Hi & welcome back to the final article in this Athlete Transition Series.
Today, we’re going to take a deeper look at key areas required for athletes to successfully transition into the next phase of their lives.
The purpose of this series is to investigate, educate and provide key takeaways to the unique challenges facing an athlete. Ultimately it’s to provide guidance and support to ensure all athletes use their unique skill sets successfully in the next phase of their lives for their own well being and to make a positive contribution to their families, communities and society.
So, let’s get into it.
As I mentioned in my previous articles the difficulty that athletes face in transition are highlighted because of additional factors such as limited working experience, a very narrow and specialised skill set, a loss of identity, a sense of personal control, and occupational re-adjustment.
As well as those factors, one of the biggest factors to successful transition is to provide a sense of closure for their sporting career, before embracing the next. And depending on how an athlete finished their career will lead to that closure. For example –
- Were they cut or traded?
- Was it due to declining performance?
- Was it due to age?
- Was it due to injury?
- Was it to take care of an ill family member?
Coming to terms with how an athlete’s career ended will help provide closure and acceptance of that phase of their life. This can’t be overlooked, because if an athlete has not come to terms with how their career finished, it will only provide a sense of an unresolved ‘what if’. With the unique mindset of athletes, ‘what if’ are challenges. It’s the very question that has driven and exhausted additional training and personal improvement to fuel them to the pinnacle of their sport.
It’s important to take an athlete through their sporting endeavours, achievements, and avenues they have exhausted to accept their career for what it was and remove any ‘what if’s’. An athlete must come to their own terms, acknowledging their effort, achievements and accomplishments, before they can commit and embrace the challenges of crafting a new fulfilling purpose and career that lay ahead.
In order for an athlete to transition and flourish post career, they will require 3 core features, and 3 of the six additional features listed below;
- Positive emotions,
- Development of a new meaning/purpose
- Positive self- esteem
- Positive relationships
So how do we get there?
Creating positive emotions is vital as it leads to accomplishing core features 2, and 3. Hence, acceptance of their sporting careers and how they’ve finished is a key component in achieving this.
The second core element is engagement and interest. Exploring an athlete’s passions, looking at interests that genuinely excite and ‘fill them up’. Listing these and exploring them in greater detail will help provide enthusiasm, and a sense of direction. From there it’s examining how these passions could possibly lead into a life long purpose, an industry, a business interest or career. Once a passion has been identified, and categorised, it’s then developing a plan and determining what is required to make this a reality, which drives the third core element, development of a new meaning/purpose.
In a perfect world, and when things are going well, an athlete, like most of us, will have all six of the additional features on the flourishing scale. However during transition, at least three of the six additional features of the flourishing scale will vary. They may not realise this because its second nature, but athletes naturally have resilience, self determination, and vitality, even during the darkest of times. Positive self esteem, optimism and positive relationships can be trying, as athletes closest friends are those who they trained and competed with. Once disassociated from that secure environment and their daily routine, the characteristics of positive self esteem, optimism and positive relationships can take a hit during the transition phase. However, once the development of a new meaning and purpose is created, new relationships will be formed, leading to further optimism and greater positive self esteem and sense of belonging to their new chosen endeavour.
Keep in mind, it’s common for athletes to struggle with the transition into retirement, and the next phase of their lives; however, by seeking professional services, support from family, friends, and colleagues they will be able to accept the conclusion of their career as a successful professional athlete, and transition their skills to thrive in the next phase of their lives.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this article and the athlete transition series. While the articles provide a basic overview of the detailed manner and issues of athlete transition, I hope the information is informative and helps athletes, sporting administrators and coaches understanding the challenges that lay ahead.
If you are an athlete, a parent of an athlete, sport administrator, or coach and wish to engage Stride to work with and begin putting support services in place for your athletes post career, or seeking support yourself, I’d love to hear from you
Thanks for your time, and as always if you have any comments, please leave them below.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Aaron Tenabel is the owner and founder of Stride Life Coaching. An ex professional swimmer and elite coach, Aaron now uses those experiences and skills to empower individuals and teams to reach their ultimate success.