Mike Powell had a good, honest and successful professional cricketers career. He played over 450 games, scored 28 hundreds and over 18,000 runs for Glamorgan and Kent. Without representing England he achieved many of the goals one would want to reach and should be proud of what he did achieve in the game.
What interested me though, and why I wanted to talk to him about his transition into life after cricket, was how prepared he was and what he expected. As well as the fact that when he was at his peak of his career, an illness struck him which not only nearly ended his cricket career, but nearly his life.
I began by asking him about that scary moment. What happened?
Basically my collar bone and top rib were closing together, blood should pass from your arm through veins between those bones, as those bones closed together blood stopped moving through as freely as it should ending up in a clot in my arm. We had to take away the collar bone to allow the blood to move freely, the operation went horrendously wrong and I ended up on life support for four days! My lungs filled up with blood, I bled internally so yeah, life support then intensive care for another week or so and pretty obviously season over!
How old where you? That was obviously pretty scary?
I was 28/29, my family arrived after the operation and where told by the doctors that they almost lost me the night before, scary is an understatement.
Before the operation that went wrong, I was told that if I wanted to carry on playing cricket then I had to have this done, there was an option of not having the operation and taking a load of drugs but cricket was my life- mortgage to pay, bills to pay, no other career and nothing else to fall back on, nothing. I didn’t think twice, I remember thinking yeah just go ahead.
Obviously what Mike went through was pretty extreme and no one would wish that experience on anyone. But the point I was interested in making was how suddenly things can change.
I wanted to find out more about the position he was in if cricket had ended back then.
Cricket was my life, I didn’t have a degree, I wasn’t in a position where I could say right if cricket finishes i’ll go and work for them, them or them. I was on the back of an England A tour thinking things were great, then bang.
The experience made me re evaluate everything, I was in a dark place. The support network wasn’t as I expected, I needed to see a psychologist, things weren’t great to be honest. You know, people think you earn a fortune playing cricket, you don’t, I had enough to last for maybe a year but that would have gone very quickly.
Thankfully, you got back playing, but going through that did it make you think more about life after cricket?
What I did first was begin ‘networking’. I realised the value in meeting different people, sponsors, chatting to players from other clubs and so on. I started going to more lunches, visiting the sponsors box’s on match days, things like that really.
Sport is ruthless, I thought I would have had a bit of time getting back into it but no, I had to be fit, if I wasn’t fit and ready then I reckon I could been out of a job so it became a lot more ruthless in my own head.
So cricket ended last year, what do you do now?
I work for an insurance broker, a big company called Thomas Caroll based in Wales. My role is in new business, business development, group development. The company got involved with my benefit year and I stayed in touch with them and they offered me a role when playing days came to an end.
I also work for the BBC covering Glamorgan’s one day games on the radio, coach at Monmouth School and play club cricket. I’m busy, very busy.
So all the little ‘add ons’, why do you do those? For financial reasons or enjoyment?
I started coaching because I didn’t play much first team cricket in my final year so I gave Monmouth a call and offered my coaching services for free, the BBC pay me but i’d do it for free because I enjoy it. I just called them up and asked if i could get involved so everything came from me, I pushed myself into these situations in a nice polite fashion, not knowing what would come off the back of them.
It seems to me you gave yourself a good chance of having a smooth transition, is that fair enough?
It was a massively worrying time of my life, I can’t explain what it feels like, I don’t believe anyone who says otherwise.
In cricket, a club employs you because you can perform a skill they want to a very high standard. As soon as you can’t perform that skill to that level you’re gone. Its enjoyable and I loved it but everyone kept asking me what I was going to do when I finished, all the time, and the truth was I didn’t know, I didn’t have a clue so I would just laugh it off but I promise you I didn’t know.
If I had my time again, I would speak to as many people or organisations around cricket from day 1 and put some thought into what they do and if I liked the sound of those jobs. I would have then asked them if I could do some work experience or spend some time learning more about their trade during my downtime to use those time’s more productively. That person may be your next boss, I promise you, you never know but you have to be prepared to meet people and build relationships with them.
So finally, do you think you learnt anything during your career that put you in a good position for what you do now?
Like most sportsmen and women I was beaten up over and over again, constantly told I wasn’t good enough, then I had a good week and everything was rosy!! Then an injury might follow or I didn’t get in the team!. It’s tough, really tough. I believe that cricket hardened me which has definitely been something i’ve noticed.
Also, the major events excite me. For example playing in a big match or final used to excite me and I would love the pressure. If I’m asked to make a presentation or meet someone where failure is not an option then I don’t fear that, it excites me and again I think thats appealing to organisations in the corporate world.
I think generally I bring a different outlook to the table so to speak.
There are undoubtedly some clear messages from Mike. He went through a terrible time in his life, which I think subconsciously made him question his life after cricket. Cricket provided him with opportunities to meet people and ‘network’ which ultimately gave him the belief to put himself in the shop window as his playing days came to an end. He created the different career he now has which is a superb lesson for any sportsman of any age or experience.
But he is also, in my opinion, a great example of an individual who offers an organisation so much variety and skills that he developed in his sporting career.