Managing to plan for the end of a successful career

Although Northampton Saints winger Tom Collins still has a bright future in the game, he is already beginning to look to the what he will do when his career finally comes to an end, with the help of OCM Wealth Management’s Sports division. Here, Tom talks about how careful planning and astute guidance now should set him on the road to a new focus when his playing days are over.

Tell us a bit about your rugby career to date?

Spending the last eight years with Northampton in the senior set up has been amazing for me. Growing up as a Northampton boy, watching them every week, to playing in front of 15,000 people has been a dream come true. I started playing rugby at the age of four with Old Northamptonians, moving on to playing for Northampton School for Boys when I went to secondary school at 11.  After school I moved to Moulton College where I played for two years before joining up with Saints senior academy at 18.

What has been the highlight of your career?

The highlight of my career is probably the 2014 season when we won the Premiership - unbelievable feeling!  I was only 19 or 20 at the time and played around 15 or 16 games that year so obviously to go with a team that was so successful was really good. I think that year we also beat Leinster in the European Cup away from home with Jamie Elliott scoring a last minute try, so that was probably the highlight of my career, especially playing at such a young age with players who I looked up to as I was growing up.

In 2019, you completed an Advanced Diploma in Construction Management. What was the thinking behind furthering your education?

The thinking behind my further development was that rugby is a short career. Like I mentioned before I’ve been at Northampton for around eight years now and that is gone very quickly. So to think that in probably another five to six years I could be looking at the end of my career makes it important that I set the foundations now for smooth transition into the next part of my life. I spent a lot of time away from the pitch trying to figure out what I was interested in and construction was something that appealed to me and could also enhance my career after rugby.

You also do weekly work experience with Colonial Construction. How have you found working in an office environment compared to a rugby environment?

For me working with Colonial has been really good. I wouldn’t say I’ve been doing too much hands-on stuff, it’s mainly just been following and shadowing some of the site managers. It’s great to see the contrast between what we do as rugby players compared to their day-to-day life and learning things off the pitch also helps our development a lot.

How do you find balancing life as a professional athlete with studying and working?

For me balancing studying and working is quite easy and obviously scheduling is a massive part that. Ensuring I give myself enough time to complete projects and assignments is key to making sure I can focus on rugby as well. At the end of the day, rugby is our job and that takes full priority, but as professional athletes we get a lot of downtime to focus on other things away from rugby and it gives you a chance to switch off and put our energy into something different.

Do you think it is important for professional athletes to have an interest outside of their sport and what benefits can it bring to your game?

I think it is extremely important for players to have an interest in something other than rugby. It gives you a purpose when you are not training and an opportunity to switch off. Professional sport is demanding both physically and mentally so having the ability to throw yourself into something else which I enjoy means my mind can refresh and when I come back to rugby I am fully focused on the job at hand.

If you could speak to your 20-year-old self, what advice would you give him with regards to planning for life outside of rugby, both financially and professionally?

My advice would be to talk and connect with others, there are so many people, who can be fans, sponsors or friends, who simply want to help professional athletes. It’s not just a one-way street as there are plenty of things that, as players, you can do to return favours, but by using the contacts you have made through the club or rugby itself you can gain a wealth of experience learning new trades in different industries. This is great to help with a smooth transition after rugby.

With that in mind, would role do you think an agency should have in assisting with your development outside of sport, both professionally and financially?

I think it is very important to use your contacts when involved in professional sport. Being able to connect with others and build relationships is key to helping growth both professionally and financially. I think an agency should be the people who help players seek advice across both these areas. OCM as an agency help me with both aspects, from tax returns to investments and insurance, ensuring I can keep all my focus on the pitch.

And lastly, we’ve all been spending a lot of time at home recently. What film, series or book can you recommend to keep us entertained?

I’m getting sick of sitting while my girlfriend forces me to watch Desperate Housewives, she must have watched three seasons now and each season must have about 30 episodes.

So for me in my downtime, I try to escape by getting on the PlayStation and playing a bit of FIFA or GTA. I have also been watching Gangs of London, which is very good, although not for the faint hearted.