Attention Parents: Soon Over 90% of HS Athletes will Experience Sport Retirement, Learn How You Can Help
Spring is an exciting time of year for most kids, especially for soon-to-be graduating seniors. For a select few, the opportunity to play college sports will begin later this summer, but what about the majority of kids who won’t have another chance to play organized sports? With over 90% of high school student athletes facing sport retirement each year, it is important to take a closer look at some of the unique stressors that retiring athletes experience that aren’t always noticed by parents.
First, sport retirement is often an abrupt, unwanted, stressful, and isolating experience for many kids. Even for student athletes who are realistic with their chances of playing college sports being small, the transition can still be difficult trying to re-prioritize goals, re-establish a new (non-athletic) identity, and develop new relationships outside of sports. The support system of former teammates also vanishes, and often student athletes are left to experience of all of these things alone and without much recognition from others, including family and friends. Making things even more challenging is the fact that rarely are specific counseling and programming available to help the millions of kids who experience sport retirement every year, leaving most to figure it out on their own.
Important facts to consider when dealing with sport retirement:
- Few kids will play at the college level. Studies show that only about 5% of all high school student athletes will play college sports, and this number includes partial athletic scholarships, walk-ons, and Division III athletics that do not offer athletic scholarship money.
- Most kids are impacted by sport retirement. Even for kids who knew their sports careers would end after high school, many of them are still impacted by the loss. For some the stress comes from no longer competing at a high level, for others it’s the team environment they miss, and still others are impacted by no longer wearing the identity of “athlete.”
- Most retiring athletes will not tell you they are having a hard time. From my experience most athletes (including high school student athletes) do not actively seek help for the difficulties they experience with sport retirement, and for some they aren’t even aware of the impact of this transition and how it often spills over into other areas of their lives.
- Identify and parlay athletic transferable skills! Athletic transferable skills are skills learned in sports that can be transferred to other areas of human development and life experiences. For example, kids who learn through sports how to set goals, manage their schedule, work successfully with teammates, and develop leadership skills need to be specifically encouraged and shown how to use those skills in the classroom, their future careers, and practically every imaginable aspect of life.
- Not everyone copes with stress successfully. While it is true that some kids will retire from sports with little or no difficulty, many others will experience a great amount of stress while transitioning out of sports. In the examples of kids who experience difficult transitions from sport it is not uncommon for kids to use drugs, alcohol, anger, and various other maladaptive and harmful measures to deal with the issues they experience related to leaving sports. Be sure to pay attention to changes in attitude and behaviors, and don’t be shy about asking directly if there are problems relating to sport retirement (and seek professional help, if needed).
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