Steve Nash says “Sport Retirement like a Death”
Sport retirement is probably the biggest, toughest, and most unwelcome experience most athletes ever experience. The sport retirement transition is especially difficult for professional athletes who have essentially created their entire identity around one thing – being an athlete. In fact, in the sport psychology literature this is referred to as having an exclusive athletic identity.
NBA star and future Hall of Famer Steve Nash is heading toward his inevitable sport retirement transition, and by listening to him he doesn’t sound very excited about it. In fact, Nash recently referred to it by saying “it (sport retirement) really is like a death.”
For non-athletes it might sound odd to hear someone discuss something like retiring from sports as a death-like experience, but when you consider the following realities it becomes much more clear why athletes often feel this way:
- Their personal identity often becomes an exclusive athletic identity, meaning they see little self-value beyond sports
- Sport retirement is inevitable — just like death (and taxes)
- Few athletes plan for the distress associated with the transition, and most instead only deal with it when it is upon them
- Career planning, including developing a resume, cover letter, and preparing for job interviews, are skills that were never learned and therefore often intimidating to the athlete
- The support system for athletes is usually his or her coaches and teammates — these folks often disappear from the athlete’s life at the time of sport retirement
- Building up self-confidence is usually a struggle as most of their value previously came from playing sports successfully
Sport retirement is a really big deal for most athletes, but fortunately there are things you can do to help. For more information on this transition please check out Positive Transitions for Student Athletes where you will learn about the uniqueness of the sport retirement transition, and how athletes can successfully move on in their lives after their careers end. In the meantime heres hoping Steve Nash ends his career on a high note, as he has provided me and many other basketball fans memories for a lifetime with his gifted play on the court.