Tom Lindsay

London Wasps and soon-to-be Gloucester hooker, Tom Lindsay, was the first professional player to join the Rugby Business Network’s Life After Rugby Programme.  Below he tells us how rugby shaped his career and his plans for the future.

How did you end up playing rugby professionally?

I played at Saracens Amateur RFC from 13-18.  I was playing three games a week at that age, for school, club and county and I absolutely loved it.  At 18 I was invited to play a trial game at Wasps and it resulted in Craig Dowd offering me an academy contract.

Dowdy proceeded to turn me from a centre/wing to a front row forward, first at prop before I eventually settled at hooker.  At 20, Wasps sent me to New Zealand on a rugby exchange for 7 months, which was a fantastic experience and one I’d recommend to any young player with serious aspirations.

Immersing yourself in rugby-mad cultures, like those in NZ and SA, puts you on a steep learning curve.  I made my first team Wasps debut the following season aged 21.  From that point on I was set as a professional rugby player.

Was it difficult making such a late and dramatic change in position?

I was a big lad to be playing in the backs and it’s easier to make that switch when 18 than when in your twenties.  I got some excellent coaching on the technical side of the game from the coaching team at Wasps, which was much needed, but generally the switch wasn’t too hard.

Did you stay in education while playing?

I tried to.  I did two years of a Sports Science degree at St Mary’s University, mainly because that was the standard thing to do for rugby players at that time.  Unfortunately I had to withdraw from the course to go full time with Wasps.

Within two years of turning pro I played for England Saxons in the Churchill Cup in America.  With my rugby career progressing to include summer tours, I felt I had to focus fully on rugby.

Back then, we didn’t put so much thought into degrees, but these days you’ll find a lot of players doing Open University courses or learning a trade with a genuine aim.  You don’t have to be in rugby long to see retirements and of the 12 or so I’ve seen since I turned professional, 3 have been very early.  The lads have become increasingly aware of the need to prepare for life beyond rugby.

Is retirement something that worries players?

It often is, yes.  Rugby is a bubble and the hardest part of retiring is not the salary drop, but suddenly being outside that bubble.  You go from spending all day training with your mates and playing at weekends to either sitting at home or at a desk.  It’s that part of it that many players need more help with.

How did you come to join the RBN’s Life After Rugby programme?

I played with Colm Hannon at Esher and, having not seen him for a while, we met again at a fund-raising dinner for the Tom Maynard Trust.  We chatted about business and Colm said to drop him a line if I needed any help when I knew what path I wanted to follow.

Having enjoyed the process of buying and renovating a flat for the first time, I realised the property business might be an interesting one.  I joined the RBN’s Life After Rugby Programme and, as a start, they put me in touch with Shane Worth, a project manager for Tesco’s property arm.  I had an informal interview with him so he could see if I was suitable and that lead to a few fascinating days of work experience.

Subsequently, the RBN have helped with further experience at Savills and McLaren Construction.

I’d like to thank Colm, Paddy Wright and the RBN for the help they’ve given me and other players.  It’s great to know we have guys willing to help us away from the rugby field.

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Did you find what you were looking for?

I really enjoyed what I saw, with the project management being of particular interest.  I love the idea of being able to manage something from start to finish and being involved on-site.  It’s something I’m now pursuing and I’m due to start a construction management course in September.

At what point will you look to commit to a career in property?

Rugby will have to take priority for a good while yet, especially with a move to Gloucester RFC this summer.  It will be a while before I could commit a day each week to work, as I still have a lot I want to achieve on the field.

Hopefully, I have a few years of playing left to enjoy and the construction career can overlap as my rugby career eventually slows.

Are many guys in the changing room also looking at other careers?

As I said, guys are getting better.  At Wasps, players like Andy Goode and Chris Bell have interests outside the game and the young guys seem keener and keener to do the same.  I field a lot more questions than I used to about the work experience I’m doing and that can only be a good thing.

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