Tom Lindsay Column: Retirement, getting back to coaching and rugby restarting

©Bristol Bears

In his latest column for Talking Rugby Union, Tom Lindsay discusses life after retirement, the joy of returning to coaching and he also looks ahead to the Premiership restarting.

So whats happened since retiring...

Six weeks after retirement, 45 job applications for permanent and part-time work but zero successful applications. Feedback has mostly been in a matter of words that “you are overqualified or not what we are looking for at the moment”.

The roles that I applied for ranged from pastoral housemasters in schools, delivery drivers, bar tender work amongst other roles.

Firstly, please don’t think that I am special and that no-one else is in the same boat as me but I just wanted to paint a picture of what retiring in a shrinking economy looks like. There are people far worse off than me which I completely acknowledge, but I am just describing my interpretation of the lay of the land for retiring sports people.

Pre-covid as I have said in previous articles, I had two part time jobs lined up but unfortunately they have both been put on the back burner. However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel with one of them which is positive.

The current climate doesn’t help when according to the Guardian this week: “Britain has entered the deepest recession since records began as official figures on Wednesday showed the economy shrank by more than any other major nation during the coronavirus outbreak in the three months to June.”

Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. This is a phrase that is thrown around in a lot of different scenarios...the feeling that is associated with a person or team on and off the field when they fail to achieve their goal. This could happen over and over again. A quote by Nelson Mandela really resonated with me - “Do not judge me by my success, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”

When applying for roles, it got to the point where I was receiving little or no feedback, which is alien for me. If I made a mistake on the field, my self-awareness and feedback from co-players and coaches would help guide me to improving and being more successful so without it, I was walking blind into job searching. Was I prepared you may ask?

In the last eight years of my career, I used every opportunity I could to gain experience in whatever field I could to ensure I had some guidance for life after rugby. I worked with Savills in residential property acquisition, Tri Court as a project manager, shadowed high end construction management directors at McClaren Construction, taught and coached in a number of schools and rugby clubs alongside playing and plenty more. Along with all the courses I have done in emergency first aid, personal training, mental health, nutrition and many more, I felt that I had enough.

My CV and LinkedIn profile was checked by professionals and I received very good feedback. Ben McGregor, Josh Frape and more recently, Matt Leek with the RPA, went above and beyond for me in regards to help with networking and employment workshops, so what was I doing wrong?

Someone recommended dumbing down my CV which I will be honest, I found that really tough to hear. Was I just being egotistical and arrogant? Probably to a certain extent I was. I suppose I felt that I had worked really hard outside of playing to put things in place for life after sport, why should I delete parts of it? I realised I was being selfish because this doesn’t just affect me, this affects my wife too.

I was about to sign on this week for Jobseekers allowance and that was really tough, again not because that was beneath me whatsoever, but because of the time I had put in to my life after retiring. I didn’t want to be one of the players that told me, ‘make sure you have a plan in place for when you retire… don’t do what I did and worry about it after you finish playing.”

However, on reflection, I am glad I went through this personally as it has opened my eyes to what life is really like and that my naivety - and maybe slight arrogance - has been washed away by the waves of reality. This I am grateful for.

Back to coaching

With rugby starting back nationwide in some capacity, it’s allowed me to help out with Old Colstonians and Bristol Bears Women Rugby again. This has been a real pick me up for myself, the coaches and the players.

Getting back onto pitches, coaching in the sun and seeing smiles on faces really lifts you and the players.

As coaches, you have to adapt to what you are doing to be aligned with RFU Covid guidelines but it’s a challenge that myself and other coaches have relished. Having to think outside of the box is fantastic for a growth mindset.

The Women’s Premiership is supposed to start back up in October so at the moment we are only allowed 15 minutes with a bubble of six players on a rotation, so logistics and teamwork amongst staff have been streamlined and if anything, it has brought us closer as a group.

Who knows what it will be like in a months’ time or even six months’ time, but these are challenges that coaches all over the country can face together.

The Restart

Premiership rugby is back tonight with Sale away to Harlequins. It’s amazing to think that the last fixture was all the back on the 8th of March with Bristol beating Quins at Ashton Gate.

My question is how are teams going to fair physically in the first couple of weekends? I mention this because the first major sporting competition that restarted over this Covid period was the German Bundesliga back in May.

According to MARCA, in the first weekend of fixtures across Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2, there were 14 injuries with a majority being lower limb muscular injuries. Putting that into perspective pre-Covid, the average injuries across a season was about 0.27 per game. That average sky rocketed to 0.74 and that was only across matches 1-3 post lockdown.

Over matches 4-6, it did decrease to 0.55 and then again to 0.33 in matches 7-9. I completely understand that I am not qualified to interpret intricate figures from sports scientists, however, my understanding from being involved in professional sport for a while is individually, if you don’t follow what is prescribed by your strength and conditioners alongside your physios and sport therapists, you will not get the level of lower limb exposure after a prolonged time away from competitive matches to deal with the physical toll of a Premiership fixture.

So, the first three weeks are going to really paint a picture of who has had the best preparation for a return to rugby. Pat Lam called it “winning Covid”. The breakaway from sport has been a challenge for teams as there wasn’t really a blueprint to follow. A few teams used the 2011 National Football League Player lockout as a return to play guide. This was a work stoppage imposed by the owners of the NFL's 32 teams that lasted from March 12, 2011, to July 25, 2011.

I can’t speak for other teams, but I was part of the Bristol Bears squad when Covid hit and the work that Pat and the backroom staff did to come up with a variety of scenarios was hugely impressive. This was even before we officially went into lockdown!

The boys were working hard individually while other teams had weeks off trying to sort their Covid plan. Through this proactive approach, I think Bristol will have put themselves in a good position to push on. Both the Premiership and Challenge Cup mantels are still up for grabs, with the new facility and influx of big-name signings like Kyle Sinckler and Semi Radradra making Bristol an exciting place to be.

They will be firing on all cylinders and chomping at the bit to get back to Ashton Gate this Saturday and I am very fortunate enough to be involved on the BBC commentating team.

Look forward to talking about that next time.

Widely regarded as the most competitive rugby union league in the can only be the Gallagher Premiership.

The division is becoming more and more exciting as each year passes by so who will be lifting silverware at Twickenham in May?

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