It is often said that a sports star will die twice, the first time at retirement. For elite athletes who have dedicated their lives to sport, what happens when your time comes to an end, if you aren’t an athlete, then who are you?

Elite athletes train extensively for years, in many cases, consuming the majority of their young lives, often making extensive personal sacrifices in order to pursue their dreams of glory. These may include making huge financial sacrifices, moving away from family to train full-time in academies, calling time on their academic studies and sacrificing personal or romantic relationships. For many athletes, retirement is a concept that they do not wish to think about in great detail. However, whether they have achieved Olympic glory or failed to reach the pinnacle in their sport that they had aspired to, all athletes’ careers will eventually come to a close, whether this is through age, injury or exhaustion.

However, what happens to these athletes once they leave the days filled with rigorous training, the extensive time spent travelling and the buzz and adrenaline of competing? This is the time in their lives where they may be susceptible to depression. Team GB Olympic Champion cyclist, Victoria Pendleton, expressed her extreme relief of retirement after the London Games, citing that she couldn’t wait to go on to new ventures in her life and was much happier now that the pressure of competing was no longer a burden. However, not all athletes will enter retirement with such ease and willingness, many will struggle with adapting to a “regular life” where they are no longer in the limelight and perhaps in their eyes, become forgotten members of society. Sport career termination induces dramatic changes in athletes’ personal, social and occupational lives, this can in turn potentially affect individuals cognitively, emotionally and behaviourally (Taylor & Ogilvie, 1994). The social and professional changes induced by retirement from sport can in effect cause distressful reactions (Allison & Meyer, 1988; Lavallee, Gordon, & Grove, 1997). These retired athletes express a feeling of emptiness in their lives (Stambulova, 1997) and one of the main stakes of this transition is to therefore reconstruct and adjust themselves on the basis of a new life style.

The transition that is made by professional athletes from a full-time athletic career to that of retirement has received considerable comments in the sports media, however, it only in recent years that it has warranted formal academic study. Schwenk et al. (2007) stated that the transition is often found to be difficult because of the sudden cessation of intense demands of elite athletic performance, compounded by the sudden loss of the athlete’s intense devotion to professional athletic competition and its attendant rewards.

Multiple Olympic swimming champion Ian Thorpe, Celtic FC Manager Neil Lennon and double Olympic Champion Dame Kelly Holmes are just a few of the high profile athletes who have made their depression public after their retirement from professional sport. Andrew Flintoff, Paul Gascoigne and Frank Bruno are a further few who have been afflicted by the illness and have been open and willing to share their issues to help raise the profile of depression in athletic retirement.

Boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard famously quoted, “Nothing could satisfy me outside the ring… there is nothing in life that can compare to becoming a world champion, having your hand raised in that moment of glory, with thousands, millions of people cheering you on.” Leonard’s struggles with retirement were well documented, leading him to suffer from extreme bouts of depression and eventually making repeated comebacks. However, for some, the depression becomes all too encompassing and over the years, there have been a number of cases of athlete’s committing suicide following their retirement from professional sport. This includes the shocking story of Russian judoka Elena Ivashchenko, who is believed to have committed suicide following depression brought on by her failure to win gold at the 2012 games.

What exactly is it that often leads retired professional athletes to spiral into depression once they leave the days filled with rigorous training, the pressure of competition and the glory days behind them?

Loss of Identity

An individual’s identity may contain numerous dimensions, however, it is possible for one in particular to become dominant or preferred and a lens through which the others are viewed. Athletic identity is described as the degree to which an individual identifies with the athlete role and looks to others for acknowledgement of that role (Brewer, Van Raalte, & Linder, 1993). The neglect or atrophy of other roles as a consequence of the ascendancy of a single role may therefore expose the individual to subsequent identity issues. It has been hypothesised that the loss of a preferred or dominant role may subsequently effect a person’s overall self-concept (Markus, 1977;Stryker,1978).

Lavallee & Grove (1997) identified that individuals with a high athletic identity at the time of retirement were more likely to experience a higher degree of  emotional adjustment difficulties. Bill Cole, a world-renowned peak performance coach who has worked with many athletes who have struggled to come to terms with their retirement, noted that an important factor was this profound sense of loss in their lives that athletes may experience after putting their competing days behind them.

