From field to boardroom | The three stages to overcome a career-ending sports injury

Pro Sports Injury Career Cricket Byron Ovenstone

From professional cricket-player to banking. These are the three stages I went through after a career-ending sports injury took me out of the game forever.

Living The Dream

I was fortunate enough to turn pro at my chosen sport at a pretty young age. Sponsorship deals rolled in at first. I was on cloud-nine at age 13.

Are you kidding me, does it get any better than that? Well, of course it does Byron because a year or two later I was getting paid to play. Now we’re talking. I get to do what I love, I get free kit, and every time I step foot onto the field I get paid too! Come on, is this a dream? Is somebody messing with me? Nobody wake me up because this dream is amazing!

I then started to get paid based on performance too. The money, the recognition, the sponsorship, the awards, the travel, all accelerated. I had hit momentum and there was no stopping me. I had massive dreams and aspirations to be more, do more and become more.

Pro Sports Injury Career Cricket Byron Ovenstone

A shocking end to my dream career

Life had a different idea of what my future would look like. I found myself with an injury that would put me out of the game forever. I fractured my back.

With the right physiotherapy and care, I could make a full recovery and return to the game in as little as three months.

Okay, that’s a lie.

I was told to not go near the game for a minimum of six months. I did my rehab and arrogance drove me back onto the cricket field after just three months.

Arrogance had consumed me. I thought I was in a position where I made my own rules and I could do what I wanted, when I wanted, and how I wanted. As soon as I walked over the rope and stood on that field, I was my own maker, I defined what was and was not possible.

As you’ve probably guessed, this was short-lived.

I fractured my back, again

Not too long after getting back onto the field, I fractured my back for a second time. I now had a Y-shaped fracture at the base of my spine.

I remember the moment it happened,
the pain was excruciating,
I laID down and couldn’t get back up,
even breathing became difficult

I remember the moment it happened, the pain was excruciating. I laid down and couldn’t get back up, even breathing became difficult because the expansion and contraction of my lungs made my body shift ever so slightly. That subtle movement was enough to bring tears to a 22-year-old man’s eyes.

Facing reality

Just like that, overnight; I went from having a bright career and future to having nothing at all. Just like that, it was ripped from my fingers and there was nothing I could do about it.

Like many in this position, I was hit with wave after wave of emotion.

For me it was confusion first, ‘well Byron you really screwed up here, turns out you are human after all. Now what?’.

Then came self-pity, ‘how can this happen to me? I am a good person. I have dedicated the last 18 years of my life to this. I don’t deserve this injury. There are others who don’t work nearly as hard as I do, it should be them, not me’.

Then my preferred emotion… I say preferred not because I enjoy it, but it seemed to be the one that became my default, and to this day is probably still the one that I struggle with the most.

Anger.

I was so angry, like imagine the hulk with roid-rage kind of angry. You couldn’t say anything to me without me reacting badly and ‘ripping your head off’. Some of my most shameful moments came in this time: the way in which I behaved, the way I spoke to my family, in particular my Dad.

Stage 1 | Acceptance

Then I started to accept that this was my life now. I would have to make this work or be nothing. Being nothing is a scary thing for me. If anyone wants to scare the s**t out of me and get me off my a*s, threaten me with being mediocre, average, or insignificant.

Now the way I have gone about laying out the above, you’d be right to assume that this was the order of events, and then one day, I flicked a switch, came to terms with this whole thing and moved on. However, that would be incorrect.

Emotional Waves Byron Ovenstone

The above emotions and so many more came in waves. One day I was at an all-time low, then the next day I would be at a high, other times, somewhere in between. Mix that emotional rollercoaster with aggression, pity, confusion, acceptance and a whole load more and you have an absolute mess of a man in a desperate search of what to do next, frantically looking for some kind of sign or guidance, anything at all that would ensure him that everything was going to be okay.

Given time, I started to normalise. The highs weren’t so high, the lows weren’t so low, the emotional rollercoaster wasn’t so, well, emotional. I started to realise that being so emotional made me do and say stupid s**t that an unemotional or a level Byron wouldn’t dare.

Saying goodbye to the old me

It then became evident that the old version of me was going to have to be put to rest.

R.I.P. Byron 1.0 and with that the overly emotional me as well.

Now bear in mind, using emotion in sport is a secret weapon that very few are able to tap into with success. I had it down to a fine art. By mixing the right emotion with the adrenaline that’s coursing through your veins, you can do and accomplish things that very few on the planet are capable of. But outside of sport, I didn’t know what the right concoction was, and 99% of the time, I got it wrong and the consequences sucked. So, I needed to cut it all back, get a grip on things and level out a little.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to stage two, self-awareness.

