Life After Sport: Matt Smith, retired rugby union player

Matt is a retired professional rugby union player and now the new Leicester Tigers Academy Head Coach. He played for Leicester Tigers from 2006-2019, playing in 228 games, winning three Premiership titles and two Anglo-Welsh Cups.

02 Jul Life After Sport: Matt Smith, retired rugby union player

What was life like when you first stopped playing? What did you find most challenging?

It was very daunting, the fear of the unknown. Losing that structure and the close friendship group of a changing room was a big challenge. I felt a lack of identity.

Why did you decide to seek advice on transition from Switch The Play?

I’d seen so many of my peers really struggle coming out of the professional sporting environment and I didn’t want to go down the same path.

What did you get out of the sessions?

A sense that it is ok to feel anxious, everyone will struggle in some way and there is help out there if you are willing to find it. The mentoring helps you realise that you have skills which are transferable and valuable outside professional sport.

What action did you take as a result of the coaching you received?

Active work experience. I got out and met as many people as I could to build up my network of contacts. I concentrated on using my time productively and improving personal development skills.

What is life like for you now and which skills from your sporting life help you in your current role?

It’s still very early days as I’ve only been in the job a week as Leicester Tigers Academy Head Coach. I’m learning new skills every day and embracing the change and challenges which are and will be put in front of me.

The skills of building up your network and putting yourself out there have been really helpful. You never know when contacts might come useful. You might not think it is important to go to a networking event at the time but in years to come it may come to fruition.

What would you say to other athletes when it comes to preparing for transition?

The best piece of advice I was given was ‘retire to something, not from something’. I know sometimes injury forces your hand and can’t be achieved but the sooner you think about post sport the better.

Also, do as much work experience as possible. It might mean you doing some experience in a certain sector to realise you don’t enjoy it so can tick it off your potential career list. Don’t just go for a coffee – spend a decent period of time in other environments so you can see the warts and all of the industry.

For a limited period only, Switch the Play is offering the first hour FREE on all coaching packages. Read here for more detail or email emily.lake@switchtheplay.com.