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Paul Harris Exclusive: More to life after cricket

by ZwemZa on August 1st, 2019

Paul Harris (Live Cricket)

Former South African spinner Paul Harris in his first column for us writes about the often neglected topic of life after retirement for international cricketers.

The day was the 4th January 2012, lying on the physio bed (also had issues with chronic knee pain), I made a decision that I was finished with the sport that had given me so much over a 14-year career.
Once the decision is made there are a few thoughts that go through the mind of the retired individual. They range from what am I going to do now, how am I going to support a family. These thoughts have been made slightly less stressful for a select few in recent times. Some players have had the luxury of the commercial upliftment that has come from the wonderfully successful IPL. This tournament has single handedly changed the commercial status of cricket throughout the world.

For those who didn’t have this luxury, post retirement can be one of the most stressful times in one’s life. Finding one’s ‘place’ after cricket can be daunting and there is not much in terms of support. The various players associations have made decent strides in the last few years with a certain level of support, but not nearly enough. You often hear of retired cricketers going through deep depression and in severe cases even suicide or suicidal thoughts.
I was one of those who went through a certain level of depression post retirement. I was by no means at a suicidal level but there was certainly a level of depression. I was in the fortunate position of having the support of family during this time. Doing odd MC work at golf days, freelancing as a commentator but nothing concrete. This added to the stress of ‘what next’.
There needs to be more done throughout a sportsmen’s career to prepare him for the inevitable retirement phase of life. Whether it is financial guidance through to upskilling during one’s career.

Understandably there needs to be a willingness from the individual to improve themselves but more can and needs to be done in this regard. Sportsmen tend to create a network of influential people that they have met over years of going to functions and travelling the world (I like to call this a black book) that could be used in retirement if they have the necessary skillset to leverage it.
Some like myself have been fortunate to be given a chance in business over the last 5 years. It has been tough, starting at the bottom and trying to work your way up the ladder in a world where everyone else has been working while you were playing sport. Tough in a world where you are out of your depth and Google search becomes your best learning tool. Tough in a world where you were at the top of something and then start again. At times it seems that playing sport was wasted years. You think to yourself I should have got a degree, got into the rat race early.
The reason for writing this is not supposed to be doom and gloom. It is not supposed to scare anyone from going into professional sport. Most sportsmen have great attributes. They are forced to use both the left and right side of their brains. There is a need to be structured in technique and in training, more linear thinking. On the other side (right brain) there is a need for visualization, rhythm and imagination. Most of the time this is achieved under pressure. Most sportsmen with the relevant skill level would be an asset to any business or organization.
The point is that if you are still playing professional sport take the time to upskill yourself. Gather as much knowledge as you can about various subjects, pick the brain of the people you meet whilst networking and most importantly manage the money you make while playing. Those that are retired understand that while it can be a depressing and lonely place it is an opportunity to remake yourself and with a positive, willing to learn mindset who knows what you can achieve.

Paul Harris

Paul Harris played 37 Tests for South Africa.

From → African News

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