Former England all-rounder Chris Lewis emphasised the importance of young cricketers planning for the future when he spoke to first year professionals at the sixth annual Professional Cricketers’ Association Rookie Camp at Edgbaston today.
Lewis was one of the guest speakers at the day which was attended by 19 young players from across the country – including Worcestershire duo Josh Tongue and Ben Twohig.
He used his own experiences of being jailed for 13 years for smuggling liquid cocaine into England for St Lucia to get over a powerful message.
“It’s not the kind of story that you forget very easily. If it helps the young players here to think they need to plan otherwise they will end up like Chris Lewis then it’s job done,” Lewis said.
Lewis has committed to helping the PCA educate players about the importance for planning for life after cricket.
His appearance at Rookie Camp was his first official cricket engagement since he was released from prison last June having served six years of his sentence.
“It has been a long time since I have been around cricket, a lot has happened since I last walked out of the door of a cricket ground so I suppose I wasn’t sure about the reaction I would get,” Lewis said.
“There was a little bit of apprehension about talking about the subject matter which is quite emotive for a lot of people.
“But I feel good about today. I hope the young guys got a little bit from it. I have spoken to one or two of them and it seems to be something that will perhaps stick in their memory.”
Mervyn Westfield, the former Essex fast bowler who was jailed for his involvement in spot-fixing, also attended his third Rookie Camp as part of his commitment to educate players about anti-corruption.
Simon Jones, the former England and Worcestershire paceman, took part in a question-and-answer session in which he also reinforced Lewis’ message of the importance of personal development for players.
Although Jones was an Ashes winner in 2005 his career was ended by injury and he left the game with no clear career plan.
He is now doing some summarising for Sky television, working as a PCA Ambassador and is taking his Level Three coaching award.
“You can always find time for Personal Development, I just wish I had done it more,” Jones said.
“Even if you are just networking and rubbing shoulders with business people who love the game, you are making those relationships already early on.
“When you do need a favour you have got the relationship there already rather than being blinkered and a bit self-absorbed about your cricket.”
Jones also praised the support he had received from the PCA in handling the transition from playing to life outside of cricket.
“These lads now are wanting for nothing. The PCA are just an outstanding Association. They help you with advice on anything you need really. They are always at the end of a phone which is fantastic. They are leagues apart from where they are now to when I started,” he said.
“I worked with them a lot last summer and I have had times when I have needed to talk to a psychologist and they have been outstanding helping me with that.
“I think the reassuring thing is they are always at the end of a phone. These lads in the game today are not on their own there is always somebody there to help them.
“You might think it’s the stupidest question in the world but you might be asking something that needs addressing.”
The PCA Rookie Camp also included sessions on contract negotiations and gambling awareness and was attended by Mike Fatkin and Matt Maynard of the Tom Maynard Trust, the sponsors of the event.
“There has been a huge amount of information today it’s up to the players to select what is right for them,” said Maynard, Somerset’s director of cricket and father of the late Tom Maynard.
“There has been a powerful message all the way through about not taking things for granted just because you are a professional sportsman.
“You must enjoy your profession and give it everything but alongside that you have to spend time planning for the future.
“The big thing when you are a young pro is you feel invincible. You are going to be successful, you are going to have a long career and you are going to save some money and then at the end of your career you are going to go and look for something else. That’s not always the case.
“I was lucky. I didn’t have an injury that stopped my career, I didn’t have a lack of form that made me lose a contract so all the messages that they have been given today are very powerful.
“Had this been in place in my day and having this education I would certainly have done more outside of the game than I have done.”
Players who attended PCA Rookie Camp were: Matt Critchley, Will Davis, Harry White, Rob Hemmings (Derbyshire), Jack Burnham, Adam Hickey (Durham), Aaron Beard (Essex), Hugh Bernard (Kent), Toby Lester (Lancashire), Rob Sayer (Leicestershire), Nathan Sowter (Middlesex), Saif Zaib , Ben Sanderson (Northamptonshire), Matt Carter (Nottinghamshire), Adam Hose (Somerset), Stuart Whittingham (Sussex), Alex Mellor (Warwickshire), Ben Twohig, Josh Tongue (Worcestershire).