Ryan Sidebottom, former England and T20 world-cup winning swing bowler, recently joined Surrey County Cricket Club as a bowling consultant.
The jovial 40-year-old, who lives in Leeds, enjoyed a 20-year professional career before hanging up his cricket boots last year.
‘Siddy’, as he is often affectionately called, was famed for being one of the most renowned bowlers of his generation, taking 1,053 wickets in all formats and retiring with a first-class bowling average of 23.8.
Although the popular Yorkshireman is well known for his cheeky sense of humour, he has experienced bouts of anxiety since packing up the game.
Below, Ryan Sidebottom opens up to Relax Ya Self To Health.
Ryan, you retired last summer. What have you been up to since then?
Getting my hands dirty and ripping out kitchens. I’ve got a small property business. Each year I buy a house, do it up and sell it on. I also use builders and technical people but try to do as much of the manual stuff, like gutting the insides, myself.
What do you miss about playing professional cricket?
I miss the camaraderie, constantly being around my best mates, getting fired up for a big match and the buzz of playing in front of big crowds. In cricket, you have so many emotions. There’s the elation after a win, the adulation of people wanting to sit with you and buy you drinks. After a bad game, it can feel as though the world’s ended but at least you experience it as a team and go through the ups and down together. When you retire there’s no adrenaline rush anymore.
Anxiety among athletes and professional sportspeople has been well documented. How has retirement affected your mental health?
I do have some days where I feel quite worthless and have worries over the future. The anxiousness is always there at the back of the mind but I knew it might happen. My dad Arnie, had a 17-year career as a footballer for Manchester United and Huddersfield and then as a cricketer for Yorkshire but couldn’t find a job for a couple of years after he stopped playing. He really struggled with stress and the nervousness of not knowing what the future held, as well as trying to support the family.
How well do you cope with stress?
It’s ironic, as a young boy I’d always worry about my career and if I’d successfully make it as a pro. I put myself under so much pressure and believe this triggered eczema and psoriasis on my scalp I had at the time. When you’re playing you become insular. Sport is the main focus. Back then I’d stress about having a bad game but now I know there’s more to life.
What do you do when you’re feeling down?
I’ll meet a friend for a drink and try and get whatever is bothering me off my chest. I think men struggle with this because of the whole macho attitude but it’s not a weakness to open up and talk to people about how you’re feeling. I also like to escape my thoughts so I’ll get on the bike or go for a walk. I like the outdoors and the sights and sounds of the countryside lift my spirits.
How would you describe your personality?
It’s changed over the years. When I first started playing I was really introverted, very quiet and insular but the team environment really helped to bring me out of my shell. Now I like a laugh, fun, banter, and practical jokes.
What’s the funniest cricket story from your time on tour?
There are many. In 2008, I was in New Zealand and out for dinner with some of the England cricket boys – Graeme Swann, Ian Bell, Alastair Cook, and James ‘Jimmy’ Anderson. We were going through this stage of playing credit card roulette. This is where you place your card under your napkin. At the end of the meal, the waiter or waitress comes over and picks up the napkins one by one and the entire bill is paid on the card that’s uncovered last. On this particular night, Graeme ended up eating my entire fillet steak. On seeing this, the waitress brought me another but I was too busy talking to Alastair. Then Graeme shoved the second one in his mouth! Of course, I lost at credit card roulette as well. So not only did I have to pay the bill for all the boys, I was bloody starving too.
Tell us something we don’t know about you.
I like fancy dress. Some years ago I was on Question of Sport and did a Beyonce mystery guest appearance. I was wearing some really tight shorts, a vest, a wig and lipstick and was dancing to ‘put a ring on it’ [Single Ladies] I love dancing and letting my hair down.
Speaking of hair, yours has been a talking point over the years. It even has its own nickname, doesn’t it?
Yes. Darren Gough named me ‘Sexual Chocolate’ after the fictional band in the 1988 film Coming to America with Eddie Murphy and it stuck with me. I’m quite a poser. I love my products. I’ve got my Frizz Ease and am still very much attached to my toiletries bag. A few years ago, when I was playing for Notts, the physio stole it. We were playing away at Kent so a teammate and I put his car on bricks. He rang me about 100 times. I told you I was a practical joker!
Oh no, did you get the wash bag back?
It was never to be seen again. I had a right sweat on.
Can you name some of the best places to relax in the world?
I’ve been fortunate throughout my career to travel the globe and see beautiful places – Sri Lanka is stunning. I like the beauty of Thailand. I usually travel around, hire a car, visit sites and take in the scenery. One day we went to an ancient Buddhist temple in a cave. There were loads of monkeys around and one stole my ice cream!
Nature has been linked to mental health benefits and improved mood. Are you a fan of green spaces?
Yes. I live a couple of miles from the shops so I’ll always try and cycle overtaking the car. I’m also lucky to live in the countryside with really nice walks and trails. It helps keep me fit. When I was playing I used to do lots of weights, running, and gym work and towards the last five years of my career I took up yoga to help with flexibility and longevity. Now I do an hour-long class locally with a lady called Louisa Thomas. I still also do light weights to keep me ticking over but I’ve barely been to the gym since I stopped playing. I don’t have that drive anymore probably because I did it for so long. Diet-wise, I try to follow the 80:20 rule although I do love fish and chips, KFC and takeaways!
You’ve just joined Surrey County Cricket Club as a mentor? Tell us more…
It’s great to be back in the game and I can’t wait to get out there working with the boys. I’ll be assisting bowling coach Geoff Arnold for the first half of the Specsavers County Championship season. I’ll be working with the squad on and directly before match days. It’s going to be interesting working with the team in the run up to a match but not actually playing myself. It’s a fantastic club. Hopefully, I can bring my experience to help support the team and staff as we target some silverware.
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