In our first blog we are proud to feature an article created and written by Charlie Beech.
Charlie’s Rugby career has seen him play at the highest level for clubs including Wasps, Bath & Yorkshire Carnegie. He represented England in the Under 19 & Under 20’s teams but more recently played for Coventry. When I originally read this, I thought it was a very interesting insight into the transition from professional sports into the ‘working world’ It’s well written and I hope you enjoy reading this as much as we did.
Many thanks to Charlie for allowing us to use this article. If you have any interesting sports content you would like to share, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
“Swapping Boots for Suits”
Two weeks ago I started my new life. For the past fifteen years, ever since leaving school, I have 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 at times I feel a little lost. At the same time, my background has lent me skills I never knew I had.
Firstly, 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 in some way seems very odd. Indeed, the fact that these things called ‘bank holidays’ exist and everyone has a day off is almost total anathema.
Don’t get me wrong, you get plenty of downtime around rugby and a good amount of time off (I never reached the highest echelons of the game so can’t comment on the situation for the international players) but you were always informed of when your time off would be. Many a child’s sports day or a social occasion went on by while we ran around a training pitch in the name of a game that we loved. Used to love, in my case, before it became a job.
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 sport became a business it forgot the essence of what sport was supposed to be – fun. The point being, when you’re sitting there sober on Christmas day so that everyone gets something fun to watch on Boxing 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 using a good chunk of my newly acquired ‘annual leave’ to enjoy Christmas to it’s fullest.
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. Like I said earlier, being a pro sportsperson is an identity. I am finding this to be true of a lot of professions to be fair, but there are very few others where the industry prevents you from fulfilling that identity. 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. They go to their job every day and do what their job title says – they account.
However, I used to go to work and after a non stop torrent of abuse (most of it tongue in cheek by the way, and I gave as good as I got; I wasn’t being bullied, it’s just how it is) I would be told I hadn’t been good enough that week so I wasn’t going to play that weekend. 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 Binjuice’ account on Instagram to see both the grim humour and the desperation that I am talking about. Instead, I find myself in an environment where praise is readily forthcoming and any criticism is couched in encouraging terms.
I know I have lucked out in where I have ended up working – a Business Growth Executive for Action Coach North Yorkshire, working for and alongside Chris Fordy and Mark Bowen, two great guys and business coaches – but honestly, a learning point here is 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. I have always resented micro management, wrongly interpreting it as a lack of faith in my personal abilities rather than someone doing their best in their own personal style – I have freedom here I find refreshing. But the lifelong haranguing has left me extremely resilient when call after call ends with refusal, either to put me through or to listen past the phrase ‘business coaching’.
Here, lastly, the kicker – dealing with pride and ego and the phrase ‘uncoachable’. Our goal at Action Coach is to help business owners succeed. Yes, we are a business and so we want to get paid, but that’s the same as any business. We reach out to all local businesses and offer to help. I am learning the Action Coach methods and systems but when it comes to the individual company, 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.
In two short weeks I have already lost count of the times I have gotten on the phone with a business owner and been told, “We are doing just fine thanks”, “I’ve made it this far without any help, thank you very much” or in one case ,”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”. I can’t imagine a Premiership side being satisfied with being in the top 20 teams in the league, and I’m pretty sure they all have a multitude of coaches. In sport, the top coaches look for those players that are willing to listen, putting the points into practice and not allowing their ego and their pride to get in the way and prevent them from learning and 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 you have always done while the world moves around you. These owners, like the players who wouldn’t listen, are deemed ‘uncoachable’ and it is a sad thing to look back and realize that, at times, I fell into this category. My issue was never my ego – mine was complacency. I have always been more than willing to put the effort in when needed, but rather than recognizing that pushing ever onward was the way to succeed I would rest on my laurels and enjoy the plaudits – much like the ‘top 20’ business owner.
Luckily, I’m still young enough to apply that lesson and make the most of it. For some of the business owners that mistake an offer of help as an accusation of weakness, it may already be too late.
So it seems that the values of teamwork, respect and ‘coachability’ are all highly transferable skills I can take from my previous career and apply to my new one, as well as a drive to succeed and a certain level of competitiveness! So maybe I’m not as lost as I thought. And while I will miss the roar of a crowd and the excitement of being in front of a camera every so often, its 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.
For more information visit: www.actioncoach.co.uk/coaches/chris-fordy