Tom Richards & The Growth Mindset - Attaining Excellence in Sport & Beyond
Tom Richards’ journey typically illustrates the growth mindset that many athletes nurture through and after their sporting careers. Having turned professional at 18 years old, Tom enjoyed a lengthy career playing international squash, leveraging his unique experience & transferable skills to move on to other heights.
Squashing: From a Family Thing to a Top 20 Player
Tom started playing at the age of 4 at his local club with his family – hitting the ball against his brother and sister. “They provided good competition! I enjoyed all sports as a youngster but always loved the competitive ‘play hard but fair’ attitude of squash”, Tom recalls.
This love of competing stuck with Tom across the 17 years he represented England across the globe, before he retired from professional competition this year at 35 years old. His stellar career saw him win 6 out of the 15 finals he reached, being ranked World Number 12 at his peak in 2012.
At first sight, Tom’s enthusiasm for competition may come across negative, but in reality, for many athletes, it often reveals a set of wider capabilities, including a constant willingness to reach full potential – which we define at add-victor as the Growth Mindset.
Cultivating a Growth Mindset
Tom’s focus has always been to challenge himself, keep learning and improve. From sports to the corporate world, he is most satisfied as long as there are enough opportunities to surpass himself and grow.
When playing, Tom was able to recognise and appreciate the learning opportunities beyond the game itself. Indeed, competing around the world offered him a wealth of exposure that he fully appreciated: “I count myself incredibly fortunate that I got to travel the world, often visiting unusual and exciting places, meeting plenty of fascinating people along the way.”
Tom’s choice and timing for transitioning came naturally while he noticed that he has reached his threshold for growth & lacked the same desire which had driven him earlier in his career: “whilst my enjoyment was still there perhaps the motivation waned a little bit. I also had a fair few injuries which caught up with me but ultimately I was ready for a new challenge.”
Since being placed within the 2022 EMEA BlackRock Military & Athlete Transition Program, Tom has been able to explore his passion for the Asset Management industry. “The fact that it’s a completely new challenge is incredibly exciting, it’s a steep learning curve but the opportunity for growth is vast. As long as I’m challenged, which I’m sure I will be, then I will always gain a sense of fulfilment. Like in sport you won’t always get everything right but it’s the opportunity to learn and progress which drives me.”
In this way Tom’s Growth Mindset is permanently switched on. For Tom, seeking information and knowledge is essential to performing in his new role. “I’ve tried to be as inquisitive as possible. Whether that’s speaking to people in the office or studying externally to try and increase my knowledge”. His piece of advice for others is to “seek as much advice from people you trust as you can”. This open-mindedness and desire to keep learning has also aided Tom in managing his well-being.
The Importance of Keeping a Healthy Mindset for Better Performance
Tom is hugely appreciative of the supportive environment he encountered through his journey, assisting him through adversity, and keeping him grounded, as well as well-mentored. “Many people have helped me along the way. My friends, family, fiancée, and add-victor have all provided invaluable advice both pre- and post-transition”, he concedes.
Tom is aware that a successful transition means keeping in shape, mentally & physically. “It’s important to maintain a level of activity, at first it can be a bit of a shock to be fairly inactive all day, so I try to go to the gym, go for a walk or just generally keep moving as much as possible!”.
While Tom admits missing playing Squash professionally, he’s making sure to address this soon as well as trying out new sports: “I plan to play in a few evening leagues to maintain my competitive edge! I always planned on playing a bit more cricket once I’d retired from squash, so that’s on the to-do list, and I also like the idea of playing more paddle [tennis].”
The Off-the-Wall Skills of a Squash Player
Tom highlighted the special skills he gained from squash that have proved so handy in his new role at BlackRock: “With squash being an incredibly demanding sport, you have to be diligent in all aspects of your training. It’s that drive and willingness to go the extra mile that can differentiate yourself from other candidates. After overcoming serious injuries, the work ethic and character building that fosters can be a huge benefit in any role, and I’d say that would be true for most sportspeople!”.
Tom positively perceives this challenge as his driving force, embracing it and seeing the effort as the path, finding lessons and inspiration in his environment and beyond. An inspiring, and proven Growth Mindset.