Successfully Transition from Sports by Using these Important Tips
Most athletes, including increasingly more younger athletes, experience a sense of loss when it comes to sport retirement. While this transition is inevitable for all athletes, seemingly only few prepare for life after sports. Instead, the majority of athletes experience a loss of athletic identity, loss of support system (teammates), and a number of unmet goals (a variable known as ‘achievement satisfaction’). These issues and consequences are not limited to a specific gender, sport type, or age, although the degree of impact on the individual usually strengthens with years of experience (meaning an athlete who competes through college will likely encounter a more challenging transition than an 8 year old who voluntarily walks away from a sports). So how do athletes prepare for sport retirement transition difficulties, and what should they do to find happiness and success once the games end?
Tips to help with sport retirement
Since sport retirement is an inevitable transition for all athletes, it makes sense for all athletes to prepare for sport retirement. Preparing for life after sports is not prematurely quitting, nor does it suggest an athlete is not fully invested in sports if he or she is thinking about the next chapter in life. Instead, athletes who prepare for sport retirement put themselves in ideal positions for future success once the games are eventually over. Additional ideas for a successful sport retirement transition include:
- Use athletic transferable skills. Learning the communicate effectively, multi-task responsibilities, and manage time are but three of the countless skills athletes learn through sports that can be applied to all areas of life. Make it a point to not compartmentalize these skills, but instead use them to develop self-confidence beyond sports.
- Define support system. A support system is simply the people in your life that you can rely upon during tough times. For most athletes, their support system are teammates and coaches — but these folks aren’t always available after retiring from sports. Make it a point to identify resources that can help during sport retirement that may or may not include former teammates (i.e. counselors, academic support personnel, administrators, family members, etc.).
- Gain closure with unfinished business. The number of unmet sport goals (also known as “unfinished business”) often factors into the sport retirement transition. Athletes who exit sport because of injury can be especially vulnerable, but even athletes who retire voluntarily can experience stress knowing they will never be able to go back and reach previous goals. Make it a point to work through unmet sport goals, which may require talking to a professional for help.
- Create an internal locus of control. Rather than blaming others and pointing the finger at all the reasons why sports are ending, try to instead look inward and assume responsibility for what you can do to successfully transition from sports. People who develop an internal locus of control believe they control their own lives, and consequently take action to improve upon their situation.
- Broaden personal identity. Thinking of oneself as only “athlete” can be very limiting, and ultimately will leave the individual vulnerable to depression, anxiety, confusion, and poor coping with stress that can include substance abuse. Instead, revisit athletic transferable skills, set new life goals, and build for a new future with the sport skills and experiences you have already attained.
Sport retirement can be a really tough thing for athletes, including young athletes. Losing your identity and teammates in such an abrupt fashion can leave athletes confused, sad, and sometimes angry, but the good news is that there are things athletes can do to help during this transition. Using athletic transferable skills, redefining your identity, and setting new, non-sport goals are a great way to take your “game” to the next level in life.