It goes without saying that entering a new phase of life is pretty daunting, regardless of how prepared you think you are. 16 years at the top of the English game comes to an end and you are back to square one, learning something completely new. Most of my contemporaries from school and university are now in senior leadership positions, yet I find myself at the equivalent of most graduates, except with a mortgage and family to support. Going from being a senior leader of the team to a position that is much lower would be a knock to anyone’s ego, not just my own, so dealing with this has been a real challenge.
Where this challenge has been most apparent is in communication. As a player, lots of people want to be associated with you, they want to talk to you and they want to hear from you. Now, when I reach out to people, I am lucky if I even get a response! Some people quickly forget that they were once in my position! Perhaps that’s a generalisation but it has been hard not to take it personally.
A friend of mine, who used to play professionally himself, often talks about earning credibility within your new industry and this links perfectly to a great book I am reading at the moment called ‘Grit’ by Angela Duckworth. She talks about the qualities that lead to outstanding achievement and states that as much as talent is key, it is quite clear that passion and determination are equally as important when trying to become an expert in a certain field. I was certainly passionate about playing rugby and I know I was dedicated. If I hadn’t made it as a professional, I would still have played as an amateur. I was just incredibly fortunate to be paid for doing my hobby. And, I can honestly say that I spent more than my fair share of time honing my skills needed to play on the highest stage.
A year in to becoming an executive individual and team coach, I realise I have quite a bit to go before I’ve reached the magical 10 000 hours mark that is so widely talked about. However, it is through my experience of sport that sets me apart from other coaches that have taken the more traditional route. No amount of study can give me the failure I experienced on the pitch at Twickenham in front of 80 000 people or give me the ability to overcome the anxiety of winning major finals.
And if I use the book as a guide, I am definitely passionate about helping business men and women overcome their own issues and achieve their goals, and I know that the persistence and resilience that was necessary for a career in professional sport will ultimately help me achieve as a coach. This first year has been a steep learning curve but it definitely won’t be for a lack of trying if I don’t become an expert in this!