Stage 2 | Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is critical to moving forward.

Seeing as we are no longer sportspeople and are now in a new ‘world’, let’s change the terminology to suit. You are now auditing yourself. Spend some time working out what attributes and skills you have that made you a success in your chosen sport. Look at the ways in which you can put them to work in different and new areas of your life.

Let me explain.

Let’s assume you are incredibly disciplined. I can assume that with confidence because if you played sport at a high-level, discipline would have been a key attribute to elevate you. So, you’re disciplined, instead of using that discipline to excel at sport, you need to re-purpose or re-frame that discipline to be more productive.

You’re going to need skills, just like on the sports field. I haven’t met a sportsman to this day who doesn’t have skills, again they wouldn’t have been paid to play if they had no skills.

Everything you need to be
successful in absolutely anything
in this world is already inside you

How did you develop those skills? You likely had some, if not all of the following: hard-work, sacrifice, discipline, and dedication, to name a few.

Hopefully by now you are picking up what I am laying down. Everything you need to be successful in absolutely anything in this world is already inside you.

Do you want to know how I know? Because you have already tasted success! You know what it took to get there. Use the same stuff to get you there again. This time just re-frame it to suit your new path. You likely dedicated years of your life to your sport, well now you’ll be dedicating years of your life to your new path.

You have already tasted success!
You know what it took to get there.
Use the same stuff to get you there again.

Hopefully by the time you have reached this point, your brain is in overdrive, auditing the old version of yourself and identifying what you have to offer the world moving forward.

Now it’s time for a system upgrade. I already hinted at this previously. The old you is dead. Nothing you can do about it and you cannot bring it back, it’s time for an upgrade.

This is exactly why I will never step foot on a field again. Not because I am afraid of hurting myself or because I don’t think I will be any good, but because Byron 2.0 has no reason to be on that field. That was the old Byron’s job. Stepping on a field today won’t get me closer to my goals or my dreams.

The goal here is to take the outcome of your audit, identify your strengths and carry them into version 2.0. At the same time, you are identifying your weaknesses and you’re getting rid of them, or doing what you can to mitigate their impacts. Like I said, the goal here is to level up and you do that by carrying your strengths forward.

Keep it simple

The way in which I have summarised all of the above hopefully makes sense and sounds pretty simple, the truth is, it actually is simple.

Don’t over complicate it. Keep it as simple as possible. The more you complicate the process, the harder it will become. Bear in mind that this won’t be an overnight change, and you can’t expect it to be because that is not sustainable, trust me.

Stage 3 | Action

This leads us to the next step in the journey, taking action. At the end of the day, words are words, and thoughts are thoughts, neither means anything until such time as there is action tied to them.

Realise at some point, action is needed because this is a whole new game, therefore, there is a whole new set of rules. You cannot assume anything.

This is a new game with new rules,
the only way you can understand
the game is by playing it

Put together a plan and start ticking boxes, close out actions, and when something doesn’t work or doesn’t give you the outcome that you are after, you don’t go back to the drawing board and give up on the plan, you look at the actions you were taking, and you audit and analyse them. Pick apart where they could have gone wrong and where they didn’t serve you and then go after it yet again.

As I mentioned above, this is a new game with new rules, the only way you can understand the game is by playing it. No amount of reading and preparation can get you to a position to nail it the first time, there are too many moving parts, so you’re going to have to get your hands dirty and start to enjoy the process.

You’ll start to identify things that you like and things that you don’t like off of the actions you’re taking. You now audit or analyse that list and find ways of doing more things that you enjoy and less things that you don’t. Don’t be fooled, there will be times you’ll hate what you are doing.

An easy way to determine if it is worth the grind is to evaluate whether the best possible scenario is worth suffering the worst. Picture the best possible day in your chosen path. If this is what you’d clearly rather be doing, stick with it. But if even on the best day imaginable, you hate what you are doing, or you feel it’s not worth it, it’s time for a change. Time to take the elements you like from this and find something that has more of those with less of the ones you don’t.

I think we can close this out here, I fear we are approaching a point of information overload. I’ll be picking this back up at a later stage, but for now, I hope you have found this useful. If you know anyone who may be having to come to terms with any of the above, please share this with them.

If that someone is you, reach out to me in the comments or on social media, I’d love to chat and help you with your journey.


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