Former South African paceman has urged players to ‘get their ducks in a row’ to prepare for a second career.

To see more articles. Click here

Charl Willoughby is flourishing in his new role as a Financial Consultant at Cooper Associates Wealth Management Ltd, just yards away from where he opened the bowling for Somerset at Taunton for six years.

The 44-year-old retired from the game in 2012 with 1,174 professional wickets to his name which included a golden spell at Somerset. The left-armer departed the south west at the end of 2011 before retiring from cricket one year later, he has since progressed into a rewarding profession as he explains.

  • Please explain your current role?
  • I’m a Financial Consultant for Coopers Associates, which is Somerset’s ground naming sponsor, covering areas such as investments, ISAs, pension planning and protecting families for the future. It’s a really holistic role, that’s why I really love it. It’s so much more than dealing with numbers, I help people every day. I have developed really good relationships with my clients and really feel my role gives back to them.
  • How did you break into the industry?
  • When I left cricket in 2012, I went back to South Africa for a year. It was tough and I struggled to find suitable opportunities. When I returned to the UK, a contact at my local Taunton branch of Lloyds made me aware of an opportunity there. After working there for a while, a partner of St. James’s Place recommended I go through their academy programme. This was an intensive six month programme, including six gruelling exams to become Diploma qualified. My intention is to become Chartered, which will involve further exams.
  • What skills and experience from being a sportsman are useful in your new career?
Massive drive and determination to be successful. As a sportsman, you don’t want to be at the bottom of the leader boards or KPI lists, you want to aim to be at the top. You also have this air of confidence which people and clients pick up on. I have to meet people who are really successful in their fields and therefore having a healthy amount of self-confidence is important.

I also think sportspeople have the type of personalities which enables them to get on well with people and build relationships.

  • Did the companies you interviewed with look for these sporting traits?
  • If they did, I quickly had to show that I could demonstrate them in a way that would benefit their business. I had 21 seasons of professional cricket behind me and not a lot else. I really had to demonstrate my determination and resilience and prove to companies that I was worth taking a risk on. Once they offered me opportunities, I made sure I worked doubly hard to pass exams first time. The drop in salary was also a major motivator and made me fight hard to progress quickly. Life after cricket is tough. The PCA does a great job but we, as players, have to put in the effort as well. Leaving cricket is like leaving school.
  • Throughout your cricket career, is there anything you would have done differently?
  • I wouldn’t change my cricket experience for the world as it offered me so much. But, I would have studied earlier. My advice would be get any exams or qualifications done as soon as possible. Get them in the bank and you give yourself the option of leaving the game on your own terms. I probably hung on for a year or two longer than sensible because I didn’t have many alternatives. There should be more emphasis on the need for players to do this in my opinion. Get your ducks in a row.

Willoughby is more than happy to have a discussion with any PCA member to share his experience and offer advice.

For more information on the PCA’s Personal Development and Welfare Programme click here or contact your regional Personal Development Manager.