Ed Jackson knows better than most how one accident can end a sporting career. In this interview, Ed gives his perspective on the challenges faced by professional athletes in preparing for Life After Sport.
Life After Sport: Michael Phelps recently said “more must be done to support Olympians after they move out of the spotlight”. Do you see this as being relevant to other sports?
EJ: it is difficult to speak generally for all sports, but within rugby, more could certainly be done. Only a handful of players will be able to use rugby for the rest of their life, whilst most players will need to find alternative employment. Many players can find the transition post sport mentally challenging as you can quickly lose your identity. Investing time into transition planning will help make the transfer seamless.
Life After Sport: What did you do to prepare for life post rugby?
EJ: when I was involved in the academy setup, we were actively discouraged from doing a degree, although I think that attitudes are changing. I did a distance learning degree between 22 to 25, and found the studying a welcome and enjoyable distraction, to the extent that I subsequently did a Real Estate masters. I am very grateful that I did this, and feel that I would be in a very different and harder place if I had my accident aged 20.
Life After Sport: your accident has shown how injury can derail a sporting career. What advice would you give to the 21 year old Ed Jackson?
EJ: sport gives you a lot in life, but it eventually stops, and if you are not proactive it can catch you off guard (and sooner than you expected). Professional sport is quite cut throat and clubs are businesses. If you are let go, the clubs have 50 or so athletes on their books, so there is limited. Be proactive, and work on the attributes that will make the difference for you in the future, be in academic qualification, soft skills, EQ etc. Failure to do this will result in you being 10+ years behind in the workplace. This is a message I am passionate about, and have been delivering to academy players since my accident.