I talk a lot about easing the transition to retirement after sport because I have many friends and former colleagues who struggled to do so. I’m a firm believer in learning from the experiences & wisdom of others to better position yourself on your journey.
As an elite athlete, now very happily on the other side of competing, here are five reasons my transition was smooth, as well as practical advice to make yours smooth as well:
1) I am multi-passionate and knew that while competing
As athletes we spend so much time and effort perfecting one craft that we often neglect some of our talents and interests outside of sport. Knowing the work it takes to build a successful sports career can be translated to building in other aspects of your life, even if to a lesser degree.
I knew I could run fast, but I also knew I was gifted in school, particularly in Math & Science. I took that awareness, along with my passion for helping others, to become a pharmacist, which is a career that I truly love now 10 years later.
I’m not encouraging you to allow this exploration to be a distraction to achieving your sports goals, but to understand it as a necessary piece to being a well rounded person. Just dedicating a small amount of time daily on improving a skill set can have a profound impact on you becoming proficient, and even an expert down the line.
Tip: identify the hobbies or passion projects that you're naturally drawn to and begin spending time exploring them. Do you enjoy writing, photography, hair syling, acting, singing, creating content, or managing projects? Whatever it is, understand that it's ok to explore these interests while still being 100% committed to sport. You can be two things at once.
2) I never let my identity be fully wrapped up in being an athlete
The often cliché saying “you are more than an athlete” is something that I clung to while competing, and the sentiment is true even now in retirement as a mom that works daily to maintain my identity outside of motherhood.
When I introduce myself now, I am equally as proud to say that I’m a “retired athlete” as I am to say pharmacist, blogger, wife, mom, or any of the other titles that hold. This goes to show that despite Athletics once being a key part of my identity, it’s not the only aspect, and I’m sure the same is true for you.
We are multifaceted beings and many sports psychologists recommend using interests outside sport as an outlet and for mental health preservation. We are a sum of our parts, and thinking your sports ability is your only special talent is not only wrong, but also limiting.
Tip: remember that living and dying by your results in sport is an easy way to get burnt out which can negativly impact the longevity of your career. Regardless of what your sponsors, federation, coaches, or anyone on your team may allude to, you must remain steadfast in your belief that your worth is much greater than your athletic ability. Your sport is what you do, NOT who you are.
3) I laid the groundwork early on so retirement wouldn’t be a shock
As a 35 year old mother with another baby on the way (here’s My Pregnancy Announcement) who wears many hats with lots of responsibility, I couldn’t imagine having to do the “student-athlete grind” at this stage in my life.
And I’m glad I don’t have to.
My mother always said “never put off for tomorrow what you can do today” and these are wise words that I appreciate now more in retirement. Sacrificing a bit of free time, and mastering the art of prioritizing my days during my twenties, helped set me up for a much softer and slower pace of life right now. I’m thoroughly enjoying this space I’m in.
I had a vision of how I wanted life after Track to look so that goal was always in the back of my mind when times got rough, or when I needed extra encouragement.
Tip: there's a time and place for everything, and it's important to bear in mind that the sacrifices you make today will greatly benefit you tomorrow. Throughout different life stages you will have varying requirements and expectations but having an end goal in mind will make your day to day easier.
4) I had friends outside of Athletics that kept things in perspective
With the life of an athlete being relatively insulated from other professions, it can be easy to forget there’s so much more to life than sport. I get that you have to be laser focused on perfecting your craft while competing, but I always knew there was a balance between that and having a worldly view of life.
Having friends who were either never athletes, or ones that retired after college sport, allowed me to see them excelling in their fields and working hard to make an impact in their respective careers.
When I saw my friends, whom I respected, bring their passion to their non sports jobs, I was both motivated to be the best athlete possible, while also having an awareness that there are ways outside of sport to find purpose and fulfillment.
Tip: having respected family, friends or mentors outside of sport who are excelling in their fields can open your eyes to what a fulfilling life outside of sport looks like. Surrounding yourself with motivated and successful people, even when they're not athletes, will help you while you're competing, as well as while you're preparing for retirement.
5) I understood from day one that the lifespan of an athlete’s career is limited
I was always keenly aware that I wouldn’t be able to run forever so my goal was to get all I could out of the sport as quickly as possible, while doing so with integrity. Life has a way of exposing people who cut corners, and sport is no different, so winning the right way was always important to me. I took that along with the knowledge of an athlete’s limited lifespan to put my best foot forward daily.
I couldn’t agree more, in sports or otherwise; if you’re going to spend time doing something why not give it 100%?
Tip: No one wants to live with regrets so I encourage you to continuously give your all, while remembering that time waits for no one. This will help you stay on track every day. Rome may not have been built in a day, but every day it was built count.
As someone who has retired from sport after having a career that I was incredibly proud of, I hope that these tips are useful for you on your journey. There is peace in being able to walk away from the sport you love, on your terms, with no regrets, and approach the next chapter with excitement.
These tips can be helpful for non athletes as well.
Regardless of your life calling, it’s important to be intentional about exploring all your passions, maintaining a larger perspective, and maximizing your efforts each day. This will help you be the very best version of yourself even after you close one chapter for the next.
One thought on “The Reasons For My Smooth Sports Retirement and Tips to Help Ease The Transition”
Great tips to remember! I especially love the balance and perspective having non- athlete friends brings.