Written by Jim Roberts
Edited by Andrew Thomson
I had now finished my degree, the hard work had paid off and I had graduated with a First in Architectural Technology. The plan, as it always had been, was now to return to JM Architects in London.
Then, as always seems to happen with me, life threw a spanner in the works. The job I had pinned all my hopes on, fell through! I was absolutely devastated. I genuinely did not have a clue what I was going to do as it came as a complete shock to me. I had been riding high for most of the summer, first my graduation, and then getting a bronze medal at the wheelchair rugby European Championships in Belgium with the GB team. We really thought we had a chance of gold but Sweden,the eventual winners, proved too strong for us in the semi final.
So I found myself at a bit of a crossroads. I am a big believer in playing the cards you have been dealt. This was just another one of those times where I could either let life beat me, or see if any other options had opened up because of it. In my experience, when one door closes another one will often open. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to see how far I could get playing wheelchair rugby.
The USA wheelchair club rugby league is widely regarded as the strongest league in the world. So when the opportunity presented itself that I could play there, I jumped at it. I was off to Phoenix. I had always been jealous of friends from school who had taken gap years and now this was my chance to experience life in another country.
The ‘Phoenix Heat’ are based out of the Ability 360 Sports and Fitness Centre. Along with being able to train at a world class facility, I now found myself playing with some of the world’s best players, three of whom already had Paralympic medals.
The club had taken a big risk bringing me over as their import player because each team is only allowed one international player per year and I was still a relatively unknown player on the international stage. I believe the risk paid off though because both years we were national champions!
This was another step up for me and the level of competition and training was a lot higher than I had been used to. Playing with The Phoenix Heat helped my understanding of the game enormously and I soon realised that I would be much more successful if I worked with the other members of the team rather than trying to do everything myself.
What I had learned in Phoenix definitely helped my international game when I returned to play for GB. I was no longer sitting on the sidelines, I was getting more and more court time and now even getting to start in important games.
Although the choice to pursue a career in sport over architecture is still something I think about a lot, I am happy that I have chosen to follow this path, and I am excited to see how far it can take me in the future.