Published: 06:00, 12 June 2020
| Updated: 07:08, 12 June 2020
by Alex Storey
Meet the ex-Kent player who’s swapped his whites and bowling boots for a post-career in business.
There’s always a formidable and powerful portrayal about anybody lucky enough to reach the heights of professional sport.
There’s a glowing radiance to its status. The perks and rewards that seemingly come with playing sport as your full-time profession, whether that’s wearing the number nine jersey in football or just carrying the drinks in cricket, is an enviable desire to those who pay to watch it happen.
Whilst the route to the top of the game is by and large not taken for granted by supporters – the long hours of hard work in empty gyms and nets are no secret – but what perhaps is overlooked is the equivalent route out of it. Although its exit is slightly less gradual and more of a thump back down to earth.
That thump can be felt by many and it certainly was by one former Kent fast bowler. Charlie Hartley was at the Spitfire Ground from 2013 to 2017, playing mainly 2nd XI cricket, but did make some favourable inroads when getting his shot at the top level.
Since his cricket days have passed a new life of business has emerged, but he admits he struggled to adjust in the period that followed his release.
“I personally found it quite tough," he said.
"I didn’t really open up that I found it tough until probably a year afterwards because it’s such an odd feeling.
“I had to understand what it was that I was feeling. It took me a while but I read a book called Shoe Dog that basically explains how sportsmen strive to have a meaning and a purpose.”
It was a big culture shock for a man used to the day in, day out grind of a cricketer who is giving everything to show his worth and make it to the settled first team, with Kent plying their trade in Division 2 of the County Championship at the time.
He said: “When I left cricket I just felt like I didn’t have a purpose because of my persona which was always ‘Charlie Hartley the sportsman’.
"I remember my dad used to introduce me at the golf club with ‘here’s my son the Kent cricketer’ so when I lost that I lost a part which was big to me.
“I trialled with Derby and I was playing well for them but then all of a sudden it fell through so that for me. I knew I didn’t want to go through that whole rigmarole again."
Despite only a shortened first class career, the now 26-year-old originally from Worcestershire, ended up trialling for Kent through his old Millfield School teacher Richard Ellison, who played for Kent and England.
His first List A wicket was only that of Mahela Jayawardene in a warm-up game against a touring Sri Lanka, and Joe Root wasn’t a bad scalp either when Kent met Yorkshire in 2016. Despite ending in disappointment, Hartley looks back with contentment but refreshing honesty.
“I love looking back on my time," he said.
"I was very fortunate to play professional sport but it was a massive learning curve for me. I loved schoolboy cricket where you’re playing with a bunch of mates and loving life and having fun, then into professional sport where it’s not like that. It’s more competitive, more cut-throat.
"You’re not necessarily best mates with the players, you’re kind of all vying for different spots so it did kind of take me probably three years to truly understand how I had to behave and what sort of persona I had to have."
But whilst Hartley was churning his way through plenty of overs and training days, he was also working on something in the background for a day when cricket did stop. Well he was until his computer broke.
In the summer of 2018, he launched an app called ‘Lock and Learn’, taking the first official step from a life of sport to a life of business.
He said: “I was quite lucky as I had a business idea the whole way through when I was playing. I did quite a lot of work on it but then my computer broke so I lost all the work.
“It’s an educational app called Lock and Learn where parents can create profiles for their children and assign them multiple choice quizzes. We have over 30,000 quizzes stemming from key-stage 1 all the way through to GCSE.
“Pretty much once I left (Kent) I focused on getting an investment in that and growing that business as much as I could. I was lucky that I had something that I could engage in, even though it didn’t make me feel like I was doing anything, I had something to do on a daily basis."
But he’s not done there. Earlier this year, another business dream became a reality, and it's that venture which Hartley is dedicating a lot of time to currently.
The birth of ‘Moonrise’ combines Hartley’s love of cricket coaching with his nous of business. Its newly-launched website makes interesting reading. It is designed to bring fans closer to professionals, through virtual sessions, as he explains.
He said: “I’ve been wanting to launch Moonrise for quite a while now and it’s going to have quite a few different parts to it. At the moment we’re offering the connection where you can talk to a pro. There’s a ten week course that I’ve drawn up that I’m looking to implement digitally to schools or physically go in and do them myself.
“I want to keep myself engaged with the sport as much as I can and ultimately if this business does well and provides me with an income then I’ll look to give cricket another shot back in the professional game.
“It was about thinking of a way that can still keep me engaged in sport because I love being around sport and helping people but to me it seemed like a perfect business to keep sportsmen engaged with fans, especially in this new era behind closed doors.
“Fans are going to lose a massive part of the game especially in cricket. It’s the engagement with cricketers that is unique to a lot of sports. I played golf with a lot of the fans and the commentators when I was down at Kent and I loved that aspect of the sports."
It seems that, just like the uphill path to success in cricket, Hartley knows that hard work is the golden key to make his businesses work and he seems genuinely invested in making his ideas become realities, and to help others.
As he mentions, he hasn’t totally closed the door to playing the game again.
He adds: “The business side of things has been brilliant and given me a focus. I’ve always said I’ll only return back to sport if I don’t do it as a job and do it as a hobby that happens to be a job because that’s how I played best when I was a kid with no financial worries and I was playing the sport I love.
“For me that’s my end goal, getting to an end point where I’m financially stable and I can give it a crack with no worries, and if someone turns around to me with a low contract offer to play for the summer I’ll say ‘yeah sweet, give me the name on the back of the shirt and let me go’.
“I still love being involved in the game. I was going to have this year off cricket and step away from it to focus on the businesses and then go back to it but it’s been quite a blessing that everyone’s had that time off. Although it’s selfish, it personally couldn’t have been better timing.
“It’s allowed me to step away from the sport, allow me to build what I want to build and there’s a possibility I might play for my club Halesowen in Birmingham for a couple of games.”
If Hartley does see a return to the professional game somewhere along the line, it will be a sign of determination and success because it will mean his businesses should be thriving.
But if not, the ex-Spitfire should rest easy knowing he has used his post-career opportunities to help others and build upon what he has learned in the game. It should be a motivational tool for other cricketers in similar situations, as they hang up their boots no matter how young or old.
Let’s just hope his new computer is backed up properly.
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