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Gareth Berg: “I’ve got a huge passion for growing the game in Italy.”
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Former Northamptonshire, Hampshire and Middlesex all-rounder Gareth Berg has felt a ‘weight lift from his shoulders’ after calling time on his playing career in county cricket.
However, the 42-year-old will continue to captain Cricket Italiana, alongside running the side as head coach of the Azzurri.
A professional career that didn’t begin until the age of 27, Berg still managed to take an impressive 331 wickets, whilst scoring 8,379 runs across 16 seasons.
The former all-rounder’s attention is now firmly with planning for Cricket Italiana’s next competition in Malaysia in February 2024, whilst also thinking about what his future holds.
The PCA sat down with Berg as part of Futures Week, which aims to highlight personal development achievements and transition stories throughout the PCA membership.
Futures Week forms part of the PCA’s Futures initiatives, alongside the Futures Awards which recognise PCA members who have taken steps towards building a second career.
The PCA helps support players with significant educational funding to grow their personal development alongside and even after their professional career. Members can log in and find out more information.
"When transitioning, make sure that you’re driven, making contacts and exploring all your options, which the PCA is great at helping you with."
The pace-bowler reflects fondly on his playing career and is ready to look to the future.
“I felt like a burden of weight had lifted off my shoulders deciding to retire which was nice, it’s given me more clarity.
“It gives me more drive to plan things moving forward, if something happened to come up then I could still play a red ball season, but I’m certainly looking forward to the coaching side of things.
“A mantra that I go by with my coaching is never give up on your dreams and my dream was playing professional cricket.”
Before turning professional, Berg originally reached out to Cricket Italiana in 2003 through his Italian passport but had to put hopes of international cricket on hold in the coming years as Middlesex came knocking for a professional contract.
Berg continues to captain Italy, alongside the coaching role with the help of former Ireland international Kevin O’Brien as high performance coach.
“I’ve got a huge passion for growing the game in Italy and introducing some of the platforms that I’ve learnt in the professional game into our set up.
“Having Kevin has been great because he brings a lot to the side and it takes a bit of work off my hands when I’m on the pitch.
Berg has enjoyed his role as head coach and has convinced some strong players of the county game to join his associate nation side with former England bowler Jade Dernbach, Kent all-rounder Grant Stewart and Derbyshire’s Wayne Madsen all exploring their Italian heritages.
“I think it’s a testament to who I am as a character and my career that I can draw in players like Dernbach, Stewart and Madsen to come and play for the Azzurri.
“We’re striving to become a greater cricketing nation and everyone that’s played for Italy that has also played county cricket has shown huge passion playing for the Azzurri and what I’ve really enjoyed about that is they’ve spent quality time with the guys in the nets which adds huge value to the team.”
Berg introduced winter training programmes for his players to improve their fitness and plan for their next big qualification tournament in Malaysia in February.
“With funding for the associate nations, every game can be like a world cup final. I’m speaking to players at the moment to make sure they can come and represent us. Realistically it’s going to take time to build the side because we don’t play together a lot but if we can get a core group of 30 players that’s how we can move forward.”
Berg has been coaching since the age of 17 and recently missed out on being able to complete his level four badge as Italy were in World Cup qualification. The all-rounder wants to continue exploring the coaching avenue but has admitted that other options might have to be considered.
“I would like to continue the coaching but it’s seems to be about who you know which I’m finding tough. I’d like to do a Directorship masters degree in sport but I’ve got to put bread on the table as well, so in the next nine months I’m going to try and get my scaffolding certificate to make sure I can maintain an income.”
The PCA helped Berg with his coaching qualifications and the Italian head coach is always grateful for the support of his Association.
“My PDM Charlie Mulraine is a great man and he’s always there on the phone to get back to me with information that I require. The PCA has been great with helping me get my coaching qualifications. I’ve explored other options with their help and I know that with one phone call I can get the help that I need.”
Berg, who has played 374 matches throughout his career, says that transition can be difficult, even if you’ve been preparing for it, but he wants others to ensure they plan for the future.
“If you want to be a coach what I’ve learnt is that you need to tick all the boxes, trying to dip your toe into every part of coaching and making sure that you’re driven, making contacts and exploring all your options, which the PCA is great at helping you with.”
Futures Week shines a light on the area of personal development and career transition among PCA members. The two-day Futures Conference forms the centrepiece of the initiative and both are part of the PCA’s Personal Development and Welfare Programme (PDWP). Click here to find out more.