James Fleming believes professional rugby players should look to the future
But at 29 the Edinburgh athlete is taking the first steps towards a career after rugby.
The fleet-footed back is an integral part of the squad taking part in the HSBC 7s World Series, taking in cities like Dubai, Cape Town, Las Vegas and Sydney, with Hong Kong and Singapore up next.
But with an eye to the future, James has joined Carbon Financial Partners as a graduate trainee, based in their Manor Place office.
James revealed it was former Scotland captain and British and Irish Lions captain Gavin Hastings – a childhood sporting hero – who first sowed the seeds of contemplating what might fill the void when he had to hang up the boots.
He laughed: “We’ve all been there, in the back garden, scoring the winning goal in a World Cup final or kicking the winning penalty in the Six Nations.
“As a six-year-old in the family garden I would take the ball as Gavin, chip the washing line, then slide into the flower bed grounding the ball as Tony Stanger.
“So it’s fair to say that for the last seven years I have been lucky enough to have my dream job. Representing my country on the world stage has been an absolute privilege and the world of professional sport has taught me a huge amount.
“There are still a few years left in these legs, but the reality is this dream job won’t last forever.
“As rugby continues to grow in the professional era I have found myself asking the question, is enough being done to plan for the inevitable? I am definitely not alone in having seen friends and team mates have their careers cut short and really struggle with the transition. Many still haven’t found their next career.
“It was pretty surreal when I found myself discussing this topic with Gavin, twenty-odd years after pretending to be him in the back garden!
“I saw retirement from sport looming as a significant milestone in my life and something I should plan for. Gavin encouraged me to recognise and develop the skills I had learned through sport and how these could be applied in a business context.
“At the time I only held a Sport Studies degree from Stirling University so my business knowledge was very limited.
“I enrolled in the MBA course at the Edinburgh Business School and this helped me understand these transferable skills and where they might fit into business.
“It is well documented that a professional sportsperson has many skills learned through sport which can be applied in business.”
An informal chat with Gordon Wilson, Carbon managing director and a keen rugby fan, paved the way to joining their Edinburgh team and balancing the groundwork for a financial career with playing and training commitments.
James said: “Being in an office has opened my eyes to what life might look like after rugby and allowed me to take the small baby steps in preparing for the day when I have to retire from sport.
“In learning about Carbon’s investment principles and philosophy I have already begun to pick up on areas where I believe professional sport can learn from the business world, in terms of assessing the bigger picture, identifying significant financial requirements within the client’s lifetime and planning appropriately to provide an effective solution.”
Pictured above; James Fleming, Fraser Band Photography.