Embarking on a second career may not be the obvious route to becoming one of the world’s leading players, but Saracens and England forward Jamie George says his new physiotherapy and fitness business has aided his stated quest to become rugby’s premier hooker.
Next week marks the launch of the Carter and George Practice — a physio, wellbeing and rehabilitation clinic in the Hertfordshire town of Hoddesdon — following a two-year gestation period since George first brainstormed the idea with schoolfriend and now business partner Rhys Carter, a professional physiotherapist.
“I do feel that being able to switch off from rugby and put my efforts and mind towards this has actually meant that I’m playing better rugby,” George told City A.M.
“Sometimes I find that I’m quite an intense person when it comes to rugby and I struggle to switch off from it, so it was important for me to throw myself into this. I’m becoming able to compartmentalise it all.
“When I’m here [Saracens] I’m able to devote all my attention and effort on rugby, rugby, rugby. But when we go home I’m able to think ‘right, what are we going to about the opening?’.”
On Monday the doors will be thrown open to a clinic George hopes will provide a new blueprint for high-street physiotherapy practices.
When injured on Saracens duty, his recovery is aided by physiotherapists, doctors and strength and conditioning coaches – all working in unison to develop a tailored path back to full health; George wants his new business to be a similar one-stop shop for the layman.
“The basic principle is we want to provide the sort of treatment that I’m able to get as a professional sportsmen to the public,” he says.
“What I’ve found is the perfect equation is seeing the physio combined with a specific planned rehab programme written for you and taken through with you by specialists. On top of that we’re looking at bringing in other medical professionals, whether that be osteopaths, chiropractors, GPs – even cognitive behavioural therapists. Whatever issue you have, we’ve got it covered under one roof. That’s the main aim.”
The venture has been encouraged by Saracens, who have built a reputation as a hothouse for players-turned-entrepreneurs.
Chris Wyles and Alistair Hargreaves created their own beer, Wolfpack Lager, and have expanded to a microbrewery, while Brad Barritt has found success with his coffee business Tiki Tonga.
Neither beer nor coffee share too much in common with stethoscopes and free weights, but George has learned from his business-minded team-mates who have chosen their own start-ups instead of outsourcing financial projects to the various advisors that lurk around professional sport.
“The most important thing I learned from them and the thing that made me most excited about the Carter and George clinic was it was something I was passionate about,” says George.
“You speak to them about their respective businesses and it’s incredible how their eyes light up. It’s something they’re very, very proud of and that’s exactly what I want to have in the Carter and George clinic.
“It’s especially important for sportsmen. Everyone wants to make a quick buck and people are constantly looking for life outside rugby. People are constantly worrying about ‘when’s my career going to finish?’ or ‘what am I going to do afterwards?’.
“I think, having spoken to a few guys who have invested bits and not been involved, they’re not actually learning anything off the back of it, whereas I feel like I’ve almost done a degree in business over the last two years in trying to learn as much as I can. I genuinely feel like I’m a better person and more well-rounded.”
Being able to flick the switch away from rugby has particularly helped during a season that has been more difficult than George has been used to with Saracens and England.
The reigning European champions’ title defence came to an end at Leinster last week to compound a miserable Six Nations with England in which George played second fiddle to captain Dylan Hartley once again.
The 27-year-old has largely been used as a substitute for Eddie Jones, despite being widely considered the best hooker in the Premiership and stating his ambition to become the best in world rugby.
“It’s still my goal and I do feel like I’m making good progress,” says George.
“Two years ago or so I found I was almost getting too engrossed in it all. I was almost thinking about it too much, overthinking everything. But this [Carter and George] has allowed me to take a step back, realise where I am at the minute and what I need to do.
“I’ve got a clear plan of where I want to go and how I get there. That’s set in stone.”
Off the field or on it, George is ready to get down to business.