Be humble, hard-working and respectful

Steve Mccormack - Ourvoice

Steve McCormack
Rugby League Cares Transition Officer and England Community Lions Coach

28th Nov 2019

If you’re at Tesco and somebody’s putting your shopping through the till – say thank you, good morning.

A cleaner at school – good morning, thank you.

Things like that make a big difference to people. If you get that, it’s the starting point to everything else.

We get some lads in the system who have had some tough times as youngsters, so it’s a case of putting them on the right path – and sometimes educating the parents, and carers, and friends, as well. It’s quite a broad message to everybody.

I had a good dad, a good man, and I think he put a few values in there that I stand for. Dennis McHugh as well, who was my coach with England Schools.

Steve Mccormack - Ourvoice
 

He passed away in 2013, something I’ll probably never get over, we were that close. It probably coincided with me stopping coaching.

My dad played at Oldham and Wigan. My mum died when I was four, so it was just me and my dad. It was a good upbringing – I’ve got two aunties, my dad’s sisters, who were like mums to me. It was a very happy childhood.

My dad laughed every day, taught me a work ethic, how to respect people. We used to go watching Wigan home and away. We went on the 1992 Australia tour watching Great Britain, just me and him. He was really proud of everything I did in coaching.

He passed away in 2013, something I’ll probably never get over, we were that close. It probably coincided with me stopping coaching. I was at Swinton then, and we’d had a tough 12 months – I was his carer, and that took a lot out of me, I think.

After that, it was the year of the World Cup, 2013, and I didn’t have the heart really. But to get back into camp with the Scotland lads at the end of the year, and to achieve what we did, was unbelievable, and gave me the appetite back. We beat Tonga, a star-studded team, up at Workington; drew with Italy; beat USA; and then played the Kiwis at Headingley in the quarter final. Brilliant times, and that’s just what I needed because I was pretty low. It’s powerful how Rugby League can pick you back up, I think.

Dad finished with a shoulder injury, in 1971 when he was at Oldham – the year before I was born. Then I shattered my shoulder, the same shoulder, when I was 17 or 18. Must have been in the genes. I’d represented England Schools, the same side as Mick Cassidy, Steve Blakeley. But that was it for me.

Steve Mccormack - Ourvoice

But to get back into camp with the Scotland lads at the end of the year, and to achieve what we did, was unbelievable, and gave me the appetite back.

I had seven or eight operations to try and get back. It was a tough time, so I know what it’s like to be pretty low when you’ve got your career in front of you and suddenly it’s taken away from you. I remember the support I had then – it was only me and my dad then really, he did everything he could, but there were a few other people I’ll always be grateful to, for giving me an opportunity to get back into the game. People like Andy Gregory, who helped me get into Salford where I worked for seven years. Brilliant times. And Andy Greg had been my hero growing up watching Wigan. You look back and the people you could trust, you could speak to, it was vital. Maybe I didn’t see it then – but I do now.

Everything happens for a reason. Who knows, I may never have been good enough as a player. But I’ve been really lucky as a coach, I’ve coached at every level – Super League, Championship and international. Great times with Salford, up in Cumbria with Whitehaven and Barrow – great people. Widnes, Swinton – great clubs, with great history. Gateshead, Gloucester All Golds – again, good people, who love the game. I’ve worked at Wigan, my hometown club; been part of Grand Finals, World Cups. That Grand Final win with Wigan last year, with Waney – it doesn’t get better than that. I look back and I think wow, really – it’s a privileged position.

Steve Mccormack - Ourvoice

Dad finished with a shoulder injury, in 1971 when he was at Oldham – the year before I was born. Then I shattered my shoulder, the same shoulder, when I was 17 or 18. Must have been in the genes.

I’ve got a good balance at the moment, with the Rugby League Cares role and coaching the Community Lions.

