Career Transition After Rugby & Ballet: Thriving in Tech

Wed 28th Feb 2024

Luke Baldwin, a former Dragons/Worcester Warriors RFC scrum half and ballet dancer, retired and transitioned from rugby to InsurTech, showcasing diverse skills for dynamic athlete career transitions.

Luke recently started a new role at InsurTech firm Vitesse PSP as a Business Development Manager, having previously worked in a tech sales role at Liquidnet. Over three years after his retirement from professional rugby, Luke gives us insight into the impact of his athletic background on his current career, wellbeing, and ongoing transition into the professional world. His story prompts reflection on the amalgamation of diverse skills, resilience, and the pursuit of a balanced, purpose-driven life.


Early Influences: How Ballet Primed Baldwin for Careers Transition in Rugby & Tech

Inspired by his two older sisters, both talented ballet dancers throughout their childhood, Luke took up ballet at an early age, describing himself as “thrown into it from a family point of view” and noting that at five years old, “you don’t necessarily carry the potential stereotypes of dancing — as a small child, you like moving and music.”

As Luke matured within the ballet community, the unconventional nature of a boy pursuing ballet didn’t faze him. His general athletic aptitude across rugby, football, and other more traditionally male-centric sports bolstered his self confidence. In fact, Luke relished in the taunts and jabs from his peers, wearing his participation in something outside of the norm as a badge of honor. He remained involved in both ballet and rugby as long as his time commitments allowed for both. However, as GCSEs loomed at age 16, and regional junior rugby academies began to demand more of his time, Luke had to bid farewell to ballet — a discipline he cherished, one that left an indelible mark on him, imparting invaluable lessons that resonated throughout his life.

 Luke Baldwin dance ballet career transition

Transferable Skills & Lessons from Ballet: Holistic Athletic Mastery Unveiled

Though Luke himself no longer dances, he remains in awe of the live ballet performances he tries to watch as much as possible, praising the unparalleled art of movement, athleticism, fitness, and flexibility of male and female dancers alike. He comments on the importance of retaining these skills in a transition to another sport, and reiterates the necessity of prehab and rehab for injury prevention in rugby and ballet alike, adding that “one great thing about ballet is the structure of all the classes … you go from the barre in the beginning, with a focus on slow movements, techniques, flexibility, range of movement, and only once you’ve done that warm up you move into the main session.


“Understanding that your body needs to be warm and ready to go out and do what you want to do was a really good physical learning that I took from ballet.”


Beyond its physicality, ballet calls for a fortitude of mental strength.Its unique emphasis on intricate techniques teaches the lessons of incremental improvements, that small changes sum to greater impact in the long term, and practicing weaknesses turn them into strengths. Ballet cultivated a mental resilience that proved invaluable on the rugby field and now aids Luke in navigating the corporate world. Embracing skepticism and challenges, he honed a mindset of not just persevering but thriving despite doubts. In the realm of rugby, Luke had to persist through cuts, setbacks, and injuries.


Transitioning Careers into Tech: Luke’s Habits, Mindset, and Mantra

Approaches to Team Dynamics, Collaboration & Human Connection

Luke underscores the significance of teamwork from his sporting background, emphasizing collaboration and the collective success mindset in his new role. He brings a broader understanding of the end goal of company targets, and a recognition that “not everyone has to lose for someone to win.” Luke believes in the potential of every team member tol “elevate each other’s performance, making other look quite good, both internally and externally”. He values the collaborative business strategy set by Vitesse’s executive and management teams, recognising the profound impact of teamwork on achieving shared objectives. Tech organisations can only benefit from building a team with complementary skills

As a professional athlete, “you’re used to walking into a room and people wanting to know who you are, being interested to talk to you.” When this seemingly stable fact of nature is taken away, it can be a “hit to the ego.” Luke’s wisdom and keys to his success in the business world is to hold a fearless respect for its hierarchy, but to remember that “ultimately we’re all just humans trying to make our own way in the world.” Remaining conscious that everyone has their own lives and stressors outside of work, Luke always aims to understand more about the person and how they operate from an emotional standpoint, before working out how to move things forward from a sales standpoint. “Informalising the situation,” as he calls it, has proven key to maintaining a positive attitude and forming meaningful relationships with clients, colleagues, and friends alike. This is typically one of the athletic skillsets proven to elevate sales performance

Reflections on Athletics & Personal Growth

Athletes inherently embody the fundamental principles of sportsmanship. Beyond cultivating traits like trustworthiness and reliability—qualities that serve as engaging conversation starters—sports immerse individuals in a realm of exacting standards and elite performance. Transitioning from professional sports demands introspection about “who you are and who you want to be.”; for Luke, it's been a journey of self-discovery, prompting contemplation on personal values and aspirations. Shifting focus from the financial targets tied to his rugby career, he acknowledges that these objectives sometimes distracted him from what was crucial aspects to him; nurturing relationships, mental well-being, and physical health - “Time is the most important currency there is at this moment in my life.”


“I’m so grateful for what rugby has turned me into, it’s made me a much purer person and humbled me in so many ways.”


Life Beyond Sports: Work-Life Balance, Athlete Mental Health & Wellbeing

With stability in his routine after two years in the professional realm, Luke now balances his commitment to level 3 rugby with an emphasis on prioritising personal wellbeing. He acknowledges the shift in priorities post-elite sports, embracing therapy and mental health resources to cultivate resilience and evolve both personally and professionally.

Luke's ‘reprioritisation’ involved engaging in therapy sessions and utilising the Mind Journal, a men's mental health guide. These resources became integral in enhancing his resilience within a professional context and fostering personal and career development.

Having pursued an MBA at the University of Warwick, Luke's thesis focused on elite rugby players' mental health and well-being in the UK. His observations illuminated entrenched stigmas surrounding mental health in both corporate and athletic spheres, particularly among men. Luke stresses the urgent need to transcend these stigmas, advocating for “reaching a societal understanding that improving an individual’s mental health will increase their [professional or athletic] performance, which will then ultimately increase the business’ performance, make [the individual] feel better, allow the business to do better, et cetera.”

Navigating the delicate landscape of mental health initiatives, Luke acknowledges the challenge in developing a one-size-fits-all solution due to diverse individual responses; “everyone deals with things differently”. Nevertheless, he champions a proactive approach, urging teams and businesses to proactively implement frameworks that prevent mental health issues rather than merely addressing arising symptoms. Luke envisions a ripple effect where prioritising individual mental health translates into enhanced collective performance, whether in athletic or professional settings.

Elena Dickinson