I seriously started considering doing a podcast in 2015. I was doing a uni subject, News Production, for my Bachelor of Business degree at Griffith and was listening to a lot of podcasts to and from training in Sydney on public transport. My uni subject required me to do a feature article, and I chose the topic of past professional rugby players and how they found the transition into life after rugby and preparing themselves for the real world as my future was very much up in the air itself with a lot of uncertainty.
I was so fascinated in the responses I got from past players about how they found it and what they had done to prepare for it that I thought this would be a great topic for a podcast and be very beneficial for other professional rugby players and in turn all professional athletes.
Just like with writing the blogs, it’s not about likes, comments and shares. For me it’s about connections, and really connecting with people, especially stay at home dads and ex professional players.
Talking to mates who have gone through it, it really has helped me immensely to get an understanding of what it is exactly I can expect to go through. Especially after reading an article with Wallaby legend, Tim Horan (which can be found on my Facebook page Beau ‘the battler’ Robinson). He talks about the hardest part being the 3 to 4 years after retirement. That is the part that scares me most. I didn’t think the initial part would be that tough, change can be good, you get to enjoy all the things that rugby has gotten in the way of beforehand.
But when that becomes normality, I daresay boredom of it will set in and the novelty will have worn off. For me, it’s like just waiting for the train to come. You know it’s coming, you know roughly when it will arrive. But what will it look like? Will I enjoy it or resent it? Will I not want to get on? Or will I feel as though it’s like sitting in business class, piece of cake?
I think so far the most enjoyable aspect of all of this has been it’s a great excuse to simply call up blokes and have a chat to them and have a reason to call them, rather than calling them out of the blue. Plenty of blokes who I enjoyed having beers or coffees with, chewing the fat, but as time has gone by we simply haven’t maintained contact, as often happens.
Hopefully pro athletes, and I say athletes as I think all athletes will be able to relate to the messages that the past players I interview pass on, will take something away from this. Sometimes the message is there getting said to them by the player’s association, or their team management, but like being told not to do something by your parents, it doesn’t always sink in or falls on deaf ears. We’ve all been there before. I was fortunate in that I tried very hard to listen to the older blokes when I was the young pup in the squad, and even when I became one of the old bulls I still asked and observed the even older bulls and those who were about to be put out to paddock about what they were experiencing and their advice and insight.
Every time I did see a past player, or catch them on a night out they would often let you know how hard it was, especially after they had had a few beers and really opened up.
They would talk about how people treat you differently once you are no longer playing, something I experienced first-hand with my year in the wilderness in 2010.
Blokes on the podcast speak openly and often about how they wish they had have done more to prepare better. It’s also interesting to note how many say study is not always the answer. There is a constant message of not necessarily finding what you are passionate about, but eliminating what you thought might be interest. They highlight why it is very important to do this before the end and doing that while you have security and can leverage off the pro athlete profile.
They talk about how tough it can be financially. Especially for the first job, it’s not that easy to go back to a basic wage after you’ve been on a professional contract. Many blokes in the rugby world are oblivious to this and Sam Harris in particular talks about this.
I’ve also enjoyed talking to those fellas who are finding it tough or have gone through rough patches. This leads the way in getting blokes, including other professional athletes who have retired, to see that this is quite common and that there is nothing wrong with speaking up about it. They are really doing a great job to smash the stigma. I want to hear and find out how they managed to come through to the other side. What did they do to help them get through those periods. Support network is a big one, everyone talks about that.
Hopefully these guys will be examples that the general public will embrace and follow upon themselves and be more inclined to speak up with loved ones, as there are too many people feeling trapped and that they can’t escape and even taking the ultimate decision to end it all.
In saying that, it’s not all doom and gloom. There are great stories of success. Blokes really kicking goals with their own companies and in the corporate world. It’s important to recognise and celebrate these great role models. Retirement shouldn’t be something we fear. A few talk about how it’s simply another opportunity to go and kick goals in another facet of life like they had done with rugby.
I think this is probably more important than ever. Back in my day….. (I sound like I was born in the great depression). Very, very rarely would you see blokes go and join the fulltime squad straight out of school. When I was in the academy we trained 6-8am and 6-8pm so that you could have a job, study or both. You really got a taste for the real world doing that and appreciated what it meant to finally earn a ‘professional contract’. It meant a little freedom and the ability to ‘focus’ a lot more solely on the rugby.
Now the Super Rugby provinces are asking more and more of young guys. Finances are tough, squad size very much restricted, and in turn so is depth. So many of these guys are being asked to train with fulltime squads straight out of school or after a year of bumming around, and they are paid chips. Like wouldn’t even pay your grocery bill and fuel for the week. It’s dangerous. They aren’t ‘professional’ rugby players. They think they’ve made it and are becoming more and more oblivious to what life is like outside the bubble.
They consider themselves professionals rugby players and tell everyone they are professional rugby players. Some of their profiles may state it. They introduce themselves to girls as a pro rugby player. Their friends introduce them as pro rugby players. If you don’t make enough money to cover your food, rent/mortgage, cars, fuel, and have a bit left over to go out on a regular night out and save COMFORTABLY, you are not a professional. If you can’t afford to move out of home because you don’t get paid enough, even if you train fulltime, with the big boys, you aren’t a professional. It just takes up the majority of your time. It is not your ‘profession’. The same way in that a person fishes or surfs the majority of their week fishing or surfing doesn’t walk around telling everyone they are a ‘professional fisherman’ or a ‘professional surfer’. Rugby Union and Rugby league both have minimum professional contracts these days for those blokes that are ‘professional’.
It only makes it harder for these blokes to ‘transition’, who are oblivious, about what the real world is like and how people treat you once you are no longer with the Reds or Tahs or wherever you may be. The reality is the majority of these guys, will not sign more than 1 professional contract in their time. Some won’t even be that lucky. Hopefully they will take note and have a listen to the podcast, as they should and will take something away from it. Some will find themselves in the ‘real world’ at just 22 or 23.
I generally only touch briefly on blokes careers, unless I think they are generally a little more interesting, which means they have been to a few places or have been overseas. We talk about why they retired, life after rugby, how they found the transition, what they wish they had have done to prepare themselves better for it, what they are doing now and any advice for current and future pro athletes. Past players will definitely take a lot out of it to with everyone being so open and honest with the struggles, it is somewhat reassuring for blokes who are having doubts, to hear others open what they are going through and feeling. They are not alone.
A lot of blokes who have been listening to me have already reached out to me after the first few episodes and thanked me for doing what I am. It obviously struck a chord with them and they felt that they could be more honest, maybe not with everyone around them, but with themselves about how tough it is and what they were actually feeling is normal. They don’t have to run away or ignore that.
I hope you will enjoy listening to it as much as I have enjoyed recording and producing it….
Go have a listen: “a yarn with Beau Robbo”