Meet the Hebden Bridge-Based Transformational Coach who Helps Men Reach their True Potential
A men's transformational coach and elite performance coach in professional rugby, Craig White's goal is to help men step into their true potential in life
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I got my first coaching qualification when I was 16, coached my first rugby team at 19 and I’ve had a career in professional rugby pretty much ever since. I actually started off working as a fitness coach, this extended into holistic nutrition, then I became fascinated by human behaviour. This meant my work in professional rugby involved mental skills coaching and then in recent years it progressed to leadership, culture building and mentoring of coaches. Some of the notable teams that I’ve worked with are the Irish rugby team, the Welsh rugby team, the British & Irish Lions, and I consulted for the governing body of World Rugby until recently.
Everything changed when you visited Thailand. Tell us about that.
About 14 years ago, I was at the pinnacle of my rugby career, however I went to Thailand on a one-month yoga retreat and it was probably the most significant month of my life. I’d never tried yoga, I didn’t understand yoga and it was a very intense trip with meditations at 5am, yoga three times a day, breath work, purification practises, and a lecture every evening. I became fascinated.
I was really interested in the theory, methodology and philosophy of yoga, but also the practices which often involved keeping still and focusing on one thing. These were quite difficult in the beginning but after a while, when I got into them, I really felt a sense of what yoga was and it opened me up. This involved discovering parts of myself that I hadn’t felt before and some of those parts were joyous, blissful and expansive, while others were scary, dark and emotional. That was the start of a deep search for meaning. Based on what I know now, it was the start of my deprogramming and letting go of what didn’t serve me, and reprogramming who I was, what I believed in and how I wanted to live.
After that I did intense research, all over the world, trying lots of therapies, working with coaches, exploring fasting, doing 10-day silent meditation retreats, exploring retreats in darkness and psychedelics. Lots of weird and wonderful practices to cultivate a deeper sense of who I was not and who I wanted to be. It was about me initially, but definitely over the last 10 years my continued self growth is for the benefit of others, especially my clients.
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How has your coaching evolved over time?
A shift has occurred in my coaching over the last decade. I became a yoga teacher, meditation teacher, and men’s leadership coach. I became fascinated with changing the narrative of what it means to be a man, male leadership and male performance. That’s kind of been in alignment with my own journey and transformation and I now have two aspects to my coaching: Craig White Mentoring which encapsulates work with high-performing men in sports and business, and Men Without Masks, an organisation which provides safe spaces in person and online for men to transform.
Tell us more about Men Without Masks.
I was at a bit of a crossroads. I was still working as a consultant in professional rugby but it was just kind of paying the bills really, I wasn’t really enjoying it. I started thinking, if I let go of rugby, what can I do instead? I’d recently been involved in men’s groups in yoga schools in both Thailand and Mexico and I trained with an organisation called the ManKind Project. It was inspiring but I wanted to create my own brand. My girlfriend Sarah suggested calling it Men Without Masks and it really worked for me at the time. I had been a man who was wearing a mask. I’d been a man who had been biased towards one mask which was this kind of alpha male, Northern, stoic, gritty sportsman and in peeling back and uncovering more parts of myself I’d removed that mask.
What do you offer?
It started off as a one-day retreat, then I ran a few three-day retreats in Mexico, then a five-day retreat and now it’s become our iconic five-day retreat at Broughton Hall in Skipton – we just won an award for it with Condé Nast. We’ve also built another retreat around that which is a level two retreat with guys who’ve already done the five-day retreat. For that, I’m taking a group of 20 men to Peru on 1st April for a 10-day retreat which is all about leadership and leaving a legacy. We also have a 10-week online programme, we’re in the process of building a Facebook group, and I offer one-to-one coaching as well.
‘Everyone leaves with something different, but generally speaking every man leaves with a deeper sense of appreciation for themselves’
What can people expect from your retreats?
A safe space, a rest and wonderful regeneration time in an amazing location. They will experience lots of practices to deepen their insight and their connection with their own feelings. They’ll experience different types of movement, different types of yoga, some martial arts practices, lots of breath work and lots of meditations. They’ll also experience lots of partner work, human practices, connection with nature and cold-water therapy.
Everyone leaves with something different, but generally speaking every man leaves with a deeper sense of appreciation for themselves, a deeper sense of connection to their own bodies, a deeper sense of connection to other men, feeling safe around other men, more clarity around who they are and what their purpose is in life. For someone nervous to do a retreat I would say, if you feel the calling in your body and there’s something telling you that you have work to do, answer that calling. Recognise the consequences of not doing it and realise that you only have one life to live.
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What do you love most about being based in Yorkshire?
The reason I live in Hebden Bridge and the reason we do the retreat in Skipton is because of the nature. It’s the expansive aspects of nature and the nurturing quality of the rolling hills. It’s also on a personal level for me quite spiritual in the sense that seven years ago I was wearing white, teaching yoga and working with men’s groups on a beach in Mexico, and on my own spiritual journey that was my spiritual home seven years ago. But now my spiritual home is very much in the North of England. I was born here and I identify with the grit of the North and the friendliness here.