It is September after your senior year.
You graduated a few months earlier, started a job, and moved to a new city. You have settled into your new life, but one thing is missing: a new athletic season.
Getting suited up to step out on the field or court, or dive into the pool is something you have done for as long as you can remember. No matter what changed in your life, that was the one thing that had always remained the same. Even though so many other exciting changes are happening, it feels like there is a void in your life.
Having this feeling is normal. You spent more time practicing and competing than anything else. It is a part of your identity. And you are not the only retired college athlete feeling this way. According to a recent NCAA study, three out of four student-athletes report experiencing difficulty coping with retiring from competitive sports.
Trying to figure out what you are beyond a student-athlete can be challenging, but it is essential for growth.
Now that your sporting career is over, here are a few ways to help the transition beyond athletics:
Explore New Hobbies
Being an elite-level student-athlete is highly time-consuming. Between practices, classes, recovery, and travel, there is no space for outside interests. With that now over, it is the perfect time to pick up something new that did not previously fit your rigorous schedule. Maybe it is reading books, painting, or even playing another sport. Pursue it. Participating in other activities will be a great way to take your mind off the transition and consume your newfound free time.
There are multiple ways to get involved in sports without actually participating in them on a full-time basis. If you cherish a competitive atmosphere, try masters competitions or intramural sports leagues—you can keep playing sports with less pressure and more fun.
You can also get involved behind the scenes. Some ways to do so include volunteering at a local team, giving private lessons, or officiating.
Connect With Like-Minded People
Over 100,000 athletes graduate/exhaust their NCAA eligibility each year. Less than 2% of those athletes continue their sport at the professional level, meaning the others all face a similar dilemma every year.
Reach out to other recent retirees from your graduating class. You can all find comfort in knowing that you are not going through this change alone.
Former teammates who graduated a few years before you are also a great resource. They can provide helpful guidance based on their experience and will be happy to help.
Joining support groups on social media could be another option.
Last year, former NFL linebacker, Jelani Jenkins started Postseason, a community designed to help former athletes find purpose in life after sports. Another NFL Veteran, Freddie Scott II, has developed a similar framework through Unlock the Champion.
Utilize Athletic Department Resources
Student-athlete athletic advisors are not just for helping you register for classes. They also want to ensure that you are successful off the field, court, or pool. If you feel you are struggling with life post-athletics, reach out to them. They can guide you to resources such as support groups, mentors, professional guidance, and opportunities to stay connected to athletics besides pursuing a career in the field.
Beyond academic advisors, more schools are starting to invest in sports psychology to help student-athletes navigate mental struggles, including the transition beyond sports. Even though you may not be on campus anymore, as an alumnus/alumna, you can still connect with these advisors, and it may be highly beneficial for you to do so.
Seek Professional Guidance
Statistics show that more and more former student-athletes are having difficulty adjusting to post-sports life. And so, more and more professionals and organizations are dedicating themselves to helping with the growing problem.
Athletes to Careers is a group of career coaches—many former athletes—who help student-athletes prepare for life after sports. For example, Julie Schladitz has a consulting firm dedicated to post-athletic transition called SC Career Transition.
If you are not looking to spend the time and money associated with hiring a career coach, reading books from these professionals is an alternative.
20 Secrets to Success for NCAA Student-Athletes is an insightful book from a group of industry professionals designed to assist student-athletes with smoothly adapting to life post-college.
Former pro football players, Phil Costa and Rob Curley share tips from over 100 former elite athletes on how to successfully transition out of sports in their book, The Transition Playbook for ATHLETES: How Elite Athletes WIN After Sports.
These are two of numerous books available that focus on life beyond athletics.
After multiple decades of participating in a competitive sport, it can be tough to picture a life without it. But you cannot be an athlete forever. There will come a time when you will have to hang up the bat, cleats, or goggles. Using one of these tips could be worthwhile in helping you cope with the transition.
SE Perspective is a blog series bringing a point of view from an individual in sports. This article titled, “Your Sporting Career Is Over: What Now? ” is by Jesse Marsh. Jesse is a former Villanova swimming and diving student-athlete and team captain. And a current graduate student at Northwestern School of Journalism (Medill). Jesse is also an intern for SportsE+.
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