SEEING a sportsman cry evokes a range of reactions.
Some will sympathise, empathise or even shed a tear themselves, while others will shake their heads with incredulity. ‘It’s only a game’ comes the sneer from the sidelines.
Try telling that to Butch Carrel.
Months after suffering a prolapsed disc in his neck on the opening day of the season, Bournemouth’s burly loose-head prop wept in his car having been told to call time a playing career that had spanned more than 20 years.
But this was far from a case of a competitor who just didn’t know when to stop as Carrel faced up to the prospect of losing the sport which had such a profound effect on his life.
Rugby union had swallowed up a lost kid from Iford and helped to create a man with drive and direction.
“I was from a single-parent family, we didn’t have much money and I was quite an angry kid within myself,” said Carrel. “I became disinterested and disengaged with life, I had no motivation or self-esteem.
“I didn’t have my dad around and my mum worked exceptionally hard to look after me and my sister so rugby was my crutch so to speak, it gave me something to work for and kept me on the straight and narrow.
“I look where at where I have come from to where I am now and it is a complete U-turn. I was going nowhere.”
It all started with a cheeky 10-year-old badgering his PE teacher Mark Saxby to put together a team at Stourfield School in the late 1980s before Dick Broadwell, Carrel’s head of PE at Twynham School, provided further encouragement for the rugby rookie.
“He (Broadwell) was a massive role model to me. He probably didn’t realise at the time and would be embarrassed if I told him that but he was like a father figure, I really looked up to him,” added the Lions stalwart.
“I didn’t have a dad but his guidance and support was the nearest thing to it.”
From there, he joined the Colts at Bournemouth under the tutelage of David Dunn and embarked on continuing a family tradition.
Butch’s grandfather Lionel Carrel, a scrum-half at Blackheath, earned his Oxford Blue – awarded for competing at the highest level of university sport – alongside Prince Alexander Obolensky, a Rurikid prince of Russian origin who went on to become an England international.
Carrel, also a cousin of former Gloucester and England star Olly Morgan, made his senior debut for Lions at 18 and went on to play for Newbury and captain Oakmeadians before he left the area for eight years.
While he considered his future in the sport on his return, the lure of the club he calls home was just too tempting as Carrel helped old mentor Dunn’s push for an historic rise to National Two South with Bournemouth.
Unsurprisingly, Carrel became a PE teacher, helping pupils with special needs at Tregonwell Academy after settling down with long-term girlfriend Jenni.
Despite his increased commitments, the 36-year-old kept shelving plans for retirement as a player until his arm was forced during that fateful opener against Taunton in September.
“At the time I didn’t think anything of it but when I woke up the next morning I couldn’t get my chin off my chest or move my left forearm.
“After all kinds of treatment the doctor told me I had to be sensible. When I got back to the car with Jenni I broke down, even though I knew in my heart of hearts that it was done.
“I was clinging to that one per cent chance I could carry on but I had to make the smart decision, as hard as it was to hear.
“It was so frustrating to be told to stop something that had been such a big part of my life, it changed my life, even saved my life in many ways in terms of what I could achieve.
“But I had to realise it was above and beyond what I could physically do and that by carrying on I could trash myself. I couldn’t risk ending up in a wheelchair.”
But as one door slammed shut, another opened for the Chapel Gate favourite after being invited to coach Bournemouth’s forwards alongside Peter Short under new director of rugby Crispin Cormack.
“I have a lot more to offer the game and now I’m taking a new direction,” added Carrel. “It might not be playing but it’s the next best thing and certainly beats shopping on a Saturday afternoon.
“The players know I want the club to do well because of the great people there who have supported me through some tough times.
“Rugby will be a massive part of my life forever and I just hope my raw passion and energy can help a club which is so special to me."