As England prepare to go head to head with the USA, we caught up with former Saracens and USA wing, and co-founder of Wolfpack Lager, Chris Wyles, to hear how he has found his first year out of professional rugby.
Clubs: Saracens, Northampton Saints
Test caps: 54
Test points: 222
Where has life taken you since you retired?
I have focused a huge amount of my time and energy on Wolfpack. It’s a very exciting business and gives me the purpose to keep pushing forward. I can imagine my business partner Al Hargreaves feels the same way. We both had an incredible career at Saracens, full of amazing memories both on and off the pitch, but Wolfpack has now given us a new passion. Our aim is to open three more bars in the next two years. We’ve got our current bar in Queen's Park which is doing great, and our plan is to expand and increase our Wolfpack distribution. Essentially, we want our lager to be everywhere in London, and maintain our presence at Saracens home matches and across all kinds of events.
You officially retired from rugby in 2018. How have you found your transition so far?
From my perspective I have been through a journey where some days I am not playing anymore and other days where I miss it terribly. A clear example of this is watching the Saracens lads play amazing rugby and have unbelievable experiences. At the same time though you reflect on the harder moments of rugby, those tough training sessions or intense matches and you think to yourself, ‘Can my body actually go through this again and isn’t there a reason why you retired?’. It has been a very up and down ride. I’ve read a lot of articles about what other players have found difficult and the struggles they have faced, and to be honest I have related to all of them. There was a part of me that thought I was going to be absolutely fine because I had an exciting business to manage, but ultimately nothing will ever replicate the camaraderie or atmosphere you have within a rugby squad.
What have you found to be some of your biggest challenges?
I think one of the biggest challenges is exercise. I massively took training for granted throughout my career. As a rugby player, your number one focus every day is to train and be fit and healthy. Whereas with a young family and a business to run, training is right down the list of my priorities. Also losing your competitive nature can be difficult too. I mean, our business is cool and we can be competitive with it and we want it to be the best in our industry. But it’s not the same as running at someone and smashing them or being with 23 of your mates and winning a game. There are just not the same emotional highs.
Have you stayed in contact with your former teammates?
Definitely. It’s important to find a balance though. I think it’s healthy to stay in touch with the guys, but you don’t want to be over the top or cling on. We are still very involved around match day at Saracens. Al is involved with corporate hospitality at the stadium and I help with the Wolfpack bus, so we still get to watch the lads play and catch up after games.
On the flip side, what have you found to be the most enjoyable aspect of your transition so far?
I think this probably plays to what was initially difficult but now I’m finding extremely enjoyable. The rugby world is very institutionalised. You’re told where to go, what to do, what to wear and what to eat. Whereas now, Al and I are the masters of our own destiny. We are our own bosses and we make the rules. It’s exciting and invigorating to wake up and know that every day is different, and our schedules are determined by us. Towards the end of my career, I found the weekly structures and training schedules, very repetitive, particularly in the tougher months when all the internationals are away, or the weather is bad.
Do you have any advice or guidance for players in a similar situation or who are approaching their retirement?
You must plan for the future. You actually need to be extremely proactive and determined. Nothing is ever going to come easily to you. Whether you’re an England player, a Lions star or a squad player, nothing is going to come to you unless you’re proactive and committed. I think you’ve got to look at it from both sides of the coin. As a professional athlete, doors will open for you, but you’ve got to push through them, be confident and make the most of every opportunity.
For support and guidance with your transition please contact our dedicated RPA Transition Manager Josh Frape on 07725 142 065 or firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on Wolfpack Lager please visit: www.wolfpacklager.com or follow @wolfpacklager on Instagram.