Life is forever changing for most people as they grow and mature. There are so many factors at play in our society that it is almost impossible to predict what the future holds. What someone may desire at a young age will most likely change as they grow and experience different things in their life. We’ve all heard the phrase “nothing lasts forever”, and this is certainly true for the athlete. There comes a point in time when the athlete can no longer participate in their sport. There may be many reasons why an athlete retires from the sport: injury, age, levels of sport, financial, just to name a few. In any case, when an athlete retires, there is a transitional period and new lifestyle changes that will occur. In this discussion, I will share my thoughts on Life After Sports, my own experiences, and how an athlete should prepare for this transition.
There comes a point in time when an athlete isn’t able to continue with their competitive career. For some, it may occur early in their career and for others may occur after many years of competing. It is certainly more difficult to transition if the retirement occurs fairly quickly in one’s career. In this case, an athlete may not have predicted it was going to happen so soon. Thus, there may have been no preparation for the transition and it becomes very challenging in many aspects as to what to do next in life. The emotional challenges may be the most difficult, especially if the athlete was prepared for a much longer and prosperous career. In these cases, the person may feel lost as what to do next.
This retirement transition may be much easier to deal with for those athletes that have had a long competitive career. In these cases, the athlete may have had the opportunity to prepare for the transition many years in advance. All long-term accomplished athletes understand how to set and accomplish goals and preparing for retirement is certainly a goal. Athletes in professional sports have a great opportunity to prepare for this transition. Due to the financial benefits of professional sports, many athletes have the opportunity to invest and prepare for a positive transition. However, it is an entirely different scenario for athletes in non-professional sports. Since these athlete’s do not get paid to compete (at least any substantial amount), the financial transition may be more of a challenge. For these athletes, there must be a plan in place for financial support after their retirement.
For many, the sport they participated in was all they knew. Their whole life was centered around training and preparing for competition. It is “who” they are and for many it is difficult to walk away from. It is common that many athletes will stay involved with their sport and participate as a coach or consultant. This would be a natural transition as they would have the knowledge in skill development and get to share their experiences with their students (The Coach: Creating the Successful Athlete). Many of the most successful coaches in sports were former athletes themselves. If a passion for the sport remains upon retirement, then coaching would be the avenue to pursue.
So how does a person prepare for an end to their sports career? First, I encourage all athletes to pursue an education in some degree or another if they have an opportunity. If not college, there are a variety of technical schools that can provide an education and professional certification that can lead into a positive career. When a person is seeking job opportunities in our society, there is a lot of competition. Companies that are hiring may have hundreds, if not thousands, of applicants applying for the position. These companies screen the applicants and those with a college degree usually are in consideration. Many companies require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree to be considered. However, with this said, if an athlete has a successful and popular reputation in the community, this will certainly open more doors than someone who is relatively unknown.
Following my retirement from gymnastics, I did not have a desire to work full-time as a gymnastics coach. I needed to explore other opportunities and step away from that environment – I think I must have been in Burn-Out mode. Since McDonald’s had hired me in a management position while I was still in training, this was a natural transition for me to pursue full time after my retirement. After several years in this career, I realized it wasn’t what I was expecting and the need to pursue another career opportunity was apparent. I had stayed involved with the sport of gymnastics and actually worked full time as a coach for several years, however, I had other desires and needed to find my professional niche.
I have always been great at networking and had developed a nice web of friends and professionals in my community. Just like anyone looking for job opportunities, I went through many job sites and had many interviews. I was certainly grinding the pavement to find the right place for me. Due to my former success as an athlete and my networking efforts, I was picked up by the marketing team at SeaWorld in Orlando and was offered a position with that department. What a great product to represent!!
After several years at this position, which was a positive and fun position to have, I still needed something different. I had always had a desire to run my own business one day and I was at a point in my life where I believed I had the experience and knowledge to make it work. I had also grown out of my burn-out stage from gymnastics and still had a passion for the sport. I was also an expert at skill development and had stayed involved as a gymnastics clinician throughout the years. So, I decided to open my own gymnastics business and pursue the next chapter of my life (Starting a Small Gym Program). I have finally found my niche and doing what I love to do, which is helping children pursue their own hopes and dreams while building confidence and healthy lifestyles.
As you can see, like so many others, I had to go through the struggles of finding my niche following my sports career. Former athletes have a great advantage in this transition because they understand what hard work and strong efforts create. We have seen many athletes retire from their sport then return after a short period of time. Many return because they still have that burning desire to participate and compete, however, there are others who return because they don’t have a path outside of their sports environment. This can be dangerous and sometimes humiliating for the athlete. The once Great athlete just isn’t the same as they grow older and may find a failing career upon their return, which may tarnish one’s reputation.
In recent years, there have been programs developed by Sports Governing Bodies and the United States Olympic Committee to assist athletes with transitioning into the workforce after retirement. These programs have been helpful for a many athletes that participated in Olympic sports, especially for those athletes who are forced to retire from some unexpected event. Even with these programs being available, the athlete should make the efforts needed to prepare for retirement from competitive sports, if it is a scheduled event. Coaches and family members are also a great asset to have in this preparation and can be a useful resource in helping find the new path to success.
There is Life After Sports and it can be a prosperous and fun life to live. Just like everything we attempt to do in our lives, it takes effort and preparation. Through a positive attitude and strong motivation, you can become anything you desire. There may be many chapters in one’s lifetime and it is the “person” who can make each chapter a great one!!
I have made it a priority to educate and help all those interested in sports- specifically in the sports of gymnastics, tumbling, cheer, dance, martial arts, and others. I have participated in the sport of gymnastics most of my life. Through many years of hard work, triumphs and failures, I have the experience and understanding of many issues that will be covered in my posts.
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