SOME of Ireland’s top rugby professionals are totally unprepared for retirement, says the man charged with preparing them for that moment.
The Irish Rugby Union Players Association have identified this as a potential catastrophe, and appointed Hamish Adams, ex-Dolphin and Munster Academy, to address the problem.
After interviewing 30 of the country’s 150 senior elite players, he has already learned that some professionals will retire in the next year with no qualification or work experience to offer prospective employers.
“Careers come to an end, and it’s important that people have something to move on to,” said Adams.
“It’s a situation that we, in Ireland, have probably neglected and in terms of development, we’re behind other countries who have had long-term programmes aimed to helping players plan for the future.”
The new Irish programme is jointly funded by the players association and the IRFU and the aim is to educate and provide a support mechanism to help Ireland’s professionals deal with the challenges of retirement.
“The aim is to get to the players at an early stage and help them plan for life after rugby,” said Adams. “Some may remain in the game, but a lot of them will be looking elsewhere.
“It’s all about opening a line of communication with the guys to see where they want to be, and what they want to do with their lives. Some will have very clear ideas about what they want and will either have qualifications or a desire to become qualified in any one of a number of fields.
“But you would be surprised. There are those who really haven’t made any plans, and the aim of this programme is to help them as best we can, through expertise, human resource management and exposure to recruitment agencies we have relationships with.”
Adams suggested that players might also need to be taught general life skills and noted: “In the professional game, the players are told what their programme for the week is; they’re told what to eat, wear and what to do in training.
“That’s not the way things operate in the real world.”
IRUPA have been pushing to introduce such a programme for a long time through boss Niall Woods, said Adams. “At least now it’s up and running, and hopefully within 18 months there will be a second person working on it.
“The priority right now is to deal with the players exiting or about to exit the system; it’s important that they get all the available support, but moving ahead it’s best we get to players as early as possible in their careers. Retirement from professional rugby, or impending retirement is a major upheaval and tends to creep up quickly.”
Adams highlighted the importance of the programme from a different perspective as well: “The main issues are about the players, about the opportunities available and the skills they can take out of rugby with them, but it’s important from the employer’s point of view that the players are happy while they are playing. Research has shown that players who do have an interest outside of the game, who have skills that they can put to use outside of the game in later life, are more content and therefore generally higher achievers on the pitch as well as off it.”
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