For many of you out there who have devoted much of your life’s purpose in training to be the best and most competitive athlete in your sport, “saying goodbye” to your sport is most likely one of the hardest things you will ever do. Sports, at the most competitive level, can become a part of us in a way that they feel more like a part of “who we are” than “what we do.”
So, to those of you out there who have experienced the difficulty of maintaining your sense of self and/or creating new meanings in a life outside of sports, this post is for you!
Setting Goals that Don’t Pertain to Sports.
As highly competitive athletes, we often develop a strong “goal-setting” mentality that, for many of us, has applied directly to our desired outcomes in sports. We can become so practiced at setting goals specific to our sport that we forget that many of the same approaches that led to our success in sports can be applied directly to the real world.
If we take the time to shift our time and energy toward new goals and invest our time in learning the process of others who have had success in our new ventures, we can utilize the global skill of goal-setting to propel us forward in the life after sports.
Confidence, Identity, and a Renewed Sense of Self.
Many of us invest so much into our sport that we begin to identify primarily as an athlete above any other role in our lives. We derive much of our overall confidence and sense of self from our athletic status, our accomplishments, and our performance trends. We aren’t an individual who happens to play golf, volleyball, football, or other. We are, for example, a “golfer,” a “volleyball player,” a “football player,” or other.
Saying goodbye to our sport means we also lose a deeply ingrained part of who we are and can find ourselves having to establish a new sense of self as a “retired athlete,” “former athlete,” or, worse, a “has-been.” It is important during our time as athletes that we stay well-grounded in aspects of our identities that extend beyond sports so that retirement doesn’t mean we say goodbye to the athlete as someone we “used to be.”
Maintaining Health and Fitness Habits “Just Because.”
A primary component of being a competitive athlete involves training our bodies to perform at the highest level. As athletes, physical training, nutrition, and other injury prevention/health habits are simply part of the athlete job description. Many athletes struggle to find the motivation and discipline to carry out health and fitness habits without the presence of teammates, trainers, and specific athletic goals that often help to keep us grinding.
You don’t have to go through the struggles of creating a life after sports alone. My hope is to acknowledge the difficulty of saying goodbye to your sport and continuing on in your life after sports!