Ex-Lions and Wales rugby star Mike Phillips on life after professional sports
- Ex-Lions and Wales Rugby player Mike Phillips is now based in Dubai
- The former scrum-half now runs a Rugby Academy for kids in the UAE and popped by the Esquire Middle East studio to talk about his life after professional sports, mental health issues and the World Cup
- He was also named one of Esquire Middle East's Best Dressed Men in the Middle East
What is life after playing a sport professionally for most of your life and living under intense media scrutiny? Well, former international rugby player Mike Phillips joined us in the Esquire Middle East studio to shed some light on making that transition from international rugby star to just a regular guy.
"Being a professional athlete is just amazing. It's kind of difficult though because when you're there as a professional and when you are so competitive and headstrong, it's all about the next game on you. You know, you can't really, you're just so focused on the next performance and, you're driven by results. If you lose on a Saturday, I used to get sort of down for the next couple of days and sometimes I was too harsh on myself. But you've gotta be harsh on yourself to be successful."
But when atheletes play under such intense media scrutiny on a global stage can they truly be hapy with their performance in every game? According to Phillips, you can never be happy with a performance.
"I played over 90 odd times for wheeks. And I can honestly say when I walked off the pitch, I was probably only happy with five or six performances because I knew that I was just striving to get better and better all the time," he says.
"So the minute that you take a step back and think, oh, this is great, you know, we're flying out to Australia, I'm going to New Zealand. But it's not about that, you're just so focused and you are so determined and you've got to keep an eye on the goal. My mother used to say "you're so lucky you're going on holiday", but it's not a holiday. It's hard work and you have to be so focused, to remain at the top, you know, and when you see the likes of Tiger Woods, for example. I mean, he's so head strong and that's why he's remained at the top for so many years."
But what does such intense pressure to be perfect do to the mind of a professional athlete once they retire?
"A lot of players have found it difficult. I've seen my friends who've found it difficult after retiring and they haven't found the next step in life. When you're professional athlete everything is scheduled for you. You're told where to be, what to eat. You're looked after so well and then all of a sudden you're in the real world. And some players, a particular close friend of mine, he found it difficult because you go from a sort of a gladiatorial existence, to living in the real world. And then people don't want your autograph anymore. Some players find it tough, you know."
But for Phillips, the transistion was smooth.
"I wouldn't say I prepared very well for it, but I think you know that the end is coming. So I think you're just looking forward to the next chapter and you try and do the right thing as a player," he adds.
"You just think you're there forever. Sometimes the world is on your shoulders and sometimes you're on top of the world and you go through such an an emotional rollercoaster and all of a sudden then that comes to a halt and you're thrown into the real world, so to speak, and, you're there to fend for yourself. So, it's tough. And I guess my whole life I've had one goal and that was to play rugby, and to be the very best at it. And now, I guess I'm trying to find different goals."