“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way”
– Viktor E Frankl
I have avoided, procrastinated and justified for a multitude of reasons why everyone else should complete a blog or testimony for my website instead of me. So today, I thought I would try and be the change that I often encourage, demand and drive in so many others.
The persona of Tom, the ex-professional and Sydney University rugby union player, has been open to interpretation and examined by many. Rightly or wrongly, I have felt a sense of trepidation to reveal some of my own insights on my life.
Those that know me best, my nearest and dearest, will testify that on my best day I will give the world 10% of who I really am.
Today I will add a little more to this percentage.
Over the next four weeks I will give some insight into my ‘new beginning’ – of my journey from “successful” rugby union player, to business owner and running enthusiast, in hope of breaking down the perception of who many people think I am or what I do.
Life after rugby
Probably since 1999 in Year 11 at secondary school, my entire life centred around making myself better to play rugby union, and to do this meant I had to live in a bubble. From missing weddings, university lectures, family functions and holidays, rugby union came first. Ultimately, this is how I was able to forge my 10 year career at the Waratahs and 17 years at Sydney University Football Club.
However, through this you become a desensitised machine, who understands inputs and outputs, but whose weekly happiness is governed by the scoreboard on the weekend.
Life became a cycle between the compliments of success, and the brutality of failure.
I needed a thick skin to tolerate the once sacred family time of weekend coffees, which were now an opportunity for any fan to vent their frustrations on why the Waratahs attack isn’t competent enough because of my capability.
Yet, this narrative is not isolated to me but applicable to so many others, so not for one minute am I insinuating that I require more empathy than others. The life of professional sport whilst filled with the enormous highs, becomes a very challenging place to not lose sight of who one truly is.
Despite these challenges of being a professional athlete and public figure, I never knew that these would fade into insignificance compared to what lay ahead for me.
Whilst there exist tremendous opportunities in an athlete’s life post retirement, the challenge exists in funnelling that energy into the right direction. One must find a modality in which they have enough time to grow, resilience to endure failure, and enough success that they don’t quit.
I have deliberately avoided the discussion around the notion of transitioning from professional sport for a very long time, and today’s post is just the start.
My journey post retiring in 2013, is no harder nor easier than many others.
Despite the enormous challenges, set-backs, success and failures, I can now sit and say that I am a better version of myself today than I was yesterday, or a year ago. The struggles and fluctuations still exist – some last longer than others – but now I have more better days than bad days.
The challenge in today’s world is to not compare your own personal journey to other’s. Social media and society has a great way of forcing one to try and measure themselves against the ‘perfect’ person. I guess one thing I am certain of is that no one is perfect, in particular most probably retired professional sports people.
But the key I have learnt is to find the courage to keep on going.
Post finishing up 17 years of service and time at Sydney University Football Club at the end of 2017, the question of what was next was paramount.
You become quite comfortable and endeared with the smell of football change rooms, the comradery of team mates, and with volunteers and staff alike all sacrificing for the ultimate.
I was eagerly searching for a new purpose and meaning in what to do next.
The challenge was immense.
My passion towards helping other’s achieve their goals, and my knowledge and skills in optimising physical performance, saw the birth of my company Human Performance. Yet, my inner desire for self-improvement and want to push myself beyond my own physical limits required me to find a new “rugby”.
At 108kg, with a body that had endured too many collisions, I knew that long distance running would be one of the most irrational choices – but I am not typically fond of following the rules.
Next week… ‘New Beginnings (Part 2): Why Running?’