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From Year 7 to professional rugby, American Football and beyond

Christian Wade, OW (England, Lions, Wasps, Buffalo Bills and Racing 92) reminisces with James Honeyben ffellow OW and current Head of Rugby, about his time at RGS. How it shaped him for the world of elite sport and his vision to inspire the next generation.

First Experience of Sport at RGS
I vividly remember my first Games session wearing the old school hooped heavy shirt with the long sleeves and collar…I’d never played rugby before, but I loved sport and this was the school’s main sport so I knew I had to take it seriously.  I knew I could learn and I wanted to play, it’s a huge thing to put on the school kit and play rugby.

First Fixture for RGS
I remember looking on the board, seeing my name in the A team and it was like ‘Oh, wow!”, only a couple of weeks in, never played rugby before, no idea what was going on and I think I scored three tries.  It was cool, it was fun. The nerves were definitely there, RGS was known for its sport, especially rugby, it felt like a big occasion.

Sporting Memories from RGS
Daily Mail Cup was always a big thing.  Playing at St Joseph’s Festival; it was a great experience playing against some of the best schools and players in the country.  I have so many great sporting memories of being at RGS, it definitely helped to prepare me for elite sport.

School sport experiences that laid the foundations for your career?
Working as a team, knowing that you had to put in the work training in the week.  There was a sense of camaraderie and we were aware of the importance the school placed on its rugby, we felt we had the backing of the whole school.

Proudest moments of professional rugby career so far?
Playing for Wasps in the Middlesex 7s with fellow OWs, James Honeyben and Tom Rees. Definitely playing for England U18s, U20s, then England 7s.  My debut for full international cap in Argentina and the Lions tour. Winning the accolade of Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year in the same year, I’m still the only one ever to achieve that. 
Those are only a few things I’m proud of and it all goes back to RGS laying the foundations early on, coupled with my motivation to want to be a professional athlete.  I’m a man of faith too, so I give thanks and glory to God and I’m blessed to be able to continue to do it.

Transition from Rugby to American Football?
I officially retired from rugby in October 2018 and began training for a transition into the NFL or into American football.  I wanted to challenge myself, do something different and ended up getting picked up by the Bills, which was amazing.
It forced me to learn different ways of digesting lots of information, to go into that deep, dark place and grow mentally, because if I wanted to be successful I had to step up.  It definitely taught me a lot from that aspect.  It definitely helped me to mature as an athlete and then ultimately as a person.

Plans for life after rugby
In 2021 I set up a not-for-profit organisation called Next Gen You for the purpose of empowering the next generation of elite professionals, whether it's in sport, music or in the world of work using my experiences, using the experiences of people who helped me throughout my career. 
We’ve kicked off with the rugby camps at RGS which have been great so far and we want to continue to grow those and there's some other stuff in the pipeline.  We want to continue to build on the brand of Next Gen U and keep empowering the next generation.

Focus for the future
With me it's never really been about money. As a family we never had a lot of money like that and it's not been something that we've chased after, you know, as long as we're comfortable and able to still give and help other people, that's how I've been brought up. So, for me having this organisation just emulates that. It's going to be very impactful for that next generation, they’re at a certain age where they want that sort of support and empowerment.  I just enjoy helping people and giving them guidance in any way, shape or form.