What Comes After A Career in Professional Sport?

Article by Sam Jarman and Grayson Hart –

For most professional athletes, time spent playing the game they love will be the shorter of their two careers.

Consideration of what happens afterwards can be the source of worry and anxiety.

These feelings can sometimes affect performance and cause stress in relationships. 

We are happy to be working alongside L.A.P.S, (Life After Professional Sport) to offer a unique service helping athletes understand and manage the transition from professional sport into whatever they decide to do next.

We will help you understand how the innate potential which allowed you to develop into an elite performer in sport will also allow you develop skills and capabilities in whatever field you choose once you finish playing.

Before a big game, match or round you can never know exactly how it will all unfold.

But what you have shown time and time again in your sporting career is that when the moment arises, you have what it takes.

Our service is about helping you to see that you always have what it takes to thrive in the next phase of your life, even with some of the unknowns and obstacles that may arise.

This knowing allows us to function from clarity and insight rather than fear and insecurity. 

There are a number of common challenges which athletes face when the time comes to contemplate life after sport. Some of these are psychological. Others are more practical.

Identity and self image

For many athletes, their idea of who they are has been closely linked to what they do from a young age. The focus and single mindedness which is an important factor in any successful sporting career can lead to a blurring of the lines between the athlete and the person underneath the shirt. 

When the end of a career beckons – an awareness that the end is nigh can start years before that shirt is hung up for the last time. It can feel as though something is being lost. 

There is often a feeling of emptiness, a loss of purpose. Performance levels may have dropped as the realisation sinks in that the end is approaching – in effect a self fulfilling prophecy. 

Understanding where those feelings are coming from is an important step in moving on. We can help you avoid some of the more negative outcomes which can occur if the athlete looks to fill the gap elsewhere. 

It is hugely helpful to realise that you have the capacity to flourish and enjoy life just as much after you have finished playing sport as you have during your sports career. 

This allows you to continue playing with passion and freedom right up until the final game. When you are hanging on because you believe your well-being and identity and the security of others are derived from it, it’s not surprising that performance can suffer.

Physical health and well-being

For an elite athlete, taking care of your body is an essential part of performing at the highest level. It is the tool of your trade. Eating well, training hard and recovering properly becomes a way of life. 

When you retire, it can be easy for those good habits to fall by the wayside, particularly in the first few months. This can be due to lack of motivation, boredom or just the novelty of relaxing into a new way of life. 

Unfortunately, many athletes are forced to retire due to severe or long term injury. Getting through what might be a significant period of rehabilitation, coming to terms with the thoughts of ‘what might have been’, and dealing with any limitations in your physical capabilities moving forward can all be significant challenges. 

Understanding the source of those feelings, and of your innate well being is an essential part of both overcoming the challenges of injury. Maintaining an active lifestyle, for both health and enjoyment is important in the long term.

Financial security

A few sportsmen and women are fortunate enough to make enough money during their playing career to not need to worry about what happens afterwards from a financial point of view. 

For most athletes, retirement will be considerably longer than their playing career, and maintaining the lifestyle they and their families currently enjoy over the longer term can be a worry. 

Most professional athletes want to start a second career when they retire from playing, partly for financial reasons, and partly to maintain a sense of purpose and fulfilment. Thinking about what path you might take, and whether you can make it pay as a career can be a cause of insecurity. 

There is also the risk and added pressure of investing money that you know can’t be earned again. 

Understanding where those feelings are coming from, and realising your innate potential to succeed in whatever you do after retirement can allay those insecurities. This allows you to play with freedom and clarity for as long as you are enjoying the game and are able to play to your potential.

Relationships.

Maintaining strong family relationships during a professional sporting career can feel like hard work for all. The ups and downs of winning and losing are exaggerated and frequent. The lack of security which comes with short term contracts, frequent travel and the ever present threat of injury are enough to put the strongest partnership to the test. 

There are bound to be differing emotions when a career starts to wind down. Expectations about the future may turn out to be different which can again cause feelings of stress. After the initial ‘honeymoon period’, the increased time spent together after retirement can be a source of friction rather than a positive. 

It isn’t just family relationships which can cause worry and concern. Being part of a strong team or squad is an experience which many players regard as fundamental to what they do. When you are no longer part of the group, those bonds and friendships, the sense of belonging is hard to replicate. 

Understanding the nature of that experience, and the feelings which come with it is important in realising that you are always enough as you are, and building new connections away from the game, and maintaining those which endure from it. 

Being able to understand  the perspective of a partner or other family members can also help make the transition process smoother and easier for everyone.

Finding a new purpose.

A sporting career is often short but intense. For many athletes it consumes their attention from a young age, through the teenage years where they are developing and changing the most, into early adulthood. 

During this time it is hard to look beyond the next training session or game, let alone to a time when you might be doing something different with your life. It is understandable that many young athletes don’t want to look too far ahead. Speculating about the future is a distraction from what they are most passionate about now. 

The big difference with the understanding which we share with athletes is that it is as relevant now, during the time you are playing, as when your career starts to draw to an end and other concerns in life become more important. 

Understanding what fuels your passion for your sport today, what allows you to learn and be creative, where your resilience and will to win comes from, and what allows you to connect and bond with your teammates will be a huge asset in your career as a player and invaluable when you decide to move onto other things. 

Just knowing you always have the tools to be successful now and in the future is a big weight off your mind, even if you don’t have the details, the whys and wherefores all figured out just yet.

A unique approach

Our approach is different in that it addresses the thoughts and beliefs which lie behind the problems experienced by athletes at all levels. It addresses the fundamental misunderstanding which is at the heart of any worry or insecurity, both on and off the playing field, now and in the future. We point to the innate wisdom and logic which underpins success in all human endeavour. 

Seeing the nature of this wisdom and logic is the first step to overcoming any insecurities about the future, and allows you to evaluate opportunities with optimism, confidence and clarity. 

Realising that the potential which allowed you to flourish in the toughest sporting arena will always be there for you to draw on in whatever you choose to do with your life is a source of strength and comfort as you embark on the next chapter. 

We are all professional athletes ourselves, having had careers in golf, cricket and rugby. We have all been through the transition which all athletes will experience at some point.  The understanding which we will share with you has held us in good stead in the past, and will continue to do so moving forwards. 

We are fortunate enough to have found something which we are as passionate about as we were about our respective sporting careers in years gone by. 

We look forward to helping you do the same.

Please get in touch for more information or if you’d like to have a conversation about your future plans.

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