Tunnel Vision Syndrome

A “tunnel vision syndrome” affects many elite athletes to varying degrees at some stage of their careers. It is often the case that coaches, parents, professional sports agents and general managers are able to see it, however, athletes who are unaware that they suffer from tunnel vision spend far too much time thinking only of training, competition and results. As a result, athletes are left ill-prepared for the balanced perspective required of “real world” career opportunities. Britain’s double Olympic rowing champion James Cracknell stated, “I think people suffer from depression after retiring from sport because they aren’t sure where to apply that focus…there is a lot of focus and a lot of selfishness in sportsmen.” Athletes often cannot see their lives following another career path and as soon as the dreaded retirement looms, with this, brings a void that the comfort of a training routine once filled.

Potential Biological Factors

Bill Cole also noted the importance that biological factors may play in an athlete who is struggling in their retirement. Athletes have had regular doses of serotonin daily for many years, when this is suddenly decreased or stopped outright, we see a huge upset to the chemistry of the body. A causal link between an imbalance in serotonin levels and depression has been explored by a number of researchers, however, more research in retired athletes posits exploration.

What Next?

There are a number of ways that athletes can help to reduce the chances of depression after retirement from sport, these include:

  1. Reduce your exclusive identification with your sporting role and expand your self-identity to other pursuits
  2. Discover interests and competences for other activities beyond sport (perhaps considering coaching or the mentoring of other athletes)
  3. Acquiring stress management and time management skills (such skills will represent tools that help you better reconcile sport with your other roles)
  4. Encourage strong relationships with coaches, family, friends and managers who care about your sporting success as well as your personal growth. Being supported by significant others to consider other avenues in life will help you keep an open mind and diversify your identity
  5. Consult with a sport psychologist to help explore further avenues and adaptation techniques

Athletes by nature are mentally tough individuals and are often perceived by the public to be fitter, healthier and happier than others. It is this attitude and stereotyping that can make it more difficult for them to approach someone for help. Therefore it is highly important for close family, friends, team mates and coaches to understand that depression cannot always be seen and the athlete may indeed never admit to how they feel for fear of shame and embarrassment. The most important take home message is to understand that despite their incredible success in their hard-fought and dedicated careers, the process of retirement is a difficult one and it is in this time that social support and communication is of vital importance if the athlete is to avoid the dreaded post-retirement blues.

 

71 responses to “Life after sport: Depression in the retired athlete”

  1. […] Why do some athletes suffer with depression after retirement? http://t.co/6ZBR8Elknn  […]

  2. […] To view Emma Vickers article on “Life After Sport” and full links to http://www.sportinmind.com… […]

  3. […] A great article about the life of a pro athlete the dedication the sacrifices and the glory. Being away from my family this Thanksgiving to ski and train made this article hit even closer to home Athlete article […]

  4. […] Depression in athletes after retirement is becoming a heavily studied topic, with psychologists believing that the number of sacrifices and the amount of whole-life commitment required to be an elite athlete can leave a jarring hole after retirement. Read more here. […]

  5. […] other than train and focus on the upcoming games, life after sports can be aimless or result in depression. The same argument can be made for collegiate athletes who have spent their formative years being […]

  6. […] “It is often said that a sports star will die twice, the first time at retirement. For elite athletes who have dedicated their lives to sport, what happens when your time comes to an end, if you aren’t an athlete, then who are you?” – Emma Vickers […]

  7. […] who some falls into bankruptcy after retiring and there are also number of players commit suicide (http://www.thesportinmind.com/articles/life-after-sport-depression-in-retired-athletes/ […]

  8. […] is a very good article about depression in athletes after […]

  9. Julie says:

    Very thorough & detailed article :) I believe all of the above reasons are contributing factors and make retired athletes depressed or longing for the career they just successfully completed. Athletes are given a taste of the forbidden fruit (praise, admiration, fame, success, adrenaline rush, etc) and I’m sure it takes a toll on them when they no longer see the prize looming ahead. I just hope athletes realize that they are worthy with or without their sport & still amazing people through & through <3 Most of them have very charismatic and lovable personalities so they are not lacking anything in the personality department! Such kind and genuine characters I swear

