Looking ahead –
Life after sport: planning your future
For many sportspeople, it's very difficult to transition away from professional sport to your second career following your retirement. James Hildreth, professional cricketer for Somerset and now part-time private banking executive at Arbuthnot Latham, talks about the lessons he's learned during his journey.
One of the strangest things about being a professional sportsperson is facing the prospect of retiring twice. Once from the game you’ve devoted most of your life to, then once more after your second career. There’s perhaps a little less fanfare the second time, but if you’ve made the most of the opportunity, it should be no less significant. For many, it’s a very difficult transition away from pro sport. You miss the camaraderie, the excitement, even just the lack of fitness and routine can be difficult for some to adjust to.
As part of my transition to a new career, I have been working part-time for Arbuthnot Latham at their office in Exeter and studying for my Level Four Diploma in Financial Services. I started this journey back in 2019, but in that time I’ve learned some important lessons: firstly – and reassuringly – just how extensive the crossover between the two worlds is.
From batsman to banker
So many skills that I learned playing cricket continue to serve me well. I’m not talking about the ability to play a decent forward defensive shot or my reaction time when I’m in the slips; I’m talking about the soft skills.
Firstly, dealing with the pressure and the element of hitting targets. Clearly, the environments are very different but being goal-driven is something that applies across disciplines. Secondly, emotional control is hugely important. I’m currently getting over a bad hamstring injury; it takes time, you have to be patient and understand there might be setbacks. Thirdly, perseverance: you have to be determined and develop a plan that you believe in, but also be prepared to change course to succeed. Finally, you need people skills. This is something I really enjoy about banking and professional cricket. It might surprise many, but in cricket, you’re constantly having to meet and connect with different people – not just team mates, but meeting fans and sponsors after games and working with the local community. Cricket isn’t a bubble and you get to meet and talk to people with diverse backgrounds, and that really helps in something like banking, especially at Arbuthnot Latham where strong client relationships are crucial.
I think it’s an important message for sportspeople that should engender a sense of confidence. You already have a lot of the skills you need to succeed after sport; don’t look at 23-year-old Marcus Rashford MBE and tell me sportspeople can’t make a difference.
Have an eye on tomorrow
Cricketers are lucky. Our union, the Professional Cricketers' Association, are constantly reminding us that cricket is only a first career. They go to great lengths to link us up with workshops and networking events; they’re constantly encouraging us to try new things. You’re encouraged to think about the future quite early.
As a sportsperson, you’ve got to get the right balance. You have to be driven to be the best you can be, but you’ve also got to have an eye on the future. Some cricketers finish and fall off the cliff, emotionally and financially. They might prepare, or feel like they have, but still struggle to deal with the transition. In a strange way, there are so many crossovers between what I’m doing now and my chosen second career in banking; it’s all about planning.
An entrepreneur might be thinking about their exit strategy or financially planning for the future; likewise, these are both things that people associated with sport should think about.
Plan for the future
It’s not just about having the right financial arrangements, but also about taking a look at yourself, your family, your friends and asking yourself: what next? For me, the question is how am I going to cope with the change and lead a fulfilling life after sport?
My transition is a slower one. Last winter, I worked a couple of days a week for Arbuthnot Latham, planning it in around my training schedule. I am doing the same this winter.
Financial services have always interested me. Arbuthnot Latham work very closely with people in the sporting world, and I spoke to some of the people around cricket and was encouraged to try this. I got to know Chis Reah, the head of Arbuthnot Latham’s regional offices, through his love of cricket. I did some work experience to start off with and really enjoyed it; I get a buzz out of being in a client-facing role, building strong relationships. It’s also something I’ve noticed being here in the West Country – relationships aren’t transactional, they’re based on understanding and trust. That takes time to build up.
The camaraderie in the office in Exeter is also great. Playing cricket for 18 years, you don’t expect to find that sort of team spirit in financial services, especially when you’re expecting it to be a bit stuffy, but it’s really different to what I expected.
This move is all about my future. It’s about having strong networks around me – that’s really important personally, and again there are so many parallels between sport and banking. You need the right advice, the right capability and the right options to help you meet your ambitions.
Arbuthnot Latham recently partnered with the League Manger’s Association. They are the industry body for professional football managers in England. It’s been really interesting seeing how the bank supports sports people whose lives can be rather transitional. You might not know from one year to the next whether you’ll be employed or where, and it’s perhaps even more difficult being a manager than being a player. A sports club, in whatever industry, is likely to have around 40 pros on their books, but only one manager. It’s incredibly uncertain and you need the right network around you.
As for me, I’m making my plans now. I’ve got a scan in December on my hamstring. I’ve got the whole winter to prepare as I enter the final year of my cricket contract. Do I want to keep playing? Absolutely, but if I’m not able to, if I have to hang up my pads for the final time, I know I’ve got a plan in place and an employer who also keeps a firm eye on tomorrow.