A Back-Up Plan Is Just The Starting Point For Transitioning Athletes
I recently spoke with a coach at one of the local colleges in Nashville, from which I am a former student-athlete and alumni, about his philosophy regarding an athlete’s transition to life after sports. I asked him what he tells his players about the topic and he said the same thing that most in his position usually do: student-athletes, and athletes in general, need to have a plan to fall back on in case a playing career does not work out.
As an athlete facing this transition, it is easy to look back and realize that you did everything you were supposed to – earned a degree, new professional clothes and a job right out of school. Now that your playing days are over, you are going to work every day just like everyone else, but something is missing. The problem is that you hate what you’re doing and find yourself working for the weekend. What do you do now?
If your main focus in college was on your sport, chances are you did not really put that much thought into having a back-up plan. When in the moment, it is completely normal to focus on your sport and the season at hand. However, as your career winds down it is important to have options for what is next. Often times college athletes want to major in a certain field, but it conflicts with their sport’s schedule so they have to change majors in order to accommodate both academics and athletics. In this case, while their athletic needs were met, their interests were not, so they decide to major in something they are not really passionate about just to get by instead of choosing something based on their values – their back-up plan was not very well thought out.
A back-up plan is intended to be exactly what it sounds like – you fall back into this option if your first one does not work out. Even if you thought it was something that you might want to do when your playing career was over, it does not mean that you have to stay there. Some people think that when it comes to a back-up plan you must stick with it. However, that is not the case – a back-up plan is just a starting point.
As a recent college graduate, your first year (or two) is an opportunity for you to see if where you ended up is where you actually want to be. If not, you are certainly able to try your hand at something else. If you have the ability and the resources, maybe you decide that you want to go back to school. At this point, all of your options are open – you should not feel stuck.
After a couple years it is also fair to say that you might have outgrown your first job. Maybe it is your first one right out of college and you took it because you had bills to pay and other responsibilities that needed to be handled. However, you have grown both mentally and professionally, so it is now time for you to spread your wings and move on to another opportunity. This is all perfectly normal and okay!
If you find yourself feeling stuck in your back-up plan and are ready for the next step, here are a couple of things you can do:
- Look at a different department within your current organization,
- Think about changing careers, or
- Start a side business
This list is definitely not exhaustive and each of these suggestions has its own pros and cons, but if you are feeling stuck the first thing you should do is develop a plan. Any action is better than sticking with the status quo, as your sanity is priceless.