The hardest moment

“The hardest moment”. That is the most repeated sentence amongst ex-athletes whenever they remember the time they had to call it quits; whenever they had to give up years of training, discipline and mental, as well as physical, sacrifice. Not everyone is ready to make the overwhelming decision, as former F.C Barcelona handball goalie David Barrufet recalls. But then what? Well, Jason Hanold has previously told several stories about famous athletes and their transitions to the “normal” life: the time where a new life, away from training facilities, courts, pitches, media, fans, etc., begins. It is often heard that one of the most difficult aspects ex-athletes have to face when deciding to end their careers is the fact that they will no longer be popular nor a star. Calling it quits often is a forced decision, as it is generally preceded by being too old, or having suffered an injury, or even sickness, however, regardless of the motive, athletes must be inexorably prepared for that specific moment. Psychologists have described what athletes commonly face after retirement: a never-ending void, a feeling of everlasting isolation and sorrow. Many do not know what do to with such array of spare time, which is usually aggravated by the sheer frustration of having to pick a new profession —which could also be less tedious should they had a plan B in advance.

If there is something that ex-athletes, who have managed to succeed after retiring, seem to agree upon, is the fact that everyone, in spite of being busy pursuing a successful career in sports, should focus on developing other skills —or, better said, they should continue studying while understanding that, when the time comes, they will have to inevitably face retirement. Most athletes have no other skill than the ones required to perform at maximum intensity in their sport; moreover, once they have left the athletic lifestyle, many are inexperienced, which is why up to 94% of retired athletes seem to fondly consider remaining connected to sports, since they feel more comfortable and it is a field that becomes an extension of their natural competitive instinct. According to a recent survey, ex-athletes usually disregard any other option aside from remaining connected to sports, as they can continue developing their skills while helping others achieve their dreams. Nevertheless, there are others who decide to try unexplored fields, like politics: Arnold Schwarzenegger, for instance, ran for governor of California and went on to succeed. Politics is something that is definitely not frowned upon by athletes, since, according to the survey, having a position in politics enables them to help develop sports as something important.

Whatever the case may be, there is something that should stay the same: athletes must strive to stay active both physically and mentally. Whenever elite athletes are facing the end of their sports career, they usually struggle to accept such plot twist, and that a new life in terms of their familiar, social and economic spheres will emerge. This shift is often drastic and hard to go through, which is why, as mentioned above, the most important thing is to have a plan B and to be ready for when the time comes —which is why the psychological training and care is crucial, since many fails at accepting their fate and fall victim of their own lack of confidence and go consequently in a tailspin, as they no longer feel part of the sports environment. There are plenty of interviews where ex-athletes stress their main concerns after retirement, and, as depicted above, almost all of them are embodied in post-career identity issues: many athletes are known for their achievements, but who are they once they retire? It is something heard amongst them.

In order to cope with the struggle, those who have successfully embraced the transition have previously stressed out the importance of staying healthy and performing physical activities, since it has been proven that giving up trainings have a tremendously negative impact on the body —it is important for athletes to get rid of the accumulated tension they have gathered, consequence of their years of extreme physical activity. Additionally, retired athletes are prone to suffering cardiovascular issues and diseases such as arterial hypertension, obesity, arrhythmia, etc., which is why is recommended to keep training moderately. However, the main issue comes down to having a general outline for retirement: many have stressed the difficulties athletes face whenever they try to fit the working life, as mentioned above, and the most valuable advice is embodied in the necessity for athletes to pair the sports life with other activities that could help them develop another set of skills for when the time comes, thusly making the transition much easier and less dramatic. Overcoming the hardest moment is all about planning.