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What Athletes Go Through After Retiring From Sports – From Depression To Acceptance

  • 15-20% of the retiring athletes need a psychologist's help
  • Starting a new life is hard
  • Find out what athletes go through after retiring from sports!
What athletes go through after retiring from sports

There is a saying that athletes die twice in their lives. The additional time is when they retire. For an athlete, one of the scariest things is an unexpected break, injury, or just the inevitable aging. According to surveys, one in six professional athletes experiences psychological, social, financial, or relationship problems after retiring. Many fall into depression which brings forth self-esteem troubles and identity disorder. Due to retiring from the pro-athlete lifestyle, 15-20% of them need a psychologist to help them settle into their new lives. What athletes go through after retiring from sports? Let’s find out!

The human body reaches its peak in its 20s. Then the state of the muscles and bone structures stay stable for a long while, and then gradual stagnation occurs. It is no wonder why the desire to push forward as much as possible in their twenties is most of the athletes’ sole focus. The thought that a better, younger, or stronger athlete comes is always present. Though, this outlook and nature, which help them become the best, are the cause for taking retirement hard.

What Athletes Go Through After Retiring From Sports

In a study, long-distance runners between 25 and 60 talked about how they experienced racing and coped with retirement. They highlighted four main factors. Finishing professional sports is just the end of a chapter. The need to change their attitudes and long-term thinking. The fourth is that victory cannot be the only and primary goal anymore. This result points to the theory that the search for the meaning of life is one of the most intense driving forces in our lives. This can be especially hard for athletes who have not socialized outside the sports community. 

What athletes go through after retiring from sports
Picture Source: Stockvault

What athletes go through after retiring from sports? The above research confirms that it is necessary for retiring athletes to form a new perspective and shift the focus to other challenges. Of course, this is easier said than done, but fortunately, there are many good examples. Like, when an athlete has already, in addition to their careers in sports, has built a different business too. For example, an Olympic and world champion opened a restaurant shortly after retiring in 2002. Also, he holds several official positions in sports.

Physical and Emotional Changes

When hours of training become part of your daily routine, your body will adapt to it. For athletes, preparing for a race and racing in itself produces adrenaline levels that are very difficult to reproduce after they stop competing. In addition, regular exercise largely influences daily serotonin production. So this also leads to mood swings after cutting back on the intensity of an active lifestyle. So what athletes go through after retiring from sports? It takes time to normalize the chemical processes in the body, but in the meantime, the athlete will experience many physical and emotional changes. It also takes time to find their place in the world again. So these phases are usual, don’t worry!

New Identity

Retired athletes often experience emptiness after being done with competitive sports. For instance, the Olympic champion Ian Thorpe publicly undertook his depression after retirement. A professional competitor needs to master a new way of thinking for the long term. Since retirement doesn’t happen overnight, they have some time to deal with it. Ideally, an athlete must plan ahead of time and see themselves in the future as a non-pro athlete. 

What athletes go through after retiring from sports
Picture Source: MaxPixel

However, what if the retirement is unavoidable, not due to aging but to an injury? It is always easier to leave voluntarily rather than unexpectedly. If we interpret retirement as loss, a planned one is similar to the process of grief. When someone has time to prepare for the inevitable, it helps settle into the new life. While a forced farewell is like when trauma strikes and the shock comes with an elemental force. A player with a permanent injury needs much more time than an aging athlete to process the sudden and final change. The new life and changes will bring about a new identity. Again, time is the essence. It’s not bad, just different. One of the best qualities we have is the ability to adapt.

Accepting Finality

It can’t be easy for an athlete to grow old. The ideal athlete is fit-looking, energetic, and dealing with aging is not part of general thinking. Getting older often means decline and loss. An athlete embodies strength and youth, and in many sports, performance comes before the person. An athlete represents a nation. They need to feel proud to become one with the sport and own it. Hence, growing old means detaching themself from the expected, idealized athlete, which is also a complicated emotional process. There is no doubt that people accept and value older athletes since we all are in the same boat. However, aging is general, so athletes are no exceptions. 

What athletes go through after retiring from sports
Picture Source: Flickr

In modern cultures, becoming old equals losing one’s abilities, while in most old-fashioned countries, age means wisdom. When someone gets older, they are afraid of being forgotten, and indeed, newer athletes replace the former professionals. Is it true? Test yourself! In the light of the upcoming event, do you remember the youngest Winter Olympics athletes? By the way, you can place bets on it at Betmaster Sportsbook. Even if their names and achievements won’t fade in the public eye, they will leave the spotlight. That is why it would be crucial for retiring athletes to combine success and the love of sports internally rather than expecting recognition from the outside. Although, if someone needs love from fans, thankfully, we live in the era of social media. Find more articles on how social media affects athletes and fans at online sportsbook news sites in the UK.

What Athletes Go Through After Retiring From Sports – Retiring Is Not The End

Throughout their career, athletes are constantly working to push their boundaries more and more to achieve better results. So they will show constant improvement. A better time, stronger throw, more scores. Which gradually starts to disappear when you can no longer outdo yourself. The hardest thing in this may be that you have to accept your limits, whether they come with age or in the form of stagnant performance.

What athletes go through after retiring from sports
Picture Source: PxHere

What athletes go through after retiring from sports? Those who build a so-called dual career, and have a stable background, move more smoothly into a new phase of life because not everything is lost after retiring from sports. An athlete needs to have attachments outside of sports. Plans and support systems serve as safety nets. It comes in handy, especially when the ground falls out from underneath their feet unexpectedly. 

Social support is also vital because part of an athlete’s identity is also linked to their outstanding physical and mental abilities. However, due to their schedule, they can’t always have both stable careers and relationships. Which may lead to developing emotional problems. An accepting environment is a foundation for helping an athlete become average in the best sense of the word. Since the change is final, and final things seem scary at first, the help of a psychologist is probably the best idea. After the worst period is over, the sun will shine brightly again.

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