Written by Nick Heath for Rugby World Cup News Service.
OKINAWA, 22 Sep – For USA lock Nate Brakeley, the Rugby World Cup is a balancing act. In between matches and training with the Eagles, he is continuing his job as a data analyst for a real estate technology company in Manhattan.
The 30-year-old from Massachusetts, who plays his club rugby with Rugby United New York (RUNY), is one of a handful of the USA’s Rugby World Cup squad who is still working outside rugby. He has been spending time working remotely for his employers.
Brakeley said: “It’s pretty wild. It’s work and then straight to training. Basically, during rugby season there’s not a lot of down time, so it’s a big time commitment. At the same time, I enjoy it. If I was in rugby all of the time, I might go a little crazy.
“My employer’s been very good about it because it’s not like I’m off on a beach somewhere. It’s something important to me and there’s a bigger picture, so they’re willing to put up with it for a bit.”
Brakeley’s average training week at RUNY consists of three evening sessions, with two or three morning gym sessions. His work hours are usually 7am to 6pm, with a rugby match on Saturday or Sunday.
“Depending on when the game is, I would travel on Friday afternoon, play Saturday and come back. There were plenty of weeks where we would play Sunday night and I would ‘red-eye’ into the office on Monday morning.”
When on team duty, Brakeley similarly balances working around training by being up at 6am to put in some analysis hours before the morning session and continuing from 7pm at the end of the day.
“When I’m on tour, rugby always comes first. I tick those boxes, then I tick my work boxes and so it really is my leisure time that takes the hit.”
Brakeley has some experience of English rugby, having played at Twickenham in the 2012 Varsity Match for Cambridge, where he spent a year studying.
At 30, Brakeley says that “life after rugby is on the horizon at some point”. He feels his choice to work helps soothe any concerns over finding a career after he has finished playing.
As he prepares for his first Rugby World Cup, he feels vindicated that his decisions have brought him to this point.
“It validates to me that I’ve made the right choice. I always wonder, ‘would I have gotten further in rugby if I’d have put the career on the side for a bit?’
“But I think this validates the decisions that I’ve made, which obviously is good because it would be really frustrating to get to this point and have the regret that my career washed out my World Cup chances. I’m thrilled about that.”