Written by Jim Roberts
Edited by Genevieve Gordon
Landed On My Feet
Life has shifted up a gear for me in the past couple of months.
I am no longer ‘just’ a full-time athlete.
Three key things have happened recently and they have made me revaluate my life quite a bit.
No1. Turning thirty
I know a lot of people will say it is not that old and to be honest I don’t feel that old, but I always assumed I’d have things figured out by the time I turned thirty. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I still feel like I’m fumbling around in the darkness most of the time and not knowing whether I have made all the right choices.
But turning thirty did make me stop and reflect quite a lot. What do I want and where am I going?
As I mentioned in my previous blog (Bisham Abbey or Bust) I’ve had a couple of injuries lately and if nothing else they have helped me realise that I can’t continue to play sport and punish my body forever. As a full-time wheelchair user I know that I’m going to need my shoulders for the rest of my life. I use them constantly to get around. But as arms and shoulders aren’t really meant for a primary means of transportation I do need to look after them. I have to accept the inevitable future and make some plans.
What do I do when I no longer want to, or more realistically physically can’t play wheelchair rugby to the standard I want to anymore?
Although it’s been over a year since we lost the UK Sport Funding, this was probably the biggest shock to my reality. I realise that I was extremely lucky to be a funded UK Sport athlete. Not many people get paid to play a sport or to travel the world. But when GB wheelchair Rugby lost its UK Sport funding after Rio 2016 I was staggered and emotionally fragile. I really hadn’t considered it to be a cut that UK Sport would take. The decision defiantly wasn’t expected.
Being an athlete is hard. Although I love my sport I know that I am being used, I’m a resource and while I’m still playing well I’m being utilised but, there comes a point in every athlete’s career where they must retire. Sometimes to peoples surprise the majority of athletic careers don’t last that long! And what then? Back to square one? The loss of the UK Sport funding brought this reality in to a sharp focus for me.
So what have I changed; well I’ve gone and got a job and please pardon the pun but I really have landed on my feet! I am now a fully paid up member of the dual career athlete society.
Through GBWR connections I was able to secure a part time position with Corstorphine + Wright Architects, an award winning architectural firm. My schedule is extremely busy but basically, I get time off from work to attend GB camps and competitions that I’m selected for. As well as Mondays off so that I can attend ‘London Wheelchair Rugby Club’ training sessions.
I have to admit it has been a challenging couple of months getting used to the transition. From the commute to the scheduled working hours and trying to fit enough time in at the gym so I retain my own standards as well as the standards required by GBWR to represent Great Britain. From learning new ways, deciphering office culture and fitting into a team that isn’t related to sport. I was nervous about going back into architecture; having graduated from university 4 years ago I honestly haven’t had a lot to do with the industry in that time. I recognise that I am lucky enough to have a degree to fall back on and it has enabled me to secure my new role.
The great big plus is it is really refreshing having a new challenge and so far I’m thoroughly enjoying it.