Tuesday, December 6, 2022

PCA: Jennings inner drive sets standards in Futures Week

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England opener discusses Masters, spare time and performance as part of Futures Week.

Keaton Jennings is reaping the rewards on and off the pitch as he has followed his England Test recall with achieving a distinction in his Masters degree.

Ending the 2022 campaign as the top run-scorer in LV= Insurance County Championship Division One with 1,233, the opening batter saw his form rewarded with a place on the plane to Pakistan and is in-line for his first cap in almost four years.

However, it has been his efforts away from the field this PCA Futures Week that have caught the eye with his mesmeric juggling of cricket with studying meaning he could well be wearing the Three Lions and therefore missing his graduation in December.

The Lancashire batter’s first foray into higher education resulted in completing a Bachelors in Business Management and Accounting, achieving an impressive 2:1.

Soon after gaining the qualification, he signed up to a part-time Masters in Business Administration with Alliance Manchester Business School and just two years later, he has achieved a distinction in his Masters at the age of just 30.

Jennings has spoken to the PCA as part of their Futures Week, a PCA initiative designed to encourage its members to actively think about career transitions. The campaign was headlined by the centrepiece two-day Futures Conference at St. George’s Park on Wednesday 2 and Thursday 3 November which showcases personal development achievements and opportunities on offer to past and present professional cricketers in England and Wales.

The England opener has also spoken at a time the players’ association revealed results from their past player survey which in part, reviewed member thoughts on support on the Personal Development and Welfare Programme.

  • Have you always had the drive to do more outside the game?

The only thing my dad made me do was study outside of school. He said you can do cricket or do whatever you want but you have to study something. For the first year or two it’s hard as you don’t quite realise what it’s about and post that it’s been my interest and my driver to work towards something outside of cricket. When I got to 27 or 28 I finished my undergrad and I thought going into business post cricket would be a viable option for me and something I would be keen on. As a player getting the opportunity to dive into gaining commercial experience is quite hard, realistically you only have October and November and if you use all that time then you don’t have any time off with full-time training starting in January. So while I was playing I did a lot of the theoretical background knowledge of business then I dipped my toe into areas that I fancy post that.

  • How did you manage to juggle that time?

I’m going to be entirely honest, I’m not sure. You need to know what you have to get done and you do make sacrifices. You can’t do everything. Somethings have to take a backwards step and you have to prioritise and I knew there was an end date to it which was helpful as I knew I had to put my head down for two years and get it done. There were occasions where you would nick-off early in the morning and instead of sitting in the changing room chatting rubbish for six hours, I would get a text book and read it in between watching the game to keep ticking over. Now my studies have finished, I spend a lot of my time reading the Financial Times or other publications as another interest now I am not studying so much.

  • How has it impacted your cricket?

Having an interest outside the game, whether that is plumbing, being an electrician, starting up a coffee shop whatever it is, is critical for keeping yourself fresh. What the degree allowed me to do, probably with the timing in my life, was to be fairly critical of my cricket in the sense of being able to look at clear areas I could improve and not be as sensitive, probably because I felt more stable and had something behind me. It definitely aided me and made me feel more secure in my life and generally in my cricket.

  • Do you feel more comfortable knowing whatever happens you are set up for post cricket?

When you have something behind you, it allows you freedom to not feel like it’s the be all and end all. For some, that pressure may be a good driver, if they play with other stuff behind them they may feel they may not take things as seriously and that’s up to knowing yourself. For me, if I don’t feel stable in an environment and within myself I cling for control. To know I have two degrees behind me, whatever I dabble in from an experience point of view in hopefully another 10 years of my playing career, I think will only make me get to a point when I move out of cricket happy to take that step. One of my best mates for example, he moved out of the game with nothing behind him and it’s taken him three or four years to set his life up. Your career will come to an end, that is a fact, nobody will play cricket forever so you need to plan for that in some way shape or form.

  • How can PCA help for player to help with that?

It’s two fold, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. A lot of it has to be self-driven, especially with study because study is hard work and generally has to be done at poor times when you’re not feeling great. As an example, one of my good mates Luke Wells, he was doing an assignment in the car when I was driving after a Roses clash because the deadline was midnight and we was coming back from the match and he had 600 words to bash out. He’s there typing away whilst I’m driving. With the PCA, the biggest thing is you know they are always there and there is always that incentive of the financial backing. The process of getting that financial backing is actually very easy. Having gone through it a few times there is no backlash, it’s an easy and supportive process which from an organisation point of view is amazing and from a player’s point of view even better because you know you are getting backed.

  • What are your views on initiatives such as the PCA Futures Week?

Firstly, being a professional sportsperson is a special time and it only happens once so you have to allow yourself the best possible chance to success and to enjoy that process. I 100% think that studying, doing something outside the game and developing yourself aids you in that process. The Futures Week for me shows the younger players who are coming into the game that you can do something alongside cricket and it is very achievable. You come into the game and your first season is generally intense, whether it goes well or poorly, you feel insular so to see other players having interests and accolades outside the game makes that process attainable.

  • Back to cricket, how did it feel when you received the recall to the England squad?

I was proud, happy and I’d say content, that is a big thing. As a player if you set yourself up outside the game you have a level of content so you don’t live or die by each game of cricket. I think for me that’s the best thing for me this time around. It was happiness, excitement and joy over the call, I didn’t feel like this is my last chance to play for England so I better get this right, I felt like it’s a nice bonus for the last couple of years of hard work. I will still be reading and furthering myself and keeping interests outside the sport.

  • The attitude and mind-set that you are now in appears to align to the free-spirited attitude of the new era of the England Test side, is this good timing?

It’s an exciting group of guys to be part of and the way they went about their cricket this year has been phenomenal. Winning six out of seven Tests in the summer by playing some incredibly exciting and high-quality cricket so to be in and around that environment, playing with some of the best players in the world and of a generation is really special and a process I am looking forward to being part of. Every time you pull on an England shirt and put the cap on to represent your country whether it’s with a bib on or whether you are playing it’s a special time and time you need to cherish so I can’t wait to get out there and get stuck in.

Futures Week shines a light on the area of personal development and career transition among PCA members. The two-day Futures Conference forms the centrepiece of the initiative and both are part of the PCA’s Personal Development and Welfare Programme (PDWP). Click here to find out more.

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