Cherries academy graduate James Boote is playing and studying in the USA a year on from being released by the club, he penned this feature on his progress Stateside.
After six years at AFC Bournemouth, my family and I made the decision to pursue my career abroad and early into 2019 I committed to Seton Hall University, 15 miles outside of New York City.
With the help of the club, I was able to secure a position where I would be able to continue to chase my dreams in football whilst working towards graduating with a degree in business.
My time at AFC Bournemouth was unforgettable and very special. I was fortunate enough to work my way through the ranks of the academy system to then be sat signing my first professional contract at the club in 2018.
It was a dream come true to sign my first professional contract at a Premier League club, where I had been at since 2012. To this day, I still cannot thank my family and the club enough for sticking by me and pushing me to become not only the best player but also the best person I could be.
Sowing the seeds
During my time in the youth team, the idea behind securing a scholarship to head out to the States was first introduced to players via an agency who the club had a connection with.
At first, the idea of going to the States was for those unfortunate enough to not be offered a professional contract after two years with the youth team. I was intrigued to find out more about the possibility of heading out to America, to use my ability in football to explore another part of the world and to study for a degree.
My interest in the idea as a back-up plan made me focus on achieving good grades during my two years with the youth team – helping me become eligible to study abroad if I did end up deciding to go down that route.
I have always wanted to have a plan B outside of professional football in England. Every young player dreams of making it as a professional footballer, but realistically not everyone will make that dream a reality.
One of the most important things I can say about my time at AFC Bournemouth is that I improved as a person just as much as I did as a player. Whether I go on to have a career in football or not, I certainly know that my education at AFC Bournemouth and the skills I have developed as a person will help me in whatever I do in the future.
With the help of Alan Connell and Carl Fletcher, I really progressed and was awarded Scholar of the Year 2017/2018. This meant that I was invited to attend the Premier League awards evening hosted at Molineux. Then in the following month I was offered my first professional contract at the club.
Life as a pro with the Cherries
During the following season I experienced a handful of ups and downs.
My first year as a professional did not go as I expected. Heading into the Christmas break I began to think of the possibility of heading out to the States again if my contract was not renewed in the summer.
Soon enough, I was in contact with different universities, flying out on official visits and with coaches also keen enough to fly out to England to watch me play.
America soon turned into my plan A. I took it upon myself to do more research and spoke to people I know who have been out to the USA for their studies and a football scholarship. So many people came back to me saying it is the best decision they have made because the opportunities and experience are once in a lifetime.
Making the big decision
Discussions with coaches and my family revealed that this was the most beneficial option for me.
I think it’s really important for young aspiring players to remain on the front foot when times get tough and things are not going their way.
It was a hard set back to swallow being let go from my childhood club, but I soon realized that I had a brighter future waiting ahead of me.
I had loved every minute of my time at AFC Bournemouth and was definitely considering staying in England but this was just such a good opportunity and one I didn’t want to turn down and then look back on in two years and wish I had done it.
Living and playing in America
One year on, I can confidently say I am content with my decision to head to America. For now, my journey at AFC Bournemouth has come to an end, whilst my journey as an aspiring footballer will continue.
America has provided me with an experience unlike any other. We are able to fly to away games, travel across the country to play televised football in front of crowds in the thousands in top class facilities.
I’d like to say thanks to all those at the club who made this option possible for me. Who knows what the future holds but I am very excited to find out.