Former England Sevens and Newcastle Falcons’ winger Luke Fielden never thought he would have to pull the pin on his rugby career, but when it happened he made sure he was ready. The 29-year-old was forced to retire earlier this year after suffering a career ending knee injury. While it left Luke devastated, it also propelled his back-up plan into place and saw him take up a position as Rugby Development Coach at Colfe’s School in London.
Luke you start your new role at Colfe’s this month but we understand you spent some time at the school in July, what was that experience like?
Yes I worked for a couple weeks at the end of the school term just to get used to what I will be doing later on this year. It was really interesting to see how the school operates and what’s going to be expected of me when I start. The whole experience was fantastic and I am really looking forward to officially starting in September.
Can you explain how the opportunity came about?
Well it was largely thanks to my RPA Player Development Manager, Caroline Guthrie. I was in the process of making the decision to retire and Caroline forwarded an email from Damian Hopley suggesting the position at Colfe’s. I had one look at the job description and it pretty much described everything that I wanted to do, so I applied straight away. I then got an email back inviting me to attend an interview on the Friday and by the following Monday I had been offered the job. The decision to accept the role was one of the easiest I’ve had to make, the school grounds were fantastic and all the staff were really nice. In terms of career development it was the best role for me, so there was no way I could turn it down.
What will the role actually involve?
The role will involve working with all the coaches and the Director of Rugby on ways to improve and develop the school’s rugby programme. I will be working with students of all ages and abilities, and making sure they reach their full potential in the sport. Our ultimate aim will be to make Colfe’s the best school for any students in the area wanting to play and improve their rugby. Also because part of the role will involve being a PE teacher, the school are going to put me through my teacher training in my second year so I will be qualified in that area as well.
Do you see this as a stepping stone to go on to become a professional coach?
To be honest, I’m not really interested in getting into that side of coaching. It seems to be more of a result based business and I think you’d find yourself wanting victories instead of working on a player’s development. Just from a job security basis it doesn’t seem like the best career to be heading into at this stage of my life.
You also recently completed the RPA/PADSIS ‘Certificate in Coaching Rugby in Schools’ how did you find the course?
It was fantastic, I found it beneficial and was very helpful when it came to applying for the role at Colfe’s. The course aims to help players gain a recognised qualification, which then allows them to pursue a career in coaching and teaching when they retire from professional rugby. We learnt how schools operate, the skills and attributes needed and how best to prepare for a job interview.
Earlier this year you were forced to retire from professional rugby due to a knee injury, can you explain how hard that process was?
It was pretty tough and I still don’t think it has sunk in. Everything happened so quickly, I finished my career and then a couple weeks later I had this new job. I think that stage is the hardest part to go through, and luckily because of the plans I put in place before my retirement, I was able to make that transition quite quickly. At the time though, I was absolutely gutted, rugby was all I wanted to do and not being able to do it was the worst thing in the world. It’s been something I have loved since a very young age, and I would be still playing the game even if I wasn’t getting paid for it. Thankfully I have a very loving wife and family who have strongly supported me through the whole process. My wife and I had twin boys 16 months ago, so they have definitely put my life back into perspective.
Did the RPA give you much support?
They were amazing and gave me massive support. I received text messages from Damian Hopley and David Barnes making sure I was ok, while also suggesting ways to deal with the process and the best pathways to take. I found it such a relief to have someone on the other end of the phone who understood what I was going through and could help me get back on my feet. Rugby players in this country are so privileged to have a union like the RPA because they are always there no matter the situation or problem and can always point you back in the right direction. I was very lucky throughout my career because I had three fantastic PDM’s at my disposal in Mandy Thompson, Caroline Guthrie and Richard Bryan. All three played a major role in my development and allowed me to utilise their strengths and contacts to network with different businesses and people.
Finally, if you could offer any advice to young players what would it be?
I think you need to do as much as you can while you’re still playing because your career can end so quickly. I remember when I was young, all I used to do with my free time was go and sit in coffee shops. But looking back now I really wish I used that time in a more productive way. I’m not saying you shouldn’t live a good lifestyle, but maybe now and then take yourself to a networking event, meet different people, build up a contacts list and get yourself into work experience. The more ready and prepared you are, the easier the whole transition will be.
If you would like any further information about the Schools Coaching Course please contact Richard Bryan on 07921 065 947 or rbryan@theRPA.co.uk