By: Max Northcote-Green 

Sport can be cruel sometimes. Flashback to the summer of 2019. After a gruelling eleven-week pre-season training and raring to go for the challenges ahead, I, unfortunately, dislocated my shoulder in the second game against Sale Sharks. This sadly ruled me out for the remainder of the season and was a massive set back in my career. I would find myself on the operating table for the fifth time due to rugby-related injuries and I learnt that times like these make you really reevaluate your life and career.   

Being a professional rugby player has been a dream from a young age and one I feel so privileged to have been a part of, but unfortunately, it doesn’t last forever. I believe that the majority of rugby players will agree that such a life is in a bubble, separate from the real world, and it is easy to lose sight of the next chapter in your life. I feel this to be a daunting prospect unless you’re prepared for the transition but a lot of the time that transition can come earlier than expected due to performances and career-ending injuries.

Ugo Monye once came into London Irish, my last club, to talk about his experience with retirement. His being one of the more successful stories stuck with me because he had put lots of hours into networking outside of the game so that when he was coming to the end of his career he was in a position where he had job offers as well as a rugby contract on the table and could retire on his terms at the right time in his life.    

Back in November 2019, I decided that it was time to be proactive and do something to take my mind off my injury and the frustration of not being able to play. The Rugby Players’ Association (RPA) who have given me endless support during my career put me in contact with Daniel Lovat who is head of sports marketing at OPRO, who very kindly opened the door for me to come and complete some work experience with him and the rest of the OPRO team.   

On my first day and feeling a bit nervous about entering an office environment which was completely foreign to me I was met by Daniel and the Head of HR, Lia, who made me feel very much at home. Instead of just shadowing one individual all day (and possibly twiddling my thumbs!) they had planned a whole day’s itinerary where I would get a taste of all the departments and understand their specific roles in making the business the success it is. In the morning I met with Suly, the head technician in the lab who gave me a complete rundown on the process of making a custom fit mouthguard and how they perfect each mould for the customer. It was fascinating seeing this process having used the OPRO mouthguard since I was seven years old. 

Furthermore, It was also amazing to learn more about the OPRO+ which is a new revolutionary mouthguard, designed to embed game-changing electronics from their various technology partners such as PROTECHT, to help record raw data about the player’s head impact and transmit this instantly to the coaches or medical professionals. Concussion is such a hot topic in contact sports at the moment and I truly believe OPRO and their technology partners have created a game-changing innovation.

Furthermore, after picking the brains of all the departments, I had a review of the day with Daniel. Daniel gave me a lot of confidence in saying that there are a lot of transferrable skills that you can bring from the sports environment into office life and he’s a big fan of giving ex and current sports professionals help. Having done some sales work in the past this was an area at OPRO that stood out for me and it was great to understand how they maintained relationships with schools and sponsors around the world. Following this conversation I was introduced to the Head of Sales, Richard Evans, and one of the directors, Sophie Lovat, who offered me the chance to be an account manager intern. Ensuring school children have the very best protection for their teeth during contact sports is a huge part of OPRO’s ethos. Therefore maintaining meaningful and long-standing relationships with their School customers as well as developing new partnerships with prospective customers is so important to the company. I’ve now been on five school visits to discuss new products and prices which has been great fun, especially when there’s a free lunch involved! It was great to see the importance of maintaining these relationships with the schools and making sure you are renewing and recruiting new partners. Unfortunately, COVID-19 hit and the schools closed for a few months but I’ve kept in touch with the team and look forward to getting involved for the new school year.   

In conclusion, I would like to thank OPRO for giving me such a great opportunity to do something outside of rugby especially during my injury, I’ve learnt a lot about myself during this period and has given me a lot of confidence for life after rugby. For anyone who reads this and would be interested in working with OPRO, I couldn’t recommend a better group of people to work with or learn from.