Durban – Looking after their players off the field and into their life after rugby has become a massive focus for the Sharks, who on Wednesday launched their Players First Programme with the assistance of their American backers.
The idea is to teach players how to look after their earnings and to educate them so that they can have careers post rugby; and by adopting this holistic approach, players who are more at ease with their general well-being will produce better performances on the field.
It has been driven by the head of the American consortium that bought into the Sharks, Marco Masotti, and Sharks Ceo Ed Coetzee, who both share a passion for investing in their players.
Masotti, speaking from New York, said: “Looking after the players is something I am very passionate about. When we were still negotiating with the Stormers some time ago, I discussed mentorship strategies with Siya Kolisi and he agreed that there is a strong need to educate players, some of whom can get lost in life when they stop playing.
“We want to do something special at the Sharks and be creative in how we build character in our squad,” the Durban-born attorney said. “The more you invest in your players, the more productive they are on and off the field.
“We are competing with (overseas) franchises that have higher salary caps and better value in their currency, so we have to offer more,” Masotti continued. “We want to make the Sharks such an attractive place for players that they will realise that staying in the Sharks fold for life is of much better value than, say, going to Toulon for three years.”
Masotti said that of all the initiatives his MVM Holdings and the Sharks are working on — including a pairing with English club Saracens, and stadium redevelopment, Players First is the most important.
“This is a game-changer. We can add so much value to the player experience that he will not want to go overseas,” Masotti stressed. “He can be looked after at home and still have his Sunday afternoon braais!”
Masotti says he will use his heavyweight American pals, including the superstars of entertainment giants Roc Nation, to mentor players.
“We are talking about powerful mentoring. It is not impossible to have an Elon Musk talking to the guys.”
Coetzee added: “We recognise that a rugby player’s rugby journey must include lessons and opportunities both on and off the field and our aim is to transform players into exceptional human beings who are prepared for the next phase of their lives, post a successful rugby career.”
Six focus areas have been identified.
The Sharks Entrepreneurship Academy will coordinate business investment opportunities for the player pool. The SEA has identified Afro’s Chicken Shop as the first franchise entity that will be acquired and the SEA plans to open different franchise stores depending on the level of interest from players.
Endowment and Investing, to assist players with their personal investments. A Sharks Investment Fund will be formed with investment options pre-vetted by experts. Lower asset management fees will also be negotiated.
Education Development will provide a detailed approach to each player’s individual education needs by facilitating the admin process and providing tutor services to ensure the successful completion of studies.
Life Coaching and Mentoring will provide a life plan for players by identifying an individual mentor for each senior player, initially an MVM consortium member.
Post-Rugby Career Development of a formal job placement program will include career counselling while The Sharks Player Development Manager will coordinate networking and placement opportunities.
Friends of Sharks Rugby: Foundations will be formed in the USA, UK and SA to support former players in need of financial assistance.