May 29, 2020, by Emily Bateman
Alumni Spotlight: Chris Wyles
The University of Nottingham alumni community stands at over 280,000 worldwide. For many of these graduates, sport at Nottingham has had a lasting impact on their careers and personal lives, with some going on to become professional athletes.
As part of our new University of Nottingham Sport alumni profile series, we caught up with alumnus, Chris Wyles (Politics BA Hons, 2006), Co-founder of Wolfpack Lager and former professional rugby player at Saracens RFU.
In this blog, Chris shares with us how his experiences at Nottingham have influenced his career, the core sporting values that Wolfpack Lager was founded upon and his advice around setting tangible goals, embracing challenges and staying positive.
My Nottingham story
“My time at Nottingham is filled with great memories. I initially chose to study at the University based on the good reputation of the Politics Department. Once I found out that one of my best mates from school was going, I was sold!
“On the academic side, I found the course challenging, especially as I was trying to balance it with my rugby aspirations. Ultimately, you realise that those challenges are all part of the developmental process at university, so I’m really grateful for the learning experience. A large part of my time at Nottingham was influenced by rugby and sport. Playing at a packed Ireland Avenue (the old Nottingham RFC ground) and beating Nottingham Trent in the Varsity Match will always be vivid memories!
“After leaving Nottingham, I went on to have a 12-year professional rugby career playing for Saracens, representing the USA Eagles in three World Cups (including captaining the side in 2015) and playing at the Rio Olympics for the USA 7s team. Since retiring in 2018, my main focus has been growing Wolfpack, our beer business that I co-founded whilst still playing in 2014 with my Saracens teammate, Alistair Hargreaves. We now have two bars in London and serve our beers in over 200 outlets in the UK.
“Throughout my career, I have always felt very fortunate to have gained my degree and have enjoyed the life experiences that came with it. I feel the memories, the friends I met and the studying during that time has given me perspective throughout my career. Professional sport is intense and can be all-consuming, but these experiences have helped me remember that it is important to keep a balance.
“Alongside Wolfpack, I also sit on the University of Nottingham Sports Board. To be able to play a small role in helping sport to positively shape lives of students at Nottingham is a rewarding experience.”
Life after Rugby
“We founded Wolfpack in 2014 with a view to using the lessons we were learning in sport to help build the business. Alongside having a great product, we also focused on creating a good culture, based on teamwork and a strong work ethic.
“Covid-19 has unfortunately had a significant impact on our business. We have had to close both our bars in London and for the time being we remain in hibernation with the majority of the business furloughed. In a positive way, it has given Al and I time to reflect on our journey until now and try as much as possible to plan ahead and come out of this situation in a better place. As a team we are trying to stay connected through Zoom calls and, unsurprisingly, healthy competition – we’ve been posting up our running and cycling times to keep the banter flowing! There is a level of uncertainty in how the hospitality industry will cope as we ease out of lockdown, but our aim is to be as prepared as possible.
“Overcoming challenges is something I found you become exposed to very quickly as a sportsman. Professional sport in particular is a hugely competitive world and learning to deal with setbacks and adversity is part of the pathway to success. Personally, I learnt very early on in my career that the fear of failure could cripple positivity and performance. I learnt that by embracing failure and setbacks you actually unlock your best attributes. It changed my outlook completely. I decided to embrace challenges rather than shy away from them.
“Moving forward and, regardless of the current uncertainty, we are in a solid place as a business. We will strive to continue to bring our followers and community great beer and brilliant social experiences!”
My words of advice
“One of the biggest transferable skills that I’ve taken from sport has been goal setting. Creating clear tangible goals gave me a platform to push forward in my career. A key element in this process was maintaining the desire to grow as a player, both on and off the pitch, without fearing setbacks. These two attributes – goal setting and a growth mindset – I believe allowed me to overachieve in my sporting career, and I’m attempting to transfer those qualities into my business career today. Sport has also given me the confidence to work within a team and connect with people. Given that people are at the core of our business, continuing to work collaboratively with strong connections is a focus of mine.
“Graduating now will undoubtedly be a difficult and uncertain time. During this period make sure exercise is high up on the priority list. The benefits, both mentally and physically are huge. Looking forward, I firmly believe that if you remain focused on clear tangible goals and stay positive and engaged, then you will be a good place. Embrace the challenge!”
Many thanks to Chris for sharing his experiences with us. If you’re a Nottingham graduate and you’d like to share your story with our community, contact our Sports and Alumni Relations Officer, Emily Bateman, at Emily.Bateman@nottingham.ac.uk
Visit the new online Health and Wellbeing hub from University of Nottingham Sport to access a range of workouts and wellbeing guidance to help you stay fit and healthy from your home.