Being in the spotlight has its rewards for many athletes. The hard work and dedication put into their sport can lead to massive positive results both inside and outside of the sporting arena. Winning on the field becomes the sole purpose for athletes and sporting careers rise on the back of success. When an athlete is in the prime of their career and they are winning, life is great. The challenge occurs when winning becomes more difficult, what happens to an athlete when they are no longer able to compete like the athlete they used to be?
Currently there are many examples of athlete’s whose lives have been destroyed once the limelight faded and they could no longer be the people they once were. As spectators we struggle to understand how the athlete we once admired, who looked so at ease on the field, could become someone who found it impossible to live life on the other side of the fence. The issue is for many athletes their entire life has been about the sport they perform. They have lived and breathed their sport for so long they have very little time to focus on any other area of life.
While being so focused on one area of life has it rewards it leaves the athlete exposed when the time comes to move on from sport. This is especially difficult if the athlete isn’t prepared for life after sport. The real issue from a Psychological perspective is that the athlete’s entire personal identity has been based on their sporting ability. So long as they are performing and winning, life is great. Psychologically once they are unable to perform there is a real danger that the athlete’s entire sense of self is lost. Without a strong sense of who they are, this can cause the athlete to completely break down and become depressed, anxious and isolated.
While most athletes learn how to cope effectively with life after sport there are a number of athletes who struggle to come to terms with the end of their sporting careers. The key in supporting athletes, psychologically, with this transition is to prepare them at an early stage for life post competition. Emotionally each athlete should be encouraged and supported to have a life outside of sport. They need to be psychologically supported to have a sense of who they are as people away from their sport. They need to be taught that what they do as athletes is very different from who they are as people. The more an athlete has a better understanding of who they are off the field, the better their chance of surviving life in a post competition world.
Joel Curtis is a registered Sport Psychologist. For more information please contact Joel on 8069 4768 or firstname.lastname@example.org