With many coming through academy systems at young ages, cricket has often been the solitary focus of many players’ lives even before they come close to leaving school.
For cricketers heading towards the end of their career, the question of life after sport always remains the same: What next?
Worcestershire batsman Alex Gidman has taken it upon himself to provide an answer to that dilemma, launching his own company, Gidman and Co., in a bid to help find alternative career paths for when professionals hang up their boots.
“Going through it myself, I know that it’s extremely scary and daunting, and I don’t believe anyone who says otherwise,” Gidman says.
“The idea came a couple of years ago, and it’s hard to pinpoint what it was, but something scared me into action, knowing that cricket was coming to an end.
“Like a lot of sportsmen, I put the end of my career off and off and off in my own head, but I eventually realised that it was going to happen one day and I needed to do something about it.
“I just hadn’t acted upon it until around this time last year, when I looked to start the company.”
Gidman and Co. aims to identify and develop the skillset of professional sports personnel, adapting their assets to the commercial world in order to boost the chances of employability.
Gidman admits that the idea didn’t come to fruition straight away, forcing him into a learning curve of his own to make the dream a reality.
“It took a bit of time, a little bit due to my own naivety, thinking that everything would fall into place, but the real world isn’t like that, it’s a lot harder,” the batsman added.
“We had a bit of a backwards step over the last year, but we’ve really worked hard to get it all up and running to get to this point where we’re ready, raising awareness and the profile a little bit.
“I quickly realised that I needed to do things a lot more professionally with a lot more discipline, really take on the advice from people who knew that side of things, and not think that I could take on the world on my own!”
At 34, the ex-Gloucestershire man concedes he is in the latter stages of his playing days, and admits that the fear of what follows is not something that has bypassed him.
Gidman is looking forward to his new venture, however, and believes it is vital he show devotion and empathy towards each individual player in order to be successful.
“There are a few out there who have played sport to the highest level, but for the vast majority who have perhaps not reached the very top, it can be difficult.
“That genuine care is extremely important – if we can provide an organisation with candidates that can improve their organisation, then that excites me.”
As part of his project, Gidman is calling on the experience of ex-professionals, including Jack Russell and Ian Saxelby, in the hope of raising awareness of real life cases as a form of inspiration for others.
He also believes that those, like Russell, who have something to fall back on when their career comes to an end, are able to perform better on the pitch.
“It would be great if I was in Jack’s position – you wouldn’t have known with him what he was up to away with cricket, what he was doing, but he was extremely prepared,” he continued.
“I think it allowed him to enjoy the last few years of his playing days, feeling more relaxed with things taken care of.
“Obviously cricket is still my number one job and my number one enjoyment, so that obviously has to come first.
“It’s been a long process to get to this point, but it’s nice to get to the point where we can launch it while I’m still in my playing days.”
Gidman has also taken the opportunity to put his own career into perspective, and while he still has one year left on his current Worcestershire contract, the decision as to whether he will continue on into 2017 is one that will come further in the future.
“I’m not 100% sure where my life will take me, but, without blowing my own trumpet, I’m a fairly driven, forward thinking person, and want to give it a decent crack.
“I’ve had a good pre-season so far, including a duathlon to take myself out of my comfort zone.
“It’s been busy, but very enjoyable, and I love still gelling with the lads, so we’re looking forward to another exciting season.”