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Transition Plan

March 20, 2019

Tips for a Smooth Transition to Life After Sport

By Athletes Soul

You may have decided to end your career at the top of your game. Maybe your body started to break down and you had to retire. Or, perhaps it just happened to you and you didn’t have a choice: another competitor was better and you didn’t make the cut, or you suffered a career-ending injury.

Voluntarily or not, planned or not, whatever the reason, you got to the end of your sporting career. We all do. That’s it. Now what?

We have all asked ourselves this question at one point in life, and it can be very daunting. The good news is that there is a life after sports, and it can be as good and fulfilling as you want it to be. But this picturesque life doesn’t happen overnight and it requires some work and commitment—just like in sports. You cannot become an expert in another field without time, dedication and hard work.

It is important that you take the time to deal with your transition in order to move forward in your life. And if you don’t do so and leave some things unfinished or undealt with, it can have consequences later in life.

We have seen many athletes who didn’t take the time or wanted to break away completely from sports once it was over. But down the road, life events brought everything back to the surface and suddenly they realized it was holding them back unless they dealt with it.

For example, some athletes retired after being outperformed by others and as a consequence, they deal with low self-esteem and confidence years after their career is over. Others didn’t take the time to process their change of identity and to explore what they wanted to do in life and end up having to make a new career change five years after retirement.

Transitioning from a sport is a multifaceted process and isn’t simply just getting a new job. You are a human being with complex emotions. Embarking on a new career doesn’t eliminate the psychological and physical changes you may experience throughout the transition. 

Reading and learning about the transition before retiring can help better prepare for it. There is a lot of literature and materials available about athletic retirement as well as the process of change. You can find some information on the Athletes Soul website and/or on the website of your university, sport federation or league, etc. Discussing with former athletes who have already transitioned, reading testimonies or listening to podcasts can provide some interesting perspectives as well.

We also recommend you seek assistance from professionals or family and friends. Setting reasonable expectations, not rushing through the process and taking the time to try new things and enjoy new activities are also key elements to a smooth and successful transition.

Tips for Transition

Every athlete’s situation is different. Your transition from sport will be unique and will depend on multiple factors:

How did your transition come about? Was is voluntary or not? Did you achieve your goal in sports? Are you satisfied with your career? Did you prepare for the transition? Did you pursue an academic career? Do you have a support network and assistance from friends and family? What is your financial situation?  How did you associate with your sport? Was your whole identity linked to your sporting career?

Ideally you want to prepare for your transition well before your retirement. Psychologists agree that it should be a lifelong project initiated in childhood. But if you have not been able to prepare, all is not lost. With the help of professional coaches, sport psychologists, nutritionists, personal trainers, friends and family, you can make a smooth transition.

In addition, here are some tips from Athletes Soul to help you during your transition.

BEFORE RETIREMENT:

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Throughout your childhood and athletic career, develop interests and networks outside of sports and build a well-rounded community. Understand that your identity is not what you do, but the qualities and values you develop from these experiences that make you who you are.

A few years before retiring, invest more time in your preparation: explore interests outside of sports, enlarge your social network, participate in various events, find some internships or mingle with sponsors, etc. How can you channel your skills as an athlete to new ventures? Also consider what drives and inspires you. Working with a team? Seeing results? Competition to get to the next level? Consider what may be a good fit for you moving forward.

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Learn and familiarize yourself with the process of transition and ensure that your close friends and family also understand and know what to expect.

AFTER RETIREMENT:

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Be ready for the transition to take time and accept the need to grief your former life. It is ok to be melancholic and sometimes depressed. Be patient and accepting through this journey.

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Consider a deceleration plan especially for the areas of nutrition, exercise and sleep and establish good health habits straight away (for example, setting up a daily routine).

Create a support group of people you feel comfortable speaking to and asking for help if needed: family, friends, mentors, former teammates or coaches.

Initiate work to explore and redefine your new role. Do not skip this, as finding purpose and aligning your future projects with your core values is the foundation to your next chapter of life.

Throughout the transition, consider working with professionals who can guide you: coaches, psychologists, nutritionists, personal trainers, etc.

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Don’t forget to explore techniques and practices to support your mental health, wellbeing and spirituality such as relaxation, breathing exercises, meditation, communion, etc.