Bursting the pro sports bubble

Ollie Rayner, ex-Sussex & Middlesex Cricketer, now HR Change and Transformation Consultant at Annapurna Recruitment

When beginning any new career, you are never really thinking,

“What if this doesn’t go to plan?”

Naive, excited and fully focussed on what’s to come, without a care in the world, just anticipation and a childlike enthusiasm. This is certainly applicable to my start in professional sport.

Ball and Bat

Coming up to my final year at school and being not particularly studious, I was playing every sport going and enjoying the time with my mates. Cricket was the sport that really grabbed me.

I played 1st team cricket for school from the age of 14, become a founding member of the Sussex Cricket Academy aged 15 and made my 2nd team debut for Sussex at 16. Still not entirely sure where my path would lead and no aspirations to go to University, I signed my 1st contract for Sussex CCC at the back end of 2005.

I was understudying Mushtaq Ahmed and Mark Davis and found myself making positive strides, scoring 100 on debut in 2006, getting an England Academy tour a few years later and then moving to Middlesex where I would go on to represent the England Lions on 2 tours of Sri Lanka. I became one of the leading wicket takers in the 2016 Championship winning Middlesex side, narrowly missing out on a full England tour to India that winter.

At all stages of my career, I was encouraged to explore interests outside of the game by the Professional Cricketers Association but nothing really captured me, and I was totally absorbed by my career as a pro cricketer. It is very hard to see outside of your sports bubble when you are fully submerged in it. You tell yourself, ‘Life’s good and I’m going ok.’

Coping with Injury

I pick up a knee injury in the winter of 2016/17 whilst on the Lions tour of Sri Lanka. I didn’t want to let Middlesex down coming into a new season where we were defending the title. I’m advised that I can get by on injections until the end of the year when an operation to remove some of my cartilage would be needed and I’d have a winter of rehab.

During that season the injections held up pretty well initially, my performances were good and all made sense. Unfortunately, my knee deteriorated, my performances suffered and my confidence was nowhere. To be completely honest, I never really recovered. I saw out my last days as a professional on Loan to Kent having had my 1st child at the start of the season.


That period was not ideal! The panic set in and I wasn’t sure where my life was going. This can be daunting but even as something I had prepared myself for mentally, I had absolutely no idea about the next step. It’s very hard to pursue other things when you are fully immersed in the here and now of professional sport.

I was around that time I was told about companies like LAPS. It gave me great comfort to know there are people dedicated to helping professional sportspeople into careers post retirement.

Starting again financially is one of the hardest things to get your head around. I liked to be the main provider for my family but I had to swallow my pride to begin with. Fortunately I have an amazing wife who was extremely strong for me, enabled me to get back on my feet and gave me the confidence to throw myself into something new. Thank you Beth!

A friend ultimately set me up with a meeting with his boss at Annapurna Recruitment. I also got offered a job in insurance through another contact I’d made during my time in cricket but ultimately, I felt that the environment and requirements of recruitment were a better match with my skillset and off I went.

Annapurna were great. They fully appreciated what an ex-sportsperson could offer the organisation and wanted the skills I would bring with me.

I met an ex-footballer in a similar position to me called Magnus which helped me see that this transition could work. I felt insecure at first; I’ve only ever done cricket, I was a laughing stock on the technology front, I’d never been in an office and I couldn’t see what I could bring to the table.

Now, I feel confident, supported and can see exactly why sportspeople are an asset to any organisation. Dedication, developing process, managing pressure, dealing with highs and lows, being competitive and a team player… the list goes on.

I will always lend an ear and share advice to fellow sportspeople as great as sporting careers are, it is a small part of your journey and doesn’t have to define you.

Who knows if recruitment is my forever occupation? Even if it’s not it has given me an amazing hunger for the “real world” and I will be forever grateful for the new lease of life it has given me. Thank you to Annapurna Recruitment for the patience, support and belief shown so far, onwards and upwards!

There is life after professional sport!

If anyone would like to speak to me further about athlete transition or moving into a new career, whether you’re an athlete, a business or a journalist, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

You can connect with Ollie here:

LinkedIn – Ollie Rayner

Twitter – @Ollie2Rayner

LAPS Members can discuss Ollie’s post on our Community page.