    • Livi says:

      Retired athletes that are married can hurt their loved ones believe me being on the receiving end it’s like living in HELL

  10. Elliot says:

    i was a full time Great British athlete…

    I retired as a result of stress and for 5 years fought depression and attempted several comebacks to be wiped out by depression for no apparent reason as it was going well. I can’t really even begin to describe how disappointing it was as I had a belief I was destined for Olympic glory and that if I just tried “one more time” my mind would let up and I could push through the stress….after all facing anxiety gets through it right?! I tried again recently to no avail. To add insult to injury through my illness I developed late onset of OCD which combined with retirement left me seriously contemplating suicide.

    On my first retirement I got a part time job in a shop… I HATED it!!!. I’ve grown up with packed stadiums, speed, a schedule which I chose and in the end i quit my job because I was horrified at how dissatisfying it was and couldn’t for the life of me understand why anyone would want to do that. I felt for years that the world had interrupted in my god given destiny to win the Olympic games….oh the injustice!!!! I was for years holding my head in my hands thinking f*** I need to be a major success in something to replace/avenge what was taken from me. I was baffled as to how some of my role models have worked through the worst issues and I was devastated my brain would not just pull itself together for all the affirmation and fighting through tough times in the world.

    After my worst bout of illness I discovered art as therapy. I also discovered poetry and dancing. I’m 30 now and want to see how far I can go in one of these areas but regardless of my successes or failures the main point is I’ve found other pursuits I can enjoy and express the fire and energy and ambition I had in sport. Of course sometimes I reflect on sport and think “I should of pursued a creative career earlier” but I have full belief in myself that I can do this regardless of my age and that this will still happen if I possess enough talent. I truly believe if my gift is art, poetry, drama ect I will still discover it with time and effort.

    I can also work part time now without feeling I’m throwing my life away so somebody in a high chair somewhere can exploit my time. I still feel that nobody should have to do anything they’re not passionate about, though I accept sometimes there’s a middle ground where some of your time is ok to just be ok with doing something a bit mundane so long as it pays well enough to eat good food and buy the things necessary for your own pursuits.

    But in the midst of all this I have realised I am valuable without all the success and that I can perhaps live without my destiny being to be world famous or a huge success. There’s an element of growth and acceptance in athletic retirement and with perseverance and openness to growth and possibility the retired athlete can still win even if for a few years they felt life left them with nothing but themselves. Even if you end up happy working in a little shop. You are still worth it, Just for being your own personality and things will change again when it is your time again. Change is inevitable. We as athletes ended up there because we were driven, talented and ambitious…so have faith you will find something where that continues…

    Understand you may feel angry, raged, hopeless, like you were denied of your true potential but also understand you will have other skills and pursuits you can be equally successful in and who knows…

    Final tip. Post retirement, Go travelling and go to lots of classes to find what you like. Find out how people live and find where you belong for this next chapter!

    • Annie Bee says:

      I just wanted to let you know how helpful what you said is to me. I’ve recently taken a step back due to personal disagreements with my sport, as well as injury, and now I’m struggling to figure out where my place is and coping with physical pain. It’s really hard starting over and the OCD sucks.

    • Elliot says:

      Hi, What is your sport? I’m glad I could help someone I didn’t know!

      • Klaudia Malenovska says:

        Elliot. I would love to chat with you. I am also a former athlete and starting a blog about this topic. What to do after. I was a tennis player and it seems that you found your inner peace? would be great for people to hear some tips.

    • Jess says:

      Hey Elliot! Thanks for sharing! I used to be a pretty high level distance runner, started spiralling downhill after setting a national record, again for no reason — mostly due to fatigue from years of training. It’s really good to hear your sharing and it gives me this unsaid approval that it is okay to not be ‘great’ and that it is just perfectly okay to be happy in our own terms. Change is indeed inevitable. Take care!

    • callan hodson says:

      great story man, well done, im doing an essay about the impacts of being forced to retire, the mental impacts mostly. So depression, anxiety are two big ones? Any other important things i should write about? only got 700 words, Oh also the “tunnel vision”, how you saw a store job was a waste of time, and thought sport was the only option?

