Former athletes are often very well-qualified for various other jobs. For instance, the experiences an athlete has working toward a common goal with a team could serve them well later as a business owner.
That doesn’t mean athletes don’t struggle after retirement. The career of most sports pros typically ends much earlier than an average person’s career. Transitioning into a dramatically new role at a relatively young age can be challenging.
It doesn’t have to be. With some planning, athletes can prepare themselves for life after retirement. The following tips will help.
Research Other Fields
Of course, the first step is to choose what type of career you’d like to pursue after you retire from sports.
You need time to conduct research. How do you break into your chosen industry? What qualifications do you need? Are there ways you can leverage your current role to help you succeed in your next career? The transition to the next step will be much smoother if you decide on a career beforehand and give yourself the time to research it.
There’s a good chance your post-retirement income won’t immediately match what you made as an athlete. It might reach (or even exceed) that level later, but you can’t expect to make the same amount of money you always have as soon as you step into a new role.
A financial advisor can assist you with investing or setting aside enough money to keep you afloat during the transition period. Financial stress can make filling a new role harder than it already is. Invest wisely, however, and you can concentrate on launching your new career.
Find Happiness in Other Areas
Professional athletes who have been through the retirement experience (and have seen their peers go through it too) often warn current sports stars to avoid equating their identity with their role on the field.
When you contribute to a team’s success, it can become easy to think of yourself as an athlete and nothing more. As a result, depression and stress can develop after you’re no longer playing professionally.
Don’t fall prey to that mentality. Take the time now to identify other qualities you have that define who you are. The way you relate to loved ones, your overall work ethic, your passions—all can be sources of pride. Focusing on them now helps you to maintain a sense of personal identity after retirement.
Being a professional athlete often means your personal life is under public scrutiny from time to time, which can be intrusive. However, it can also represent an opportunity.
An athlete who gets in trouble with the law, shares offensive material on social media, or otherwise participates in the kind of behavior that attracts negative public attention will have a difficult time leveraging their fame to their advantage after retirement.
On the other hand, if you use the attention you get now to cultivate a positive personal brand, you’ll find it’s much easier to land sponsorships, sportscaster jobs, and the like post-career.
Retired athletes all face similar challenges. Thus, they’re often willing to help one another make the transition to new careers.
Reach out to any peers you know who’ve found success in new roles. In a very practical way, networking with them can help you to secure job opportunities ahead of time. From an emotional perspective, they can also provide guidance in areas such as adjusting to life out of the spotlight.
Don’t Expect Immediate Success
Experts point out the average professional athlete needs approximately three years to adjust to post-retirement life. During those first three years, you might spend a decent amount of time exploring new roles before you feel comfortable with this next phase of your career.
Don’t sabotage yourself by expecting a seamless and quick transition to another life path. You’ll be frustrated if you’re not realistic. Although there’s a chance you’ll thrive immediately, you shouldn’t expect to. Being honest with yourself helps to guard against any feelings of devaluation that might occur if you set your expectations too high.
This tip won’t apply to everyone. Someone reading this might be several years into their professional career.
However, new athletes should remember something very important: you don’t know when you’ll retire. You might have a plan, but that doesn’t mean everything will go according to it. There are simply too many factors you can’t control, such as an unexpected career-ending injury.
That’s why you need to start preparing for retirement now. Hopefully, you’ll stay in the game exactly as long as you planned, but if not, you’ll be ready.
Life can be extremely fulfilling after retirement. You just need to make sure you’re prepared for it.