“I’ve been very lucky,” asserts Darren Maddy. “I’ve been very fortunate to have a wonderful second career.”
It is a typically humble assessment from a man who, during a 23-year career in professional cricket, faced the lows with dignity and never let the highs go to his head.
Right now, Maddy is, as they say, in a good place. At Solihull School, whose teaching staff he joined late in 2013, he has an impressively broad role: Director of Cricket; Head of Strength and Conditioning; Head of Scholarships. Still the all-rounder!
It is a role and challenge the 42-year-old thoroughly enjoys. So yes, ‘Mads’ is in a good place. And feels lucky.
But he admits his transition out of professional cricket, in which he had spent his entire adult life with Leicestershire, Warwickshire and England, was far from plain sailing.
Maddy loved his time with the Bears, whom he joined in 2006, but his last three years were hit by horribly bad luck. A knee injury ruled him out of the entire 2009 season then a horrific blow in a pre-season practice match in South Africa in March 2010, when a short ball from Neil Carter penetrated his helmet, left him with multiple facial fractures.
“I loved it at Warwickshire but the last three years were tough,” he recalls. “After those two injuries, especially the one to my face, I was never at my most relaxed or best. To be honest, at the end I think I was just exhausted.
“It took a lot of adjusting when I left in 2013. I was nearly 40 years old and all I had ever known was professional cricket. I was lucky enough to enjoy a fair amount of success and it’s a brilliant life. I had lived the dream and at times as a sportsman you feel invincible – but it turns out not to be the case.
“I expected to be inundated with offers, only to find it wasn’t quite like that. It was very worrying. You come out of a world you have been in all your adult life and don’t know if you will find another direction.
“But then, amazingly, I received three offers almost simultaneously and one was from Solihull School offering me a great opportunity right on my doorstep. It was a real case of being in the right place at the right time. I am very lucky.”
Even then, though, the transition was not entirely straightforward. Maddy had never been a professional cricketer just because he happened to be good at it. He loves cricket, always has, always will, and loved the whole package of professional cricket: the atmosphere, the games, the training, the banter.
It’s all he had ever known. So however attractive his new career, the old one would not be easily shed.
“My second year away from Edgbaston was the most difficult,” he recalls. “I had jumped into this new chapter of my life, full of enthusiasm and excitement, then in the second year it really sank in that I was no longer a professional cricketer and that I still really missed it.
“I was always thinking: Where are the Bears today? What are they doing? But when I went to Edgbaston, although people were very welcoming, I didn’t really feel comfortable around the dressing-room area. I didn’t belong there any more. And that was very strange.
“It takes time to move on. But eventually you have to do that and I have done and really enjoy what I do now. They are fantastic surroundings to work in and, in some ways, it is similar to cricket. Professional cricket is an all-consuming world, in its own bubble, and a school is like that. As environments, they are both very singular and different.
“In both it is about trying to be the best you can be. As a cricketer most of my emphasis was on myself. Now I try to get the best out of others and help create an elite environment. That’s why I really enjoy working with the scholarships. Helping boys make the most of their talent.”
Maddy still plays plenty of cricket, for Berkswell in the Birmingham League premier division, for the PCA Masters and Lashings. But now his energies are directed full-time to developing youngsters – as sportsmen and people, a role to which he can bring loads from his life in cricket. It’s about much more than batting and bowling; about nutrition and lifestyle and attitude.
Maddy says he is lucky. Well, Solihull School got lucky too. They acquired the skills of a chap who played 15 games for England and gathered more than 25,000 runs and 500 wickets in senior cricket while remaining the most grounded and decent of men.
“Working in a school is very rewarding,” Maddy says. “I would strongly recommend it to other cricketers and there are a lot of schools out there looking for coaches.
“I still miss being around the Bears, I think part of me always will, but I’ve been fortunate to have a wonderful second career.”