    • @disqus_Cx2QccZQXF:disqus thank you for sharing this. I feel like I’ve been through the exact same thing as you and am the same place you are. Would love to connect and learn more about your journey.

    • Kiefer Piccio says:

      That’s amazing elliot! Seriously an inspiration and I can totally relate! Would it be okay if we connect? I would love to personally hear your story if that would be okay?

      You can email me at kieferpiccio@gmail.com

      Thank you!

    • Thanks for sharing Elliot! I truly mean it. It takes a lot of courage to open up and talk about this very personal issue. I’ve been through a similar struggle after I retired from my career as an Olympic athlete, so I can totally relate with what you are saying. Anyways, I wish you the best of luck in everything that you do! You really deserve it dude.

  11. Jocelyn Ingram says:

    This is totally a thing and I say this all the time :( Except I call it post athletic stress disorder. I get flashbacks watching little kids play basketball and miss it so much!

  12. Pippa Thomas says:

    Hi,
    im a final year student at salford university making a documentary on depression in the retired athletes, it would be great if i could have a quick chat via email or phone

    • Sadie says:

      Hi,
      I’m a ballet dancer who has just retired due to injury. I’m not sure if that is what you are looking for, but I would be open to emailing a bit.

      • Kiefer Piccio says:

        Hey Sadie! I’d love to know more about the injury your facing! That ended my career as well so seriously would be an honour to hear your full story!

        You can email me at kieferpiccio@gmail.com

        Thank you!

    • Patty B says:

      There should be mandatory classes/counseling, something, geared to our high school and college athletes so they are prepared for life after their career is over. I know now what my son was going through, he was never the same man after his career was over. It came at the time the NBA was having problems, oh around 1987, 1988, somewhere around then. His option was to go overseas to continue his career. At the same time he was expecting his first child, excited about that, he chose to stay back and be there for the birth of his child, personally I think he was a little afraid of being that far away from home, facing the unknown, that’s just my thoughts. After his relationship fell apart was when his depression became obvious, drinking and drugs followed. He couldn’t pick up a basketball, he would watch BB games and see players in the game that he had played against. I feel the medical profession failed him, pretty much no health insurance, no help. He attempted suicide several times, the last time he was successful, maybe, I’ll never know if it was intentional or accidental. All I know is I lost my son years before he died. I just started today researching this epidemic after watching a Dr Phil segment with a pro baseball player going through depression and alcoholism. This is a serious subject that needs some serious addressing and glad it is now being spoken about

  13. MimiGolfer says:

    Thank you for this article. It has really clarified a lot of things for me. Since ending my sporting career (partly 2 years ago, but completely ended 1 year ago) I have battled to find a new direction and still haven’t been very successful. When I realised that I was struggling, I made attempts to seek counseling and one of the first responses I got was a back-handed comment of me merely “…going through a mid-life crisis”.

    The counseling I did end up getting was of little to no help what so ever and never approached the issue of being an athlete/sports person in retirement.

    I have sought different paths but everything I have done seemed so completely meaningless and utterly uninspiring. From being driven for so many years to be the best I can be and to only aspire to get better, I found I had nothing to focus that attention and determination on. You don’t just find something, anything, to apply it to. It has to be something that has meaning to us.

    Today I have found that traveling has helped alleviate the desperation I feel and I have found ‘tourist’ type jobs that keep me active and are relatively stress free have been really helpful. I still have no possessions so I can freely move around and I love that I am not stuck in one place.

    I don’t have vast amounts of money to be doing this, following my career, so I do need to earn money along the way. But [now] being debt free after being happy to live a minimalist lifestyle, I find that being mobile, traveling and looking forward to each new journey, has helped ease the distress. ….or maybe it could merely be distracting me from dealing with the issue at hand, but I am yet to find out I guess.

    Good luck to others that find light at the end of the tunnel in ‘sporting retirement’.

    • Kiefer Piccio says:

      Hi MimiGolfer! Thank you for sharing you story! Would love to connect with you and learn more! I too have went a similar journey!

      You can email me at kieferpiccio@gmail.com

      Thank you!

