BIG INTERVIEW: Former England international Dan Hipkiss embracing life after rugby
For sports stars, retirement from the career they have spent their whole life pursuing can be difficult, especially when it is forced through injury.
It often leaves them with the question of, what next? Where do I go from here?
But for Dan Hipkiss, the former England rugby union international who was forced to retire from a shoulder injury in May 2013, aged just 30, it opened up new avenues, something which he had been preparing for since he was a player.
The former pupil of Hartismere School in Eye said: “I started off cooking whilst I was still playing rugby. I got involved with the Matthew Hampson foundation, a player I knew well who was paralysed after a rugby accident, helping out with events in the kitchen.”
Hipkiss, who came through the ranks at Diss Rugby Club, played professionally for Leicester Tigers and Bath and it was at the latter he came into contact with Richard Bertinet, a French chef, who gave him his chance in his cooking school, Bertinet Kitchen, based in the city.
“Whilst I was playing for Bath, myself and a few of the lads met Richard Bertinet, who was a Bath supporter himself. We had a few cooking sessions and after I retired, he offered me a job,” he said.
“He was teaching classes and I was helping with the preparation of the food, something which I enjoyed.”
Hipkiss, capped by England 13 times during his career, admits that this was a world away from the life he had become accustom to as a professional rugby player and in the early days, it was a challenge to adapt.
He said: “It was very difficult. Some days I would be getting into work at seven in the morning and not leaving until 7pm, without having much of a break during that period.
“Whereas rugby on the other hand, training was always steady and you would be home by 4pm. Perhaps you would do a hard hour or two session in the morning and that would be followed up by lunch and an afternoon session with the video player.”
“All the same, it was an enjoyable experience and something I had a passion for, which made retiring from rugby all the easier.”
That experience has been followed on to where Hipkiss is today, working for a building firm in the Cotswolds, training to become a project manager. He has no regrets in leaving the food industry to pastures new.
“If I was 19 again, who knows, maybe I would have tried to work forward and get up the ladder in the cooking industry but for now, I am happy,” he said.
The 32-year-old believes players who have concerns over life after rugby need to take a look at what they are interested in and act upon it.
“A lot of players have apprehensions about finishing their careers but it is about looking at what interests you and for me that is food and property and luckily that has allowed me to be successful.”
Regrets are clearly not something that Hipkiss deals in although he admits he would have loved to have come back and played for Diss before his career was over.
“Playing for Diss again is something that I would love to have done but unfortunately with my injury it wasn’t possible as doctors advised me that I had to retire,” he said.
His affiliation with the club, along with close family ties, sees him return to Diss, including for last year’s annual Player’s Dinner at the rugby club, but Hipkiss confesses he doesn’t return to the area as much as he would like to.
“With working, it is about finding the time,” he said.
“It is a four hour car journey from where I live.
“My parents still live near Diss, and my sister lives in the region too, so I do get back on occasions but not as often as I would like because it is nice to get back home.”
Life after rugby has been kind for Hipkiss, who is happy with where he is at in his career. But getting back into to rugby is still something that could be on the agenda in the future, and maybe back in Diss.
“Coaching is something I would love to do but it is just about finding the right time to be able to do so,” he said.
“I am happy with what I am doing at the moment, the company I am working at, as it is something I can do for a long time.”