In December I started my new life, as a business growth executive for ActionCOACH York and Leeds.
For the previous 15 years, I’d been a professional rugby player. That wasn’t just a job, it was an identity. Now I find myself in this new world of “the office” and occasionally I feel a little lost.
At the same time, my background has lent me skills I never knew I had.
First, the concept of being able to book days off is totally new to me. I stared at my formal job offer letter – something a lifetime of reading contracts has prepared me for, strangely – and the thought you can actually just request a day off and it not be held against you, seems very odd.
Don’t get me wrong, you get plenty of downtime around rugby and a good amount of time off but that was always set out for you. Many a child’s sports day or social occasion passed by while we ran around a training pitch in the name of a game that we loved. Used to love, in my case.
I’ll not pretend I was an ideal candidate and the world was unfair; I was always a square peg in a round hole. But it seemed to me that as rugby became a job it forgot to be fun. The point being, when you’re sitting there sober on Christmas Day because you’ve got a game the next day, and your only contribution is to hold a tackle bag for the warm-up and be there ‘just in case’, you do start to wonder. Not this year though, I’ll be enjoying Christmas to the max.
Another plus – I haven’t been called fat in two weeks. Or told I’m useless. Or slow. Or the worst thing – not being allowed to do my job because of non-selection.
Think about it – an accountant is an accountant whether or not they are sat in front of piles of figures or not, and nothing changes that.
A professional rugby player who isn’t playing rugby is a sad individual indeed. You only have to look at the popularity of the ‘Team Bin Juice’ account on Instagram to see both the grim humour and the desperation that I’m talking about.
Instead, I now find myself in an environment where praise is readily forthcoming, and any criticism is couched in encouraging terms.
Learning points in my current job are delivered in clear terms with a measure of respect, rather than screamed at me repeatedly if I didn’t immediately understand that particular coach’s jargon. On the plus side, the lifelong haranguing has left me extremely resilient when call after call to a business owner ends abruptly because they don’t see the value of coaching in helping them succeed.
I have as little knowledge of their business as the business owner has on the finer points of tighthead scrummaging techniques – but coaching I understand, having been coached and been a coach myself for a number of years.
On one occasion, I was told: “You need to do better research, we recently received an award for being in the top 20 businesses in our industry. We don’t need help from people like you”. Top 20? I can’t imagine a Premiership club being satisfied with that.
In sport, the top coaches look for those players that are willing to listen, put points into practice and do not allow their ego and their pride to get in the way and prevent them developing as players. It is no different for the business coaches – if you feel like you are running the perfect business then congratulations, you will be left behind doing the same old thing while the world moves around you. These owners, like the players who wouldn’t listen, are deemed ‘un-coachable’ and it’s sad to look back and realise that, at times, I fell into this category. Not because of any ego on my part, more complacency.
While I will miss the roar of a crowd and the excitement of being in front of a camera every so often, it’s quite nice thinking I am now more in control of my life than ever before.
Plus, its warm in an office. And there’s coffee.
– as told to Jon Newcombe
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