      • MimiGolfer says:

        Hi Kiefer ….if this is genuine, then I’d be happy to connect. You have written a similar message to a lot of people though, so I’m a little uncertain as to your motive?…

        • Kiefer Piccio says:

          Hey MimiGolfer,

          Of course, I completely understand where you’re coming from. The reason I wrote a similar message to everyone is because I would simply love to connect and get to know all of you amazing souls personally! It’s kind of challenging to find such passionate athletes trying to do strive something after their life from sport!

          So what can I do to prove to you that this is real?

    • Dylan Taylor says:

      Hi Mimi,

      I’m doing a project for my degree that is centred around this topic and was wondering if you would be wiling to talk to me about your experiences. I would love to hear more and it would be really appreciated. Drop me an email to dylan.childs0@gmail.com if you’re interested.

      Thanks,
      Dylan

  14. Keith Fredricksen says:

    Hello and thank you for the article. I recently made the decision to step away from coaching soccer (football for non yanks) and my experience has been awful. It’s been all I’ve ever known and the only proper job I’ve ever had. The loss of my identity and the inability to find a transition into some other form of meaningful work has left me defeated. Does anyone know of any specific help available for people in the same situation?

    • Kiefer Piccio says:

      Hi Keith! I too feel your pain! Having to lose your identity is one of the most hurtful experience anyone can go through! I personally went through that crap.
      Would love to connect with you more and hear your story! If you’re okay with that of course!

      You can email me at kieferpiccio@gmail.com

      Thank you!

  15. […] training program an athlete can extend his career and achieve better results. Not to mention the life after a professional career in sports. You definitely do not want to be one of those athletes that have a hard time walking when they end […]

  16. Liz Groth Zuhlke says:

    Tom,
    I’d be willing to help you. I stopped swimming for a D1 school after a setback with back surgery. But when I actually finished swimming in 2003, I’ve been mourning the loss ever since. I still think I’m a swimmer, and I’m not good at anything else. I’ll never be the same person. I miss my sense of community and natural easy friendships I had. I often wonder if my fellow team mates (many from around the country) are experiencing the same sort of loss. But no one seems to want to discuss it. Why is it so controversial to talk about this? If you’re still looking. Elizabeth.zuhlke@gmail.com

  17. […] strife and post-career depression are common among athletes, who experience a higher level of psychopathology overall than the general population, due to […]

  18. Klaudia Malenovska says:

    Hi Tom,

    I am starting a blog about retired athletes and I would like to know more about your dissertation. Could you please drop me an email? klaudia.malenovska@gmail.com

    • Kiefer Piccio says:

      Hey Klaudia! I would love to read your blog and get to know your sporting journey if thats okay? I am an avid fan of hearing athletes stories you see.

      My email is kieferpiccio@gmail.com

  19. Anna Ringsred says:

    Hi everybody,

    Thank you for your discussions. I have never commented on anything in my life, but I felt compelled to comment here. The article above made me sob. It hit every chord of sorrow that I have felt every day for the past two years.

    I was an Olympic speedskater. Was or am? I don’t know if I am allowed to still call myself an Olympic athlete. At any rate, I competed in Sochi 2 years ago. I was planning to retire afterwards, but the experience was so amazing that I had decided to go for one more year. Two weeks later, I crashed during a world cup and got a serious concussion. I couldn’t exercise for over a year and could hardly hold a conversation. It was the darkest year of my life. I didn’t want to accept that skating was over, so I didn’t. I kept thinking that I would make a comeback. Two years later, I still sort of want to make a comeback, but am still plagued by headaches. It breaks my heart and kills my soul. I don’t know what to do with my life. I have tried multiple things – worked a “career” job, now back in school doing my Masters, but nothing gives me the same joy that I had while I was an athlete. I feel a huge void where skating used to be. It doesn’t help when people keep asking me if I am going to “try to go for another one.” Every time I hear that I feel myself grasping at straws, thinking maybe they are right! Maybe I will try again! But I know that I can’t. And then I spiral down again into depression…

    I am still in this terrible black hole and am hoping desperately that I can find something that I can focus on. Like some of the other people have said, that is the hardest part: as athletes we spent our entire lives focusing on one thing, and now that we have succeeded, where do we turn that focus? It can’t just be anything, it has to be something meaningful, or it doesn’t feel worth the bother. I BELIEVED in what I was doing with my whole heart and soul. That was the only reason I was able to push myself every day to make it to the Olympics. But jobs don’t need this kind of drive. I have yet to find a job that requires this drive and pushes me to my limits every day. A job that I believe in so much that nothing else matters.