The Cares role came up in March. I loved my role at Wigan, it was quite a mixed role working with the coaching staff and overseeing the welfare at the club. I’ve always been passionate about player welfare anyway, since I started off at Salford in 1995 - I just didn’t used to do it officially. So this was an ideal job for me, and I’m pleased I got the opportunity.

Primarily it’s working with the transition of players – helping them prepare for life alongside their playing, and after playing. So that can be liaising with them regarding support with mental health, career plans along with Julie Measures who is our Cares careers coach, being able to pick up a phone and speak to us alongside the player welfare managers at their club.

It doesn’t really matter who the players speak to, as long as they’re speaking to somebody.

Liaising with Sporting Chance, with the players’ permission. I meet players on a regular basis if they need support – but I can’t stress enough the fact that it is confidential, so not a lot of information gets shared, just the things that need to get shared.

Any welfare role is a position of trust, and that takes time. I was really fortunate at Wigan in that I had a chief exec in Kris Radlinski, and a coach in Shaun Wane, and Adrian Lam when he came in – they gave me total control of the welfare side really. They knew it was a confidential thing, and I wouldn’t be able to tell them things that players had come to me with. It took a while to get the players’ trust, and once you’ve got that it’s a pretty privileged position really. If I can help them I will. If I can’t I’ll signpost them to the experts that can.

Steve Mccormack - Ourvoice

It doesn’t really matter who the players speak to, as long as they’re speaking to somebody.

I think Rugby League Cares is fantastic. Emma Rosewarne has been at the forefront of that, and my experience over the last three or four years, from visiting a lot of sports and organisations – football, cricket, the NRL – it’s paramount the player welfare, and Rugby League in this country does a pretty good job. I think the sport can be really proud of what we do.

I’ll go to every club every year, to chat to the playing and coaching staff and let them know what we’re about. Then I’ll set up individual meetings, and players can ring me if and when they need support. Every club has compulsory education presentations that they have to have, which is set by Rugby League Cares – UK anti-doping, compliance, social media, mental health, Sporting Chance – so I fall on the back of that, and speak to the players individually if and when they need that.

Whatever support and help players need, I’m more than happy to provide that. They’ve got good people supporting them at their clubs, and we’re a team at RL Cares, but my role is pretty broad. Players with long-term injuries – that’s classed as a transition. Players who have gone from a full-time to a part-time environment, players on dual reg, past players who need a bit of support, whether they’re involved in the game or not. It’s a fantastic role really, I love it. I’m very passionate about what I do. It’s a privileged position to be able to speak to all the players, and some of the greats of the game as well, some I looked up to when I was playing and coaching.

If I can help them I will. If I can’t I’ll signpost them to the experts that can.

It is challenging, it’s not an easy role, and I don’t think it would be for everybody. We have support as well – facilities to speak to supervisors, which is available to the player welfare managers as well. It can be stressful, it is 24/7, and it does put a bit of a strain sometimes on your own well-being – I’ve learned I have to look after that.

My eldest lad is 22, my daughter is 19 and my little lad is 14 – it’s been different this role because for the 20 years before that I’d been coaching. That’s 24/7, at least 70 hours a week – Rebecca, my wife, has been amazing, I couldn’t have done it without her. This role has freed up a bit of time at weekends – and I managed to get a summer holiday this year. But you don’t ever switch off.

Rugby League in this country does a pretty good job. I think the sport can be really proud of what we do.

I’ve loved working with England Community Lions. It’s a programme with five teams – I went to Ireland with the under-23s, which was fantastic, and I’ve been working with the under-16s for these two games against New South Wales Country Rugby League. They are new initiatives to help with retention in the community game – lads who aren’t involved in the professional game. It’s a brilliant role, working with all the community clubs and volunteers. We had over 100 players taking part in training or games the other Saturday, all representing England. We went to Wigan St Judes with our under-16s and used their facilities. That was special for me, because it’s where I started playing – my dad had been their first coach.

I don’t think you can forget your roots.

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