launching the Endgame project
Yesterday I launched the Endgame project.
Now, this is not anything to do with the Avengers, even if I am embarrassingly in awe of Thor/Chris Hemsworth with his talent and physique. In that respect, it was devastating to see a fat Thor, but his acting in the role has probably never been better.
I digress. Endgame is a project I’ve been putting together that aims to provide athletes with a page of career resources allied to stories from retired athletes outlining what work they have gone in to after retiring from competition.
In my own journey, I played my professional rugby in the RFU Championship before spending the final 4 years my career in France. The support that you get as a lower tier player from organisations or players unions is non-existent, even if individuals at the RPA have been happy to help in small ways.
The lower tier rugby professional, and I suspect many athletes across sports where funding and salaries are low, lack the support structure to adequately prepare for life after their sport of choice.
These individuals are sport’s neediest as they do not have the name recognition or financial security of their top flight brethren. Giving a former British and Irish Lion an ambassadorial role at a big corporate is an easy thing to do; they have the well-earned profile to command such a role. A Championship rugby player, among the 1000 best rugby players in the country, will never get such an opportunity.
This is also a question of individual will. Sporting retirement is an emotive topic and avoiding thinking about it, sometimes under the pretence of ‘concentrating’ on your discipline, is a very easy thing to do. I dabbled in some other avenues of work and garnered some practical qualifications to use to do some initial work wherever I ended up, but I’d certainly have benefited from some more direction, guidance and personal responsibility.
I want Endgame to be a one stop page page of resources that I wish I’d had, with examples of interesting careers that are possible. The guys I’ve interviewed, all contemporaries of mine from my time in rugby, have gone on to a variety of roles, many of which are outside mainstream and obvious career paths for former athletes.
Part of the retirement challenge actually comes from speaking to former professionals, many of whom advise you to ‘keep playing as long as possible’ as ‘real’ work is so bad. Many guys move into corporate roles completely at odds with what they are used to and end up extremely unhappy and unfulfilled as a result.
These guys then spread the gospel of how miserable it is, further encouraging current players to stick their heads in the sand a bit and ignore the issue.
Part of the reason I’ve done this is that I know it’s difficult and want to help others avoid some of the pitfalls. I was also inspired by someone else who spoke about how people moan about things and do nothing to address them. You see this constantly with news stories, where circular discussions and constant complaining lead to no action.
This issue of sporting retirement is something I’m choosing to address, I hope in a positive way.
The resources I’ve provided also explore what work is going to look like in the future; if you are a current athlete, you are actually in a strong position to exploit the changing working landscape. You can observe, experiment and accrue skills while competing that will future proof you rather than relying on starting at the bottom of a totem pole that may cease to exist by the time you stop playing.
The first interview piece is with Geoff Griffiths, a name probably unfamiliar to the casual rugby fan, but someone with RFU Championship experience and over 100 games for the famous Blackheath club. He used his free time to write and explore options in the digital world, then a new industry and has a great role in the sector as a result. Geoff is a bit of an example of how to go about your transition in this respect so is well worth reading about.