    It is really hard to retire. I hope to find my way out someday so that I can guide others through this abyss.

    • Linda says:

      Hi, Anna,
      I can identify with you so well. I used to be a long distance runner, it was who I was. I loved running, it was more important than school, partying ect simply because it gave me the highest high: from everyday practice to winning and reaching my goals. When I was running I was fully alive, no thoughts in my head, pure seeing and feeling, being.
      I stopped running at my highest point. I still dont know why. But i just suddenly didnt feel like i used to. I started having disassociation, feeling numb and empty. Then the following 5 years were the darkest in my life. I was depressed, alone, working shitty meaningless jobs… trying to come back 2-3 times, I even competed, but I cant get the same feelings when i run. As if something had been broken inside me.
      I am much better now. I have a wonderful relationship with a man i love, i hace great friends, i like my own self, i study sports at a university, i draw a lot. But still nothing satisfies me like sport did. I have no answer to my question. I am in a constant state of a mild bitter resentment towards life. Watching Rio and seeing athletes I know, athletes I travelled to competitions with.

      • Kiefer Piccio says:

        Hey Linda! That is such an interesting story you shared! Would it be okay if I get to know more about it? As a retired athlete myself, I can resonate with your story!

        You can email me at kieferpiccio@gmail.com

        Thank you!

    • Kiefer Piccio says:

      Oh wow Anna! That seriously touched me! I feel like someone is singing my song! I can totally relate! It would be an honour to connect with you and listen to more of your sporting career experience, if thats okay with you?

      I am an avid fan of hearing an athletes journey to success!!

      You can email me at kieferpiccio@gmail.com

      Thank you!

  20. Trevt24 says:

    Hello, I’m from the US, grew up playing Football as a runningback, setting rushing records, ect. It’s been over ten years now since my last game. I keep myself in great shape, to the point where I feel like I could still go back and play the game. I’ve been at the same job since i quit playing, but I’ve never liked it. I still feel like I am a football player, especially since I am still in better shape than a lot of guys that are playing now. But I have a job, a family, ect ect. Football season starts every September. I get excited about it, almost as if I am going to be competing again, and then of course, the realization that I have nothing to contribute to football anymore. No more pulling off an adrenaline pumping 50 yard touchdown run, making several defenders miss in the process, all to the awesome melody of thousands of screaming fans. You feel like a gladiator out on the field. I’ve gotten into custom cabinet and furniture building that I’ve really taken a knack to. I’ve been able to focus a lot of that energy into that, but at this point its still a part time thing, and the mundane day job keeps me in a state of disillusion. The woodworking is quite entertaining, and I love the creativity and challenge of building with my hands. However, I have not found anything that compares with the heart pounding rush of breaking that long touchdown run, and all the attention it brings with it. September and the start of the new football season is so exciting, I love watching the athletes perform, and watching my favorite team compete. But it’s also so, so depressing…..

    • Kiefer Piccio says:

      Thats so beautiful! Thank you for sharing that Trevt24! I would love to know more about your story if thats okay? Its so interesting how you described it! Reminded me of my career back in the day.

      You can contact me at kieferpiccio@gmail.com

      Thank you!

  21. […] has been said that a sports star will die twice, the first time at retirement, and many elite sportspeople (whether they are deemed to be “stars” or not) have to […]

  22. Deb Rose says:

    LIFE AFTER SPORT

    Let’s face it… when you’ve been an athlete you whole life, once an athlete always an athlete. For me hitting that lovely age of 50+ my mind still is that athlete back in the day, but my body isn’t. Everything is harder. Trying to get back into shape or staying in shape isn’t as easy. We’re tired, overworked, kids this and that, finances, the list can go on and on!

