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Written By: Karen Gasbarino-Knutt
Anyone who has been following professional or Canadian rugby for awhile will know the name Tyler Hotson. Hailing from Vancouver, Hotson is a product of what you might call an Academy system in Canada, which a select few players are fortunate enough to be part of.
He attended St. George’s High School, which has a rich rugby history and often sees graduates move on to Rugby at UBC, as Hotson did. UBC enjoys one of the best rugby programs in Canada and feeds into BC Rugby regionally. From there, if a player is good enough, driven enough, it’s a natural step to Rugby Canada.
For players like Hotson, who had already played from an early age, it’s not such a big leap to get into a professional outfit overseas. The biggest pro teams alluded him, but only just; he spent 8 years in the Championship, one level down from the big show.
Now 33, Hotson played his final professional game last April (2017) with the Doncaster Knights after calling time on his international duty with Canada the previous summer. After 20 years of playing, many of those years representing Canada in one capacity or another, Hotson felt it was time to concentrate on his post-playing life.
Having earned 45 caps for Canada, including the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand, Hotson has much to look back on fondly. His time spent with London Scottish, Plymouth Albion and Doncaster, plus a semi-professional year plying his trade in Australia, provided many memories and milestones for the popular lock.
The highlight of playing in the UK for Hotson was that he enjoyed the opportunities that most domestic players don’t get to play week in and week out, training full-time with a squad. “It gave me the privilege to improve as a player and cement my place in the national team squad by playing at a much higher level than offered in Canada,” Hotson says, adding: “Doncaster’s run in 2014 to the finals of the RFU Championship and the British and Irish Cup were pretty awesome achievements with a small squad.”
Of his Rugby Canada days, Hotson says his fondest memories are two-fold: “Scoring on my debut for Canada in Toronto in 2008 and having my grandparents there to watch it. And secondly, winning our first match in the 2011 Rugby World Cup against Tonga in front of my parents and over 1000 other Canadians who had traveled to New Zealand to watch the game.”
Hotson is also grateful that he experienced the level of travel he did as a professional and international rugby player. The perks of enjoying the beautiful places, learning about other cultures, and playing in different environments contribute to round out good players. Doing it as a team only makes it better.
Hotson says “just being able to travel the world and play against some amazing countries with some of your close friends was an amazing experience.” Of course, as we all enjoy our share of rugby swag, he adds that another nice perk of touring was “getting all that new kit on day one of the tour!”
Now that he’s retired, Hotson does miss aspects of playing professionally, as all players do. Also, as is the case with most players he misses the camaraderie and family of being with the team. “I miss the thrill of the build-up to the game on Saturday. I also really miss the chance to play in the big games, and then being able to celebrate those big wins in those big games with my teammates.”
Instead of cleats and jerseys, Hotson gets suited up for his full time role as as an Equity Sales Trader in London for Goldman Sachs, which he got via a six month ex-professional athlete internship program in 2016. Of the new challenge he says “it has been a whirlwind experience getting up to speed on it all, but I am loving the role!”
For Hotson, it was all about preparing for the second chapter in his life. He worked hard throughout his playing days for the eventuality that he’d no longer kit up on a Saturday for club or country. He explains that it was years of preparation.
“I completed my MBA while playing professionally from 2010-2014 (it was a distance education MBA from the Edinburgh Business School, so ultra flexible), which helped massively on my CV before exploring my options in the working world. I also did part-time work on my days off during the rugby season with a local business in Yorkshire in my last two years of pro rugby, so that I had some work experience on my CV in order for potential interviewers.”
Indeed, that is preparation. Hotson was leaving nothing to chance for his second phase of working life.
But that comes as no surprise, as Hotson has been vocal in recent years that he has seen a great many of his fellow players find themselves ill-prepared for the day they can no longer make money playing the game they love. Many struggle to even know what they want to do.
As a result, he’s become an outspoken advocate for player welfare, eschewing the importance of players making sure they take care of themselves in terms of options post-career. In other words, there are too many players without the proper tools to get into a career that not only will sustain them but also provide for their future.
He encourages young players to continue with their education or work experience while playing – he himself worked on his MBA part time throughout his playing days, which he started only one year into his professional career.
Hotson drives the point home. “It is very important for any professional athlete to make sure they come out of their career as a good all-around person and have something to fall back on, because in many instances, an athlete’s career can be cut short by multiple factors.”
Players suffer career-ending injuries in their prime every day. If a player has not considered their next steps, they find themselves not only having to deal with the devastation of the injury, but the shock that they are going to need a plan B. This can send anyone reeling, but add to that the very nature of the massive change in routine, and players often succumb to depression. Yet if players worked in advance to prepare themselves for the eventuality of not playing, they would at the very least have a focus to move themselves forward. All too often, this isn’t the case.
Hotson encourages his fellow player to think ahead, and feels that clubs can help with that as well. Some clubs are better than others with this.
Just as clubs and players share responsibility to care for the physical vessel, there is a need for them to work together to encourage that once the playing career ends, another waits in the wings.
So that once playing days are behind one, they can use the amazing leadership and team-building skills they’ve been taught to be successful in their next journey, just as Tyler Hotson is.