by Lucy Roberts
Sarah Cooke is a High-Performance Coach but she used to represent England at lacrosse before turning her hand to holistic health and massage therapy.
Cooke is a big believer in making your work life work for you and doesn’t believe in the term work life balance, as work is a big factor in our lives.
Cooke spoke to Female First about why she wanted to play lacrosse, explained why she wanted to re-train and revealed what we can expect from her book Healthy You, Wealthy Business.
Q) Why did you want to start playing lacrosse?
A) I was introduced to lacrosse at school, but I actually did a lot of other sport, so I did swimming, netball, tennis, gymnastics – any kind of sport that was available to me I started playing. It wasn’t until it got to a point where I had to choose which sports, I was going to carry on forward because I didn’t have enough time in the day to play everything. I actually couldn’t decide so I ended up doing swimming and lacrosse, they were my main sports, and competed at county level in swimming and netball and then England was where I took lacrosse. That ended up being my primary sport and I really focussed on what I was good at, what my strengths were but also what I enjoyed and that’s kind of been my premise for making decisions for a whole load of other things.
Q) But then you re-trained as a holistic health and massage therapist, so why did you want to make that move?
A) I’ve always wanted to combine the sport health and wellness element with business, they’ve always been my two passions. I’ve played sport since day dot and really loved it and as I’ve got older it’s really been my stress release, my thinking time, my me time – but I’ve always wanted to do business as well. When I graduated from Loughborough University, I was playing sports, but I did a business and marketing degree and my only option because female sport wasn’t in a position to be able to pay a career, I ended up going and working for a healthcare company which I loved. I worked in all sorts of different categories, different health arenas but then having been in the corporate rat race for a few years within London my husband and I decided that we wanted to do something a bit different.
Neither of us had travelled the world or taken a gap year and at one point we were going to jack it all in and go travelling for a year around the world, but he got offered a job in Singapore, so we re-located for what was supposed to be a year but actually turned into seven years. I transitioned my corporate job and worked over in Singapore and was regional marketing manager over there and I was doing a lot of travelling, a lot of big marketing campaigns and at its height I did seven events in six days. I remember getting back from that and just going oh my goodness of course I’m tired but actually something is not quite right, and I realised from my sporting background that I was hitting burnout, if not already hit burnout. I then found out I was pregnant and that was a real catalyst for me of going something has got to change, I can’t keep living like this abroad without my friends and family network around me.
That forced my decision a little bit to leave the corporate world but then four months after giving birth, I had a traumatic birth where my son nearly died, I got to a point where I was like I’m just missing something. After having always been a high achiever at work and doing things for me I was missing that and that was my catalyst really to re-train into the holistic health world and going okay what can I do that’s flexible around my little baby but gives me something to be Sarah rather than just mum. Because I’d always been interested I could see how therapy could help people through sports massages. So I focussed on sports massages as well as pre and post-natal massages because those were my two big moments where I’d really needed that support. I think being a bit of an over-giver, I loved being able to help people and just seeing that instant transformation of someone coming and having a treatment and they’d walk away feeling so different- that really lit me up and I got really excited by that.
Q) Can anyone be a flexible worker or is the 9-5 attitude still ingrained in our society?
A) I definitely think the opportunities to be a flexible worker are there and I think there is a little bit of people taking responsibility for themselves and going actually what do I want? How do I want to run my life? I’m a really big believer in being against the term work life balance because for me it’s all life and I really see that work is a pillar of life and I think the last two years have really shown us through the pandemic that you have to find a way to integrate both of those. Obviously, work is going to take up a huge amount of our time and that’s fine, but if we can find something that really fulfils us, that really allows us to play to our strengths then we can get the most out of it.
Whether you’re running your own business or whether you’re in the corporate world I think anything that you’re doing you should be able to perform at your best. And flexible working is obviously a massive part of that because for women especially if they are caring for families or caring for elderly relatives, you can’t keep pushing and if you do that’s when you’re going to get burn-out. I think the world is starting to open up to that flexibility and this awareness from leaders who are saying actually to get the best results out of my business, we need to get the best results out of our people and what does that look like? And it might be 9-5, but for others there might be a shift in what their working hours look like.
As human beings we’re not able to keep pushing and pushing and pushing and I know that from my experience and that’s where I hit burn out both in the corporate world and now in my own business. It’s harder in the corporate workspace but there is a responsibility both as a leader of a business as a boss but also as an individual to speak to their boss and say look how do we make this work?
Q) And now you help other female entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground, so how rewarding is it to be able to help them?
A) I love it, it really fuels my fire seeing people being able to do work in a way that works for them. It was actually the premise behind my book, really showing people that they can run a business in a way that works for them, that there isn’t a cookie cutter approach, that when you look after yourself, when you have the right mindset, when you are playing to your strengths you’re open to change and open to evolving. Moving into that coaching and mentoring space has enabled me to have such an amazing impact on women because they’re shifting their business models and looking at different ways they can be there for the kids and they’re doing school drop off and pick up or they’re wanting to do their food shopping during the day or go and exercise. Doing things in a way that suits your life and works for you rather than you working so hard that you don’t feel fulfilled. I love it, I love what I’m doing.
Q) Yesterday marked publication day for your book Healthy You, Wealthy Business, so what inspired you to write it?
A) I actually decided that I was going to write it about two years ago before the pandemic hit because I really started noticing that there were lots of people within the coaching space who were suggesting that this was success, and it was their version of success. I was reading business strategy books, but it was missing the mindset piece, or it was missing how to look after yourself to get those results. Then I read loads of self-development books and mindset books, but it was missing the how you turn those strategies into how to get results for your business and then the pandemic hit, and I just thought there are people who are closing their businesses because they don’t have a future proof business, and you can have both, you can live life and have a business.
I wanted to empower women to say actually you don’t need to apologise for wanting success, you don’t need to feel guilty to have success, but you don’t need to do it in a way that someone tells you to either. There’s so much around what overnight success looks like and I think that’s just a massive myth that for me having a successful business is your version of success. I just saw nothing in the books that I read that brought those two pieces together. I think my background from being a former England athlete having hit massive rock bottom through burnout I didn’t want other people to make those mistakes and I could see what actually is needed to be healthy.
Sarah’s new book Healthy You, Wealthy Business is out now (www.sarahcookecoaching.com)