    What kinds of goals does one set at this time of their lives? I don’t know. I’ve often wondered what other athletes feel. How have you handled retirement? What are you doing? What do you do with the guys who sit on your shoulder telling you how you used to be able to do this, used to be able to that and now you can’t so you suck.

    I’m in that place in my life and I hate it. HATE IT! What does one do at 55? Having always been a goal setter, affirmations, getting better at my sport was always the focus. What goals do you set at 55? How does one recreate that passion?

    I have tried to be normal. I’ve worked in an office, I actually enjoyed the work but sitting in a cube for 8 hours every day is painful. I watch people around me that can come in day in and day out, work or not work but they seem just fine with it. I’M NOT FINE WITH IT. I just can’t sit for 8 hours. Yet, when you need the money you make lots of sacrifices. What I know is I am sacrificing myself. My life, my spirit, my soul. So, to not think about it I self-medicate. It works, it makes the noise quite down, lets me forget about stuff. But it doesn’t work for very long. I get antsy and frustrated.

    Why I can’t wake up every morning jacked up for the day. How does one find their passion again?

    I’d love to know what other athletes have done with life after sport.

    • Jenn Martin says:

      wow, i can relate to your story. all i can say is FUCK THE OFFICE. fuck the 8 hr work shifts. be creative and find something else to make money, even if not as much. if your soul is dying, don’t continue the path to destruction…put yourself in nature and see what paths open for you!

    • Deb, I feel your pain. I just can’t do the office. It makes me angry with rage. I went around thinking something was wrong with me that I couldn’t just do what others do everyday. Now I’m learning to accept it and have been able to make a decent living avoiding the office. Although I’m still having a hard time finding my second “career”. We need to be strong in our values and put our happiness first not “success” and “greatness” but inner peace and inner fulfillment!

    • MimiGolfer says:

      Hey everyone …I can also relate to everything that you guys have written. There is no way I could plug in to a “9 to 5” office type job. Particularly being surrounded but a majority of apathetic people with no drive to “do something more” or aspire to be greater than they might be today.

      For me (if it might help) I continued a more minimalistic life. After being used to that is an international sports woman, it was easy to continue with. I realised I loved travelling and I have found ways to continue travelling, but to do it cheaply of course. I do this by volunteering in all sorts of places, in exchange for accommodation and food. Sometime I get lucky with a bit of paid work and I have now ended up with a “summer job” that I return to each summer. At that is something.

      Maybe I’m lucky, but I’m also a bit of a nerd and can do some programming and develop websites. I am self taught and still feel my abilities may be a little limited however, but it’s enough to get some development work here and there and earn a bit of money along the way.

      I had, and still don’t have, any real grasp on a new ‘passion’ or direction for life. I just know that I want to be able to work remotely, to continue travelling and to enjoy a wealth of new experiences without the need for the modern trappings of life.

      My philosophy is that, if we want to find something new, then we need to do things differently. As the saying goes “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got” ….so, it required we change either our surroundings, the people we spend time with …or both. Be open to new expeirences and let go of expectations.

      Know that we all have a character that is driven and can achieve anything we set our minds to. The difficulty for us “ex” athletes, is that we have the drive, but nowhere to direct it. That is a large contributor to why we feel so lost.

      I attended a “life after sport” summit earlier this year where numerous past athletes were speaking. The general finding is that it typically takes 2-3 years for past athletes to get on top of life again.

      It can be a long journey, but know that you, none of us, are alone is that journey.

    • Kiefer Piccio says:

      Hey Deb! Thank you for sharing your story! I can totally relate to that.

      It would be an honour to hear more about your past sporting journey as I am an avid fan of listening to athletes stories of their careers! If that would be okay with you?

      You can email me at kieferpiccio@gmail.com

    • Hello everyone! I can totally relate to what you guys are saying. I think that we – as current or former athletes – are attracted to the thrill involved tackling something hard with full-throttle. And, there are not many endeavors out there that can offer the same pace, challenges and awesomeness that sports can give us.

      Personally, I found my passion in the world of entrepreneurship and finance. After my retirement, I went from having zero business experience to building a successful and growing business. This journey was both brutal and amazing. And, what I learned in this process is that running a business has a lot of similarities to my old career as an athlete. The competition is ruthless, I’m being challenged each day to be better, and I can go through all this with an amazing group of people.

