Former RPA Chairman Will James - Where are they now?

What made you decide to retire when you did?

I was 37 when I retired. There was an opportunity to play for another year at Premiership level, but in regards to your body, I would have been 38-39 if I had carried on. I was also looking at the opportunities which had been available at the time, having a relatively young family, my daughters were in school, and it was just one of those things where I thought ‘can I actually keep progressing and be able to actually get a job in the right field afterwards?’

How did you land the role you currently hold as Head of Rugby at an independent school?

The school contacted me and they were interested in setting up a new role as Head of Rugby or Head of Sports Performance, and they said ‘Look, would you like to just come up and deliver some coaching sessions?’ I thought ‘Well actually, yes, go on, it’s a long way away but I’ll just see what it’s about.’ That enabled me to establish the link and build that relationship. It definitely helped me in the interview stage a year later, that familiarity. One of the best bits of advice which I took from the RPA Transitions Manager - Josh Frape - was that building relationships was absolutely key in creating post-retirement opportunities itself.

How did the RPA help with your transition away from Rugby?

The RPA were instrumental in guiding me into my post rugby career, and Josh really helped me in deciding what I could focus on in regards to gaining employment post rugby. When I decided that a role as a Head of Rugby in an independent school was something I could see myself doing,  the RPA facilitated that development through many opportunities, primarily in the education sector which included The Director of Rugby course delivered by Neil Rollings from Independent coach education. The transition was made very smooth due to the help and preparation I received once I decided what was the best option to focus on.

Was coaching and teaching something you were always interested in?

Well it wasn’t so much teaching, but coaching wise it was something I really wanted to get into. I had an opportunity to take a coaching role in the championship, in Division 1, but to be completely honest with you, fixed term contract work and always being a slave [to the cycle], you renegotiate your contract in November, next thing you know it’s pre-season. It was something I really wanted to get away from. With daughters in school and not really wanting to move around a lot it was time to consider a different tack.

What advice would you give to current players?

I remember when I was the RPA Chairman, the emphasis was give your future some thought on a regular basis, the earlier you start planning the better. You have young boys who are in their early 20s, mid 20s and earning serious cash now as the wages go up, but still the issue remains of ‘Actually what am I going to be doing early 30s, do I actually want to continue to play professional rugby?’ I was 37-38, and it’s a passion for me, but that won't be the path that everyone wants to take.

Is it something that you would recommend to players moving forward?

I think it is something, if you find the right environment, that has huge benefits. You’ve got benefits from the fact that you’re on a full-term contract, if you’re lucky enough to negotiate a terms of employment contract. Also you’re looking at fantastic holidays. In regards to looking at your transferable skills for rugby, if you’re looking at a management or coaching role in a school, a lot of things which you’ve developed in your rugby career do help you in regards to your time management, self-discipline, the actual relationships you have to build in an elite environment. Your ability to establish leadership skills that you bring from rugby into that environment. I think  the key is to generally think about something that really interests you, think about something which you can see yourself doing and working towards and try to build those relationships.