With his scrum cap currently back in the kitbag, Harlequins No.8 James Chisholm is enjoying the chance to work towards obtaining headwear of a very different kind.
Rugby’s suspension due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic may have left the back-row disappointed at being unable to add to a season of unprecedented appearances following years of fitness issues.
But the 24-year-old, who is undertaking a distance learning degree at Northumbria University in leadership and management, has made sure his new-found free time has been productive with work on course assignments.
The Quins man is also giving back to his local community by checking in on some of the club’s most elderly fans.
“This free time has been a blessing in disguise for me really,” Chisholm said.
“It’s given me a lot of time to crack into my university work. I’ve got an assignment due in April so I’ve had a lot of time to devote to that instead of doing it when I’m tired after playing or training. Now there’s no excuse!
“The club have organised for a few of us to chat to some elderly supporters over the phone. The response has been brilliant and it’s been great to just chat and see how people are.
“It’s been nice to let people know that they’re not alone.”
Perhaps the biggest challenge facing sportsmen and women across the world currently is ensuring that fitness levels remain high.
The unique nature of the current situation has spawned untold amounts of home exercise guides and live streamed home workouts, but Chisholm is actually thriving in a different way.
The open space available to him near the Guildford home he shares with brother Ali has allowed Chisholm to enjoy long bike rides, complementing light weights work being done at home.
He added: “I’m lucky in that where I am I can still go for a run and not bump into anyone, I feel a bit sorry for some of the guys in the squad who live in flats without gardens.
“And I’ve actually quite enjoyed it, I’ve got out on my bike almost every day and I’ve gone for some long cycles which has been nice.
“There’s a lot of open space to go out on my bike, I’ve not seen anyone for miles. It’s been an hour or longer, I’ve been doing 20-25k rides. I’m not very quick on it so it does take me a bit of time.
“You’re knackered all the time normally from rugby so now when you’re feeling alright it’s been nice to explore, I’ve discovered little villages that I didn’t even know existed.”
But, it hasn’t been all work and no play for Chisholm, with long Xbox sessions preoccupying his downtime.
“Me and Ali weren’t massive gamers before but we are now. We’ve played a lot, we’ve used up a lot of hours playing on the Xbox,” he added.
“It’s a great way to speak to people and connect with lots of different people and play a bit of Fortnite wasting the day away.”
And when it does come time to put the controller down and pick the boots up, Chisholm is relishing getting back amongst a developing young side who he believes can put their inconsistency behind them to work towards a bright future.
“It’s an incredibly exciting time to be with the guys you’ve come through the academy with, the future is incredibly bright for the club,” he added.
“You just want those results now, you want it to be an overnight thing but it’s not as simple as that. Hopefully in a season or two we will be there.”
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