How to cope after the final whistle | Life | Life & Style

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Raymond Logan, Gordon Sherry and Ross HarperALAN PEEBLES

Gordon Sherry (centre) with Raymond Logan (left) and Ross Harper

The 21-year-old Scotsman, who had qualified for the tournament by winning the amateur championship the previous year, had exploded on to the scene a week earlier by finishing fourth in the Scottish Open. 

He was then selected to play a practice round with golfing greats Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson and stunned them by scoring a hole in one on the Old Course, the most iconic golf course in the world. 

And in the tournament proper he collected a nominal £1 bet from a fellow amateur for achieving a higher placed finish. The name of his rival? Tiger Woods. 

But while Woods went on to become the world number one and make more than £1billion, Sherry missed the cut at the US Masters the next spring and never won the right to take part in the European tour. 

A little over 20 years later he is putting his experience to good use as a spokesman for the Next Step Foundation, a new charity that is devoted to helping sports people thrive in their life after their career. 

A survey of 800 former professional sportspeople conducted earlier this year found that more than half have had concerns about their mental or emotional wellbeing since retiring. Only four in 10 of those who felt they had an issue had sought help.

“It is not unusual to hear players speak about feelings of mourning and grief when they retire,” said Simon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Players Federation, which conducted the survey. “Transition from professional sport can be a daunting prospect. The fact that retirement for sportsmen and women normally happens in their 30s only compounds the problems.” 

This week’s news that the ­England World Cup footballer Danny Rose has received treatment for depression has thrown a spotlight on an increasingly common problem. 

Former Premier League player Clarke Carlisle, the cricketer Andrew “Freddie” Flintoff and heavyweight boxer Frank Bruno have all fought high-profile battles with their demons since retiring from their respective sports. 

After all, how do you cope with giving up when the message “Never give up” has been hammered home every day of your life? 

Gordon Sherry, now 44, eventually ditched his dream of being a successful pro golfer in 2004. But as we chatted in the salubrious surroundings of Loch Lomond Golf Club, Sherry didn’t look like a man racked with regrets. As a jovial, content father of five, life is different. But the message he can deliver to others is “life is good”. 

For Sherry there has been a successful escape from the tunnel vision of top level sport. “There was a defining moment in my life when I was invited by Ernie Els to join him in London,” admitted 6ft 8in Sherry – a gentle giant in every sense of the phrase. 

“He said, ‘Gordon, your golf is exceptional, I don’t know why you are not getting to that next level’. He then added: ‘But what I would say is that being on the Tour is not everything. You’ve got a family, you’ve got a brain, you can do whatever you want.’ 

“That was when a switch flicked for me – Ernie was a major champion and a legend and he’s telling me there’s more to life. I haven’t made it on the Tour – but I still consider myself lucky. 

Tiger WoodsGETTY

Woods went on to become the world number one and make more than £1billion


This is what the foundation is all about – it’s about letting people understand there’s a life beyond participating in professional sport

Gordon Sherry

“I get that people will compare me to Tiger Woods after our career paths crossed in 1995 but the reality is that Tiger is a phenomenon. 

“Would I swap lives with him now? Probably not, especially having spent a wee bit of time at his tournaments and witnessed what he has to go through. 

“Is he happy? I don’t know the answer. But I know I’m happy. I’m a member of Loch Lomond, of Desert Mountain in Arizona and go to the Masters every year through my golf business. I get to watch Kilmarnock now and again too! 

“Sometimes you need a bit of perspective. This is what the foundation is all about – it’s about letting people understand there’s a life beyond participating in professional sport.” 

Carlisle, a former chairman of the Professional Footballers’ Association who made more than 500 appearances for nine clubs during a 16-year playing career that ended in 2013, is one sportsman whose mental health issues have been played out on the front pages. 

He was named “Britain’s brainiest footballer” by a TV quiz show and in 2010 he beat the defending champion on the game show Countdown. But behind the scenes he was battling depression and he tried to kill himself in 2014. 

There were renewed fears for his safety when he went missing last September but was talked out of suicide by a stranger in a Liverpool park. Others have been less fortunate, however. Former Wales manager Gary Speed took his own life in 2011, two years after the exGermany goalkeeper Robert Enke. 

Clarke CarlisleGETTY

Carlisle is one sportsman whose mental health issues have been played out on the front pages

This week Carlisle welcomed Rose’s revelations about his depression. “It’s great to have people in the public eye talk about their experiences with mental health,” he says.

“A lot of attention is drawn only to crisis or disaster recovery, like my situation. Whereas Danny is articulating a period in life where he noticed a distinct change in his behaviour. 

“The more people who understand and acknowledge that intervening at that stage means that someone like Danny can have counselling sessions, go on medication and, like he said, feel really well now. It’s a fantastic example of when to address mental health issues.” 

Frank Bruno is another sportsman who appears to have come out the other end. The 56-year-old struggled with bipolar disorder following his retirement 20 years ago and has been sectioned three times. 

“It is the toughest fight I have ever had to face and the darkest period of my life,” the former champion admits. “I did not know how I was going to get through.” 

He is now firmly on the road to recovery and as of last December had been free of any medication for 18 months. 

The Next Step Foundation is the brainchild of Raymond Logan and Ross Harper – two men who suffered and recovered from major jolts in their own sporting and professional careers. 

“If you are miserable about not making it then you will soon be in a difficult position,” admits Sherry, who understands why mental wellbeing as well as physical strength is important for any athlete. 

“There are a lot of footballers like that – so many were going to be the next best thing and didn’t make it. In my sport, those putts that lip the hole and drop one day? Well, at some point they lip out.” 

He adds: “If my career path hadn’t changed then I wouldn’t have had five great kids and been able to spend time with them. I’d say I’m lucky to have that opportunity and the message to all people we aim to help through the foundation is that when one door closes another opens.” 

For information on paving the way to life after sport go to nextstepfoundation.co.uk or log on to Twitter @NextStepFdn



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