      So, if I were you, I’d explore the possibility of building and growing your own company. If you like it, you’d be liberated from the 9 to 5 hell, and you could spend your time doing something that you are truly passionate about. Of course, there might be other solutions out there. This is just how I dealt with my life after sports. Hope this helps :)

  23. Julie Schladitz says:

    Great article, highlighting a very serious issue. As a career transition coach specialized in working with
    athletes, I am currently testing a brand new tool to help the transition. If you would like to take part in the testing phase, please contact me at julie@careeraftersport.com

  24. Jenn Martin says:

    I’m really glad I came across this article, as I also am seriously struggling to cope with the “mundane” aspects of life without sport. Since middle school, soccer was my way to be “great”, “special”, and “successful” despite my circumstances. After a successful college career, I played pro in the Frauen Bundesliga in Germany.
    Sports were exciting, made me feel important and better than the average population, and gave me great companions to play and party with. But while in Germany, I was so worn out, getting talked in my ear by my boyfriend that women’s sports were jokes, and suffering with my first-ever injury that I decided to leave my contract early and move with him to Kauai, HI where I live now.
    We were “woofing” on an organic farm, as sustainability is one of the topics that really gets me excited. I also picked up a part-time job at a health foods store. Despite being surrounded by beautiful nature, learning new things about my interests, and making good money, I was so depressed. Nothing could fill the pit in my heart. I would work out and run everyday to try and feel like I did while I was competing. It was a dissapointing endeavor.
    After leaving the farm, we were camping around the island in a tent until we found a new place. I went through four more part-time gigs, hoping each one would be better than the last. Now I find myself working at a nearby health foods store, feeding my passion to cook vegan organic food. I am no longer working out, and have become quite lazy. I feel still a little empty, but I know it will go away with time. I know I have more passion deep inside that I can put towards something else, it’s just hard to compare anything with a job that was playing a game for a living.
    Now I want to backpack and explore the world. I want to do something crazy and wild to fill the void. I don’t know if I am still depressed, but I am excited for what is to come. If you are an athlete like me, I can promise you it gets better, but with lots of time and introspection. I am still on my journey but I know it will lead to good things. I am glad I’m going through this now than later.
    <3

    • Kiefer Piccio says:

      That sounds like a powerful story to listen to Jenn! I would love to connect with you personally and listen to more about your journey as a retired athlete!

      You can email me at kieferpiccio@gmail.com

      Thank you!

  25. Livi says:

    Being married to an athlete he tried several times at retirement only to go back and stay there in my case my husband could not deal with it and put me and the kids thru Hell. Till this day his on again off again has created so much misery for us it’s the WORST thing to be married to a professional athlete. If I knew then what I knew now I would have run they have no identity other than being a superstar.

  26. enthusiast says:

    Check this article out, retirement doesn’t have to mean “death” – http://enthusiasts.services/baseball-pro-or-retirement-investments-paths-to-follow/

  27. Edward Humphreys says:

    I’m a student in the West Midlands currently
    doing an Extended Project Qualification for my A levels. My topic is “How does
    depression affect top level British athletes?”

    During my research I came across this article, which is very relevant to my topic.

    I would be very grateful if someone could share their thoughts or experience on
    what psychological effects of being a top level retired athlete can have. I would also be grateful for any
    general advice on how it affects mental health.

    I have already found case studies of depression such as Kelly
    Homes, Paul Gascoigne, Stan Collymore and Victoria Pendleton but was wondering
    if anyone knew to any other sources or have any personal experiences that they would like to share that would be relevant to my topic.

    Many thanks for your time

    Kind regards

    Edward Humphreys

  28. […] There is a lot to be said on depression and I feel Emma Vickers talks about it and athletes better than I could ever hope to do in BelievePerform. […]

  29. Doug Collins says:

    in my 8 year professional career in the Canadian Football L 1968 – 75 – it was an ideal situation as many players had jobs along with their football careers – the job kept players in the real world while dabbling in the world of celebrity status – having a coexisting career also makes for an easier transition at the inevitable injury or age ending