Friday 28 July 2017

Gordon D'Arcy: 'I have a young family. They are my priority. That's why I don't do punditry at the weekends'

Gordon D'Arcy (37) is a retired rugby player. He played mostly inside centre for Leinster and Ireland. Now he works as an investment manager. He lives in Dublin with his wife, Aoife, and their children, Soleil (2) and Lennon (6 months)

Beginning to get regimented: Gordon D'Arcy. Photo: Naoise Culhane
Beginning to get regimented: Gordon D'Arcy. Photo: Naoise Culhane

Ciara Dwyer

Everybody is still asleep when I get up at 6.30am. There's my wife, Aoife, our daughter, Soleil, and our son, Lennon. It takes a little while for my brain to wake up. Conversation eludes me. When the dog sees me, he does a dance at the door to get out. I am usually ironing a shirt. I try to be as prepared as I can in the morning, but invariably I'm not. The previous night you are tidying up toys and bits and pieces. By the time you get that done and you realise that you need to iron a shirt, you're so tired you decide that you'll do it in the morning. It's a juggling act.

I shower, put on the suit and get ready for work. For breakfast, I have sugar-free muesli with natural yogurt and frozen berries with avocado. Or some days, I have a big fry. I really enjoy that, but I don't get stressed about it. When you fall off the wagon, you start again. I try to adopt a healthy lifestyle.

It has been 18 months since I played rugby, and finally I'm beginning to get more regimented. In the early days, I had plenty of doughnuts. I had my fifth shoulder operation last May to tidy up the last really big injury. I played professional rugby for 18 years, so you have to pay the ferryman a certain toll. I'm getting a little bit of strength back, so I can do exercise. Also, there is that competitive itch which needs to be scratched.

I live on the Luas line. I go out the door and put on my headphones. I use the walk from my house to the Luas and the walk into work to listen to audio books. I just started doing this and it's brilliant. I listen to everything around growth mindset, innovation, strategy and personal development. I work for Investec as an investment manager. I try to make prudent investments for people, and manage their money as responsibly as possible. Officially, the hours are 8.30am until 5pm, but invariably, we are in a lot earlier.

When I was 28, I went back to do an arts degree and I did a major in economics. At the time, I was doing rugby 100pc, and, on the side, I was studying.

It was tough, but I was at an age where I was doing it because I wanted to do it. That makes life easier. You're sitting at the front of the lecture hall with all the other 30-year-old students. It's a tough balance when you are physically tired and you need to switch on mentally. But you just find what works and you get there eventually.

I got a good grounding from my parents and the Jesuits in Clongowes boarding school. The Jesuit philospophy is: 'A man for others'. With every decision, you ask if it is selfish and how it will affect others. All of these things helped me in my professional rugby career. As a rugby player, it's not drilled into you to think about your future, but the ones who transition out of rugby very successfully have started that narrative with themselves - this may end, and what am I going to do? My story is a little bit different. I had a rocky start, so I needed to focus fully on rugby. I became happier with myself and I needed more balance in my life. The logical thing was to study. I would get the degree, and, in the short term, I was adding a bit of responsibility to myself. After you finish playing rugby, you either stay in the game, or you move completely out of it.

I write a weekly article and I do a little bit of commentary. I have a young family and they are my priority. If I was working long hours in an office and then doing punditry at weekends, that option would mean that I'm choosing punditry over my kids. So I choose my kids. For me, it's a simple decision.

I don't miss playing rugby. I didn't get to the 2015 World Cup. I wasn't playing at a level to justify going. It means that you can actually hang up your boots, saying: 'I've just about run out of petrol'. It was a good point to say goodbye, particularly because I got to bring my daughter to her first game, and it was my last game.

Sitting at a desk in the office, I have a sedentary lifestyle. That's why this Irish Life Health Workplace Fitness Challenge resonates with me. Going out for a gentle walk is a great place to start. I walk about 8km a day. The biggest shame is to do nothing. One day I go to the gym, and another day I do Pilates in Form School Pilates, which is our business. My wife Aoife is the key driver of it now. She often says that it was her first baby.

The best part of my day is coming home from work and being greeted by three very big smiles - the kids and Aoife. And the dog is as happy to see me as they are. I love putting Soleil to bed with a story, or being able to feed Lennon. Afterwards I sit down with Aoife, and we chat. Then we do all the mundane stuff of life that needs to be tackled. I do it so that I can be free at weekends to go to places like Airfield with the kids. I always wanted to have kids. I looked forward to it. I try to be in bed at 10pm.

Recently, I was at an event where I caught up with some of my rugby peers from South Africa and New Zealand. The last time I saw them, I played against them. It's interesting to ask them how their lives are going, and then it's the inevitable 'How are you getting on since retirement' chat.

You might have moments where you wonder if life outside rugby is scary. You meet guys who were the best in the world, and they all say the exact same thing: there are challenges, but you just get on with life.

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Gordon D'Arcy is an ambassador of the Irish Life Health Workplace Fitness Challenge - a six-week challenge which encourages workers to take small consistent steps towards fitness

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