Managing Your Mental Health After Sports Retirement

Life after sports can be very difficult for not only professional athletes, but all athletes to cope with. Between transitioning into another career, developing new life skills, building new relationships and leaving behind a sport you have played the majority of your life, it can all be very hard to manage at once.

Maintaining and taking care of your mental health has to become a major priority, as many athletes fall into depression, confusion and helplessness after their playing career ends. There are multiple reasons why this happens so often, but below are three of the main reasons why athletes have so much difficulty with retirement and how to prevent depression and negativity.

No. 1: Professional athletes miss the “success” factor of their sport

Recognition, adoration and fame are things professional athletes live for. However once retirement hits, all of these things lessen and athletes are left dealing with how to attain the same status as they did through sport. They often miss the thrill, attention and camaraderie that they think they can only get from playing sports.

No. 2: Lack of purpose, passion and identity

You can easily understand how fulfilling it would be to strive at your passion professionally and get paid millions of dollars to do so. During an athlete’s competitive years, their whole world is about their passion (their sport). In retirement, they struggle to find purpose, other passions and their identity as they withdrawal from something that ruled their meaning of life for so long.

No. 3: Most retire on a low

Think about the cause of retirement for most athletes. They usually retire due to injury or when their performance suffers due to age. Most athletes don’t retire under their own terms. This already puts a harmful air around retirement, and instead of enjoying their newfound freedom, they fall into self-pity and negativity.

NBA mental health
Mental health illness issues get swept under the rug too often in sports.

So, as an athlete how can you bridge the gap between sport and retirement?

  1. Remember what it is like to have a dream and do it all over again. You once had a dream to reach the top of your game. find something that drives you like that and do your best to replicate it.
  2. Look for and discover new passions (family, a new sport like golf, a small business, public speaking or mentoring). Really sit down and ask yourself, “If money wasn’t involved and I could do one thing every day for the rest of my life, what would that be?” Start there and begin to figure out what else you are really passionate about.
  3. Set new and challenging goals related with your new passions for the future. Goals have pushed you your entire life. Don’t stop setting and reaching them just because sports are over. They are useful in every aspect of life.
  4. Spiritual reflection, meditation and finding other ways to stay active. These things are very important in balancing out your life and freeing your mind from every issue.
  5. Find a business or career coach. Someone who can manage this transition and help you find your way after the game. There are tons of people out there who would love to help you discover your life after sports (especially here on the VIKTRE Career Network). Take advantage when help is apparent.

Just as your physical health was important when playing your sport, your mental health is the single most important factor when transitioning into life after sports. To get through effectively, you have to able to have mental toughness, confidence and patience. Your athletic career didn’t happen all at once, and neither will this transition. Give yourself a break and learn to take each day as a new day to get a little better at being a non-athlete. Everything in life is a growing process.

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