Life After Sport

Retiring From Sport – What Next?

“A chuckle reaches down into the grand canyon of his rib-cage, triggering great, jolly tremors as John Hayes considers his typical day. ‘I’m still trying to figure it out’ he says with a booming laugh.” Vincent Hogan – Independent.ie

Retirement before 40 or even 30 years of age is a dream for many. However it is a harsh reality for most athletes. The physical limitations’ of the body can only carry you so far in a sporting career and once it’s over, the athlete is faced with a new challenge.

What to do now?

Retirement can come after a long, successful and gratifying career or it may be premature with the athlete forced out through injury, illness, being dropped or financial reasons.

Whatever the reason, the transition the athlete needs to go through to adjust to a new way of life can be significant.

How often have we see professional sports stars emerge from retirement?

Certainly finance can be a factor in this, but for the most part it is an inability to cope with life after – or without – sport.

Who hasn’t envied the athlete / sports star – either professional or amateur?For must of us, those dreams remain just that, and we end up in “normal” jobs, with retirement coming after perhaps 40 years of work.

For those with the talent, dedication, and luck to make that dream a reality, the life of a professional athlete can be on par with that of a rock star or Hollywood heavyweight. But even the most successful athlete has to face the reality of retirement and much sooner than someone in a less glamorous field.

For most at the top of their sports, finance is not something they will have to worry about in the future. It is doubtful that Christiano Ronaldo or Tiger Woods are going to be concerned about their income streams once they finally quit competing at the top level.

However, there are other aspects to being a sports star that can be overlooked, and the loss of these can have a severely detrimental effect on the athlete..

Strict Routines 

For most of the athletes life they have been guided by a strict routine of training, sleeping, eating and repeating this over and over. For many of them, very little existed outside of this routine. Everywhere they looked there was a trainer, coach, manager or some other person to remind them what to do, where to go and what was happening next. Even for the amateur athletes such as Ireland’s GAA stars, the routine was all encompassing. When you retire – the routine is gone – and quite often the athlete is left not knowing what to do with themselves.

For some there is the possibility of coaching, or even TV punditry, writing for the local or national papers. Some even transition to other avenues of celebrity – Arnold Schwarzenegger going from body builder to movie star to politician. However for most who have dedicated their live to sport there has been little or no preparation for life after sports.

After The Applause Has Ended?

So what does an athlete do after the end of the applause? Where do they go after the last ovation and they leave the field of battle for the last time? Are they prepared for the feeling of emptiness that can hit them?

As Dean Windass put it I felt I had no purpose any more, I had nothing to get up for. When you have been the equivalent of a modern day Hercules, a hero to many, what do you do when it ends?

These are the questions that need to be addressed by every athlete as they consider the end of their career.

Sports counselling Ireland offers a safe, non-judgemental place to explore these issues. We can help you to understand and deal with issues such as depression and anxiety. Our service is confidential and staffed by professionally trained counsellors.

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