The lifespan of a professional rugby player is finite. Whether you are hanging up your boots altogether or transitioning to semi-professional, a career post-rugby or to run alongside it, is crucial.

At Community Group, we are experienced in facilitating individuals who are either still playing or recently retired with the opportunity to harness a passion for supporting others in their community and build a career away from the rugby field.

In September 2020, we hired Phill Mills as our Head of Community at Fylde Rugby Community Foundation and he has since progressed into the Foundation Manager role. We have invited him to talk about his journey, and how Community Group provided him with the platform to further another career.

The Story of Phill Mills

When we asked our Managing Director at Community Group, Simon Price how best to describe Phill Mills, he came back with this …

“Phill has that drive to succeed,” he said. “If rugby was his drive at the time, the plans he would have put in place would be to give him the best opportunity to do that. When he realised that was probably not going to be the end goal, he used that same passion and drive to develop himself into the individual he is now.”

Growing up, Phill’s dream was to be a professional sportsman and rugby union was his chosen career path.

He explains his mentality towards, not only that dream, but to life in general.

“The thing with me is, if I set my mind on something, that’s what I’m doing and I’m doing it full guns blazing,” said Phill. “I don’t really have back-up plans, because then I can get comfortable and sit back on that.”

Chasing the dream

Phill’s rugby journey started at Bolton RUFC before he entered Myerscough College’s AASE rugby programme. He made his National League debut at just 18 for Preston Grasshoppers and went on to university, gaining a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sports Coaching from the University of Central Lancashire.

Phill went on to play for Rossendale and Fylde including representing Lancashire and England Counties, as well as enjoying a sabbatical in New Zealand, turning out for Mid Canterbury. Unfortunately, persistent injury forced him into hanging up his playing boots at the age of 28 last year.

“My dream was cut short,” said Phill, “but within that I have reached an aspiration of playing the highest I can without being professional, so I was quite pleased with the progress I made.

“I went to university because that was just something you did and I thought while I am going to try to be a pro rugby player, I will study. The Sports Coaching degree improved my coaching fantastically and it was the best three years.”

A different perspective

Following university, Phill headed to New Zealand and it was while he was on the other side of the world that his mindset began to change.

He said: “That was when I decided, not that I wasn’t going to make it, but to take all of the pressure off myself to try to make it.

“In New Zealand, there is a completely different vibe to how they play. They turn up to enjoy it, whereas in England I had placed so much pressure on myself to play a certain level and try to be professional. I started to think, ‘if I made it, I made it, if I didn’t, I didn’t’. That really helped me to take the pressure off and I could focus more on the coaching side of things.”

Phill subsequently joined the Rugby Football Union as a Community Rugby Coach and remained in that position until redundancy in September 2020. However, he was playing for Fylde at the time and with Community Group a partner and assisting with the transition to the Fylde Rugby Community Foundation, another door opened.

“I’ve always had a job running alongside being a semi-professional rugby player, but had I been professional and not had anything to fall back on, it would have been a life saver.

“It still was in a way, because when I was made redundant it was just chance that I was asked to become Head of Community of the Foundation for Community Group and it was a good path following my role with the RFU.”

Learning and growth

Phill has since become the Foundation Manager and he has an extensive team of Community Coaches as the Foundation plays a major role in the development of rugby amongst young and older people on the Fylde Coast.

Two-and-a-half years later, and he is still driven to succeed. All of his focus may be on his off-field career now, but that has allowed him to add further strings to his bow.

“So far, my time with Community Group has been about learning and growth,” said Phill.

“My coaching was ok and I’m always adding to my skillset, but I’ve taken a bit of a back seat with that. Being Head of Community and now Foundation Manager, it’s the managerial and administrative side of things that this role has really enabled me to develop and focus on.”

Community Group specialise in aiding the enrichment, well-being and health of our communities through wide-ranging and exceptional opportunities. If you would like to know more about Community Group, please click HERE.