Former players retrain to help mentor stars of today

Stephen Holgate played for Wigan in the 1998 Grand Final

Rugby League Cares is enhancing its support for players who are approaching, or who have recently reached the end of their playing careers by recruiting a team of highly skilled player mentors.

The charity’s newly-designed Player Mentor Programme sets out to smooth many of the difficulties players often face when it comes to forging new careers away from sport.

The mentors will also provide support to help players tackle any major issues they face at this important time in their lives, such as addressing long-standing injury health problems, accessing education programmes and entering the world of business.

Professional athletes face retirement twice in their working lives, once in their late-20s or early-30s and then again when they reach the ‘traditional’ retirement age.

For all the planning and preparation that most players undertake during their rugby careers, much of it with the full support of RL Cares, some inevitably struggle to come to terms with life outside the confines of the sporting world.

RL Cares already works with organisations like Sporting Chance to provide support to players experiencing severe emotional and physical trauma caused by their forced change in lifestyle.

And from the spring of 2021, that support will be complemented by the eight-strong player mentor team, all of whom are themselves former professional players who have experience the challenges of ‘reinventing’ themselves after hanging up their boots.

The mentors will work alongside individuals to help guide them through any issues they face and steer them in the direction of further expert advice and assistance if it is needed.

RL Cares transition manager Francis Stephenson said: “The player mentors have an important role to play in helping current and recently retired players make a success of their own transition out of the sport.

“The programme takes a holistic approach to supporting players in any way they need it.

“We want every player to move on to the next chapter in their life as smoothy as possible and the work we do in our transition programme is designed to achieve that.

“However, some players find it really tough and don’t know which way to turn. That’s where our player mentors come in: as ex-players themselves they will have the trust of the players they’re working with, and life experiences that can be of huge benefit.”

The player mentors recently gathered at Weetwood Hall in Leeds to attend an intensive two-day training programme devised and delivered by experts from Sporting Chance.

That training will be supplemented by further learning opportunities in the next couple of months with the aim of having the team sufficiently skilled up to mentor from the spring.

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