When international rugby sevens player Mike Adamson came to the end of his playing career, he didn’t pack his boots away. Since making the decision to retire, the 34-year-old from Scotland has become one of the world’s leading rugby referees. Here, he discusses how he managed a successful career transition and gives his advice to others looking to do the same.
- Retirement from competition doesn’t mean you have to turn your back on your sport, says the former international star
- If you can, it’s important to consider your career avenues before you stop competing
- Discover what resources are available to help you start exploring your options
Coming to the end of my playing career was a bittersweet moment. Knowing that I’d be finishing something that I had loved doing for over 20 years was tough, but the excitement of a new challenge was great. With it came new goals to aim for which is something that, for an athlete, is really important!
Retiring from elite sport is scary, but what I would highlight is that even once you get to a stage in your career where you’ve achieved everything that you can, there are a lot of opportunities to stay involved in your sport. There’s refereeing, of course – but also coaching, volunteering, administration and other roles. The great thing about these is that you are able to give back to your sport and support the growth of it after what it has given you.
It’s a transition, not a watershed moment
I made the decision to move into refereeing while I was still playing for Glasgow Hawks rugby team. I was already refereeing some school and university rugby during the week, but it was after speaking with the Scottish Rugby Union’s Referee Development Manager, Andrew Macpherson, that we started planning a pathway to integrate playing and refereeing, and I eventually finishing playing at the end of 2013.
For me, in general, it was a smooth transition. I guess the only thing I would have done differently would have been to start incorporating refereeing alongside playing sooner, as I think this would have helped the beginning of my development as a referee. There are a lot of opportunities to referee while still playing – as there are for coaching and other roles. I’d certainly encourage you to see what other parts of your sport you can get involved in before you retire, and to consider trying them while you’re still competing.
You experience some incredible highs as an athlete, and the idea of letting that go can be daunting, but the end of your life as an athlete doesn’t mean it’s the end for either competition or special moments. I had the privilege of refereeing the opening game of the first-ever Olympic men’s rugby sevens competition at Rio 2016. It was the most nervous I had been in a long time, knowing how important every game and every decision was. With it being such a huge moment for the sport, it was very special to be a part of it, and something different to what it would have been like to experience it as a player.
If I had to condense my advice into three key points, I would say: remember that there are a lot of opportunities to stay involved in your sport – even if competing in it is all you’ve ever known – develop new skills as early as possible, and make sure you have fresh goals to aim for.
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