In conversation with a young ex-professional cricketer who has his sights on pursuing a new career.
written by Oscar J Ryan
Tim has been a close personal friend of mine since the age of 4, when we formed a strong bond in the nursery sandpit.We grew up together (Tim probably more so than me), with both of us receiving scholarships and participat- ing in sport together until the age of 18.Quickly,Tim’s talent and drive for elite sport outgrew mine, which was clearly shown by his inclusion in our school’s 1stTeam Cricket at the ridiculous- ly young age of 12, where he padded up to face bowlers aged 17 and 18. From there, he excelled through the ranks, broke school records, was selected for academies, and received a professional contract with Somerset CCC at the age of 18.
Tim’s work ethic always stood out to me. He thrived academically during school, putting my grades to shame – much to the envy of my parents. It was clear that Tim always knew he was a talented sportsman, but he was always aware that professional sport never lasts forever and so a safety net is a necessity. He was accepted to study Philosophy at Cardiff University, and took on the challenge of studying for a degree while also playing professional cricket for Somerset CCC. Upon graduating with a 2:1, he was offered a full-time contract with Somerset and continued playing for another two years.
He has since decided to call time on his cricket career and instead pursue a career in law. I caught up with my old sandpit buddy to discuss the possibility of a law conversion on the horizon, and to pitch the age-old question:
“where do you see yourself in the ten years?”
Remind me, Tim, why cricket?
“I was just drawn to it really. I first played at the age of 9. I have always loved sport, and I found I had a nat- ural talent for cricket so I just ran with it – playing for Marshfield Crick- et Club, then Bath Cricket Club, and onto the Somerset age-group sys- tem. I was incredibly fortunate to have supportive parents. They nev- er put pressure on me to play but were always there to support me and ferry me around when I need- ed, so I have a lot to thank them for.”
And then you ended up playing for Somerset!
“Yeah! At 15, I joined Somerset Acad- emy and started playing for Somerset 2nd XI. I had some success for the second team but most of my success came in age-group cricket. I made it clear to Somerset that I was going to university, so they gave me a 3-year deal that only paid between April and September – a development contract as they called it. It allowed me to be in Cardiff and play for them, whilst fo- cusing on my studies, then come back in the summer to play for Somerset, which was ideal for me.After universi- ty,I was offered a full-time professional contract, which was a proud moment for me, and I really looked forward to finally focusing only on cricket.”
The summer contract must have been really crucial in allowing you to focus at university during term- time.
“For sure,sport was always on my mind though. In reflection, the main decision that my sporting life influenced was the subject that I chose at university.
If I didn’t play cricket I think I would have studied law or business, how- ever, I thought balancing those with my sporting commitments when I knew very little about them would have been too demanding, so I chose a subject that I knew I found inter- esting, which oddly was Philosophy.”
We both chose to go to university. What was the draw for you?
“I always enjoyed school and I nev- er really considered the option of not going to university. Growing up I understood how tough professional sport would be, and wanted to give myself options for future careers if I had to move on from playing profes- sionally – which came sooner than I’d hoped! I also don’t think I was quite ready to go straight into professional cricket at the age of 18, so it gave me some extra time to mature and gain some valuable life experiences be- fore having a full-time job in cricket.”
So you knew you would always go to university; did you always know it would be Cardiff?
“No, but it wasn’t a difficult decision to be honest. I chose Cardiff because it was one of the six MCC Univer- sity set-ups, which provide quality coaching and support for people who want to pursue a career in cricket whilst getting a university degree. A huge amount of funding is provided by the MCC to accommodate this, and I doubt I would have been able to achieve both if it hadn’t been for that. We played matches against the other five universities in the program, and also first-class counties such as Glamorgan, Sussex and Essex.”
You graduated with a 2:1 in the end – but what moved you away from cricket and towards continuing your education?
“Really the decision wasn’t entirely my choice. I was told that my con- tract would not be renewed about halfway through the 2019 season. I was inevitably gutted, and I had (na- ively) never really considered life away from Somerset. I never real- ly had a plan for leaving the game – planning it fully would seem to be conceding that I was leaving, which isn’t something I was prepared to do until it was really happening. I had al- ways given myself options by going to university, but they had never really been relevant to me until this point, as I had always truly been focused on pursuing my cricket ambitions.”
Did it take a while to adjust to the idea of stopping cricket, then?
“Yeah, there was an adjustment pe- riod, definitely. For the remainder of the season, I tried to find a way to move clubs, mainly through trialling in other 2nd XIs. Unfortunately, I didn’t perform and nothing came of it. Ulti- mately, I lost confidence in my ability to play well enough at that level, so I had to move on. Past a certain lev- el, I have always believed that cricket (and sport in general) is more of a mind-game than anything. Since university, I had very little success and it got to the point where I thought I had more potential in another career. I realised that now is a great time to capitalise on my experiences in sport and throw myself into a different career, so eventually I began to consider which new path to go down.”
I know that period was tough. Did the move away from playing affect you mentally?
“Oh, the first month was incredibly tough – I felt like I had lost
my identity to some extent. I was always known as ‘Tim the Cricket- er’ growing up, so I had convinced myself that this is what I really was. Whilst I was excited about the next chapter, it was an incredibly daunt- ing experience. I wouldn’t describe professional sport as a part of the ‘real world’, you tend to live in a bubble of thinking that it’s the only thing that matters to anyone, which simply isn’t true! So I had a lot of changes to make. I felt I had to get
a job to give myself some structure whilst I make the decision on where to go next, so I currently work at the local pub. I have found shift work useful because it gives me the time during the day to get some other stuff done, exciting stuff like studying and applications!”
How are the applications going?
“Alright, I think! I have now made a final decision on my career path, which will hopefully be a move into a career in law. I will be doing the law conversion starting September 2020 and I am currently applying for legal jobs for after my next studies.”
Great! I’m glad things are working out. So when you were dealing with the huge decisions surround- ing your next step, did you find that you were well supported by your previous industry?
“Fortunately, yes. Most sports have an independent organisation that
looks after the interests of the players and offers them support wherever and whenever they need it. In professional cricket, we have the Professional Cricketers’ Association (PCA).The PCA has been fantastic for me.They offer support through- out our playing careers, with psycho- logical support, careers support and funding for things from educational courses to driving lessons.What is so brilliant about the PCA is that once you become a member, you re- main a member for life, which means I get the benefit of their support whenever I need it even after leaving the game. Every year they host an event called the ‘Futures Confer- ence’, which is a two-day conference for players and past players to attend to get advice and support for when the time comes that they step out
of cricket. It was fundamental to my decision-making process and coming to terms with the fact that I had to move on, and my transition would definitely not have been as smooth without their support.”
It must have been an odd period, still playing but without the possi- bility of progression, right?
“It’s definitely a strange time playing out the season when everyone knows you’re leaving, but luckily all my teammates are primarily great friends of mine.All of the players and most of the coaching and manage- ment staff offered support, which made the process much easier. Doors definitely closed with regards to my cricket – it was evident that
I wasn’t going to get into the first team unless some freak accident occurred, but I was fine with that.
I tried to enjoy the rest of the season for what it was – an opportunity to play a sport I still love with some of my best mates – what more could you want?!”
How has it been preparing to re-enter university and the world of academia, especially when most of the friends we grew up with have now graduated and are working?
“I do feel like I’m playing catch-up
a bit: I had already fallen behind my cricketing peers and I was slowly falling further behind peers who went into non-sporting careers. I always felt like I could have been good enough to play professional cricket, and maybe if I gave it another year or two I could have broken into a different team.
edited by Naomi Prakash