my own personal needs. Also, I generally believe athletes are more inclined to buy into different methods of training if they actually understand the benefits of them and why they are doing them, which is the type of knowledge that studying with Setanta provides.” 

Looking to the future, Carl is focused on furthering his qualifications and mastering his craft. “I want to finish my Masters and put myself in an environment where I can learn from the best and really master my craft,” he states. “I have an abundance of lived experience which will be incredibly useful for me moving forwards, but I am acutely aware that I still have a lot to learn. I intend to lean on the network I have built throughout my career to go and learn from some experienced coaches, and when I am ready go and make my own mark in the industry.”