'They can be very vulnerable with him': Saracens on new Clark role
Mark McCall has explained the reason why Calum Clark was kept on at Saracens in a newly created role after he retired from playing following last June’s Championship title win over Ealing. The 32-year-old played just once in the second flight campaign, lining out in the May home win over Ampthill.
However, rather than look to continue his career with the club back in the Gallagher Premiership, it was decided that Clark – one of the infamous Barbarians gang of 13 from last October – would retire and instead put to use a degree in psychology by becoming Saracens’ new wellbeing and personal development manager, a role he began in July.
Clark had a controversial career in which his talent largely went unfulfilled. Capped just once for England in a pre-2015 World Cup friendly versus France, he had stints at Leeds and Northampton before he was signed by Saracens in 2017.
He made 57 appearances for the club across his four seasons but rather than see him leave in the summer, an offer was made to Clark to take up a new position where he is working in tandem with David Jones, the Saracens head of personal development who has been helping the Londoners for quite some time.
Asked by RugbyPass to explain the rationale behind keeping Clark on board as something other than a player, Saracens boss McCall said: “Over the years most English clubs are very good at physically, tactically and technically preparing rugby players for games.
“I have natural affinity and empathy for young people who make mistakes… it’s one of the best things I have ever done’
– In the run-up to the @GallagherUK @premrugby final, Calum Clark of @Saracens talks about an @theRPA overseas trip with a difference ? https://t.co/vbS9o1Q8y7
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) May 30, 2019
“All clubs have probably been less good at helping the players emotionally and helping them with their mental wellbeing with all the new pressures that exist in high-level sport and Calum has been brought on board to help us in that area. Calum, as a player, would admit that he probably never reached the potential that he had because of his inability to cope with some of the emotions in the game, the highs and lows.
“The players respect him enormously because they played alongside him over the years and they feel he is a safe person to go and speak to about how they are feeling and they can be very vulnerable with him and we think that is really important.”
It was May 2019, shortly before that season’s Premiership final versus Exeter, when Clark spoke in-depth to RugbyPass about his reputation in the game and in particular about a trip taken to a Venezuela prison in Caracas to broaden his horizons. “I guess, I’d like to think I’m quite socially conscious,” he said at the time.
“The gangs and the prison, the work they do to rehabilitate people is something that really interests me, partly because of my own history and my own experiences of mistakes and doing things wrong. I maybe have a natural affinity and empathy for young people who make mistakes, I guess.”
"I’m not sure that he definitely is (over it) but…"
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) September 14, 2021
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