Every year, millions of athletes around the world transition out of sports unprepared and ill-equipped to deal with their new life. This not only the case with professional athletes but with college students as well if their athletic dreams do not materialize as they had hoped or if they are derailed by an injury as I was. Athletes with a strong athletic identity define themselves on the basis of their sport. Their sense of worth, self-esteem, and success are all connected with being an athlete.
My athletic transition sent me into the darkest depression of my life. I lost 60 pounds in 4 weeks while making multiple attempts at suicide. Everything changed for me when I had a life-changing encounter in a psychiatric unit in Detroit, MI that gave me hope that my life had a purpose beyond sports. After years of soul searching, prayer and research, I was able to discover my purpose and build a life that I love. Now through Second Chance Athletes, I’ve been able to help other former and forgotten athletes do the same.
Listed below are five must-haves for former athletes that we’ve found to be common needs amongst the men and women whom we’ve served. We trust that you are able to cultivate these five areas as you build the life of your dreams.
Abraham Lincoln once said, “Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”
Developing good character is important because no matter how talented you are, without character, you won’t be able to sustain the success you worked so hard to achieve. There are so many athletes who have ended up with felonies, divorces and public humiliation due to their unwillingness to make developing good character a top priority.
To develop good character, find characteristics and values that you will commit to living by so that when you face decisions that could sabotage your future you will already have predetermined how you will react in a way congruent with your values.
For example, let’s say one of your core values is honesty. Then one day one of your teammates tells you how he has found a way to save a ton of money by disclosing some information on his taxes. He says he’s done it for years with other people and has never gotten caught. He tries to convince you that you should do it because he knows you need the extra money. He reassures you by telling you that his friend who is a lawyer that specializes in tax evasion said there’s no way the IRS can detect the disclosed information.
You feel pressured because you need the money. All your emotions are telling you to do it and you’re at a crossroad of what you should do. In this moment, instead of following your emotions, you follow your core value of honesty and make the decision that is congruent with your character.
Not just any career, though — a meaningful one. Having a meaningful career is a must-have because it is the only thing that will produce the fulfillment you desire from work. I know too many former athletes who transitioned into careers for the money and go through their life unfulfilled because they chased after a paycheck instead of pursuing their purpose.
You don’t have to choose between money and purpose. I’ve discovered that if you pursue your purpose the money will eventually follow.
The challenge for many former athletes getting clarity of what their new career should be is that they can’t find anything they loved more than sports.
I was there when my athletic career ended. I got sick of people asking me what my passion was and what talents do I have. I internally scream at them, “ SPORTS WAS MY PASSION. ATHLETICISM IS MY TALENT. BUT, I CAN’T DO THAT ANYMORE —OBVIOUSLY!”
I went through a dark depression because I couldn’t think of a career path that I would love as much as being an athlete. After three to five years of research, meditation, workshops, and cross-examination, I found my purpose and career path that brings me joy and fulfillment I never thought was possible.
Here are three things that helped me discover my purpose:
Closure is a comforting or satisfying sense of finality. You’ll know when you fully have closure because you’ll no longer have that internal desire to go back to your playing days. You’ll feel good about moving on.
Every week I hear from or about former athletes from all age ranges who have not gotten the closure they need to move forward with their life. They may have found a new career and started a family, but they are living their current life as if it’s second best to their former life as an athlete. Closure is a must because without it you will constantly wonder about what could have been or should have been.
We’ve developed a process to help former athletes get closure so they can more fully enjoy their life.
To get started:
Don’t judge me – quick confession on making amends
One day I saw my teammate Steve getting dressed in formal attire. I asked him where he was going since formal was not his normal dress style.
“The banquet. Aren’t you going?” he said with a puzzled look on his face.
We both knew in that moment that the coaches and administrators had forgotten to include me in our senior year-end banquet.
I acted as if I didn’t care, but it hurt me pretty deep. I bottled my anger up for almost a year until I finally went to my coach and told him what happened.
He apologized and invited me to the upcoming banquet.
So yeah… I went to my senior year-end banquet a year after I was supposed to.
Don’t judge me. It helped tremendously. We need closure.
According to our former athlete survey, camaraderie is one of the top things former athletes miss from their playing days. It's so important that you build camaraderie into your life after sports because if you don't you'll likely miss the bond you once had with your teammates. You'll miss the energy that comes from working with a group of like-minded people all striving towards the same goals. You'll miss the locker room chats and getting hype after big wins.
Whenever you’ve had such great camaraderie, the absence of it causes life to feel boring.
I remember working in an office job soon after my sports career was finished. My solution for every meeting that we had about employee engagement included smoke machines huddles and hype music. One time I even suggested a t-shirt cannon once. I spent a fourth of my workday going to each of my coworkers' office to talk. I hated the disconnected silos that existed in our workplace.
One day while I was trying to convince a fifth coworker to join me for midday pushups, she looked me in my eye and said, “why? I’m not an athlete Darryll and this isn’t sports.”
The statement struck me to the core. I realized that I was trying to recreate the camaraderie I had in sports.
It wasn’t working. It’s one of the main reasons we’ve launched our private Facebook community for former athletes. If camaraderie is something you long for request to join the Second Chance Athletes Facebook group where there are others like you who understand the challenges former athletes face and the legacy they want to leave in the earth. There’s no asking for autographs. Just networking, celebrations, camaraderie, free content and more.
Most athletes understand the importance of having a sports coach, but sometimes discount the value of having a life coach. I’ve asked some athletes why and they all usually say some form of “ I don’t need anyone to tell me how to live my life” or “ I’m not paying for therapy.”
That’s not what life coaches are — at least not good ones. Life coaches are a must have because they help you reach your full potential. They help you push beyond your limitations. They protect you from your blind spots and provide you with priceless wisdom.
Do you know what Michael Jordan, Princess Diana, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, and (insert your favorite high-achiever) all have in common? They all used coaches. Even at the peak of their careers, great leaders continue to use coaches to help them achieve more.
If you notice that one or more of these five must-haves are lacking in your life, we’ve designed a process to help you fill these areas and more.
Our transformational coaching program is designed to produce maximum results in minimal time. We support you in developing and refining the clarity and skills you need to build your best life after sports. We’ll help you confront challenges head-on and develop a plan of action to overcome areas that other athletes tend to get stuck.
To learn more about how you can benefit from our customized coaching solutions, schedule a free coaching discovery call.
“This is exactly what I needed as I am now just transitioning out of sports at the age of 40 still trying to figure out who I am and what I want to do that will fulfill me like sports did. I’m so grateful for SCA and everything they have to offer.” ~Brandon, former body-building athlete.
Although every athlete's journey is unique and challenges will vary, these five areas can help you reach new levels of fulfillment and success after sports.
You don't have to cultivate these areas by yourself. Sign up for a free strategy call to see how we can help you advance these fields to increase your impact, income, happiness and fulfillment. Whether you're recently retired from sports or have been done playing for many years, we can help you "move the ball down the field."
Let's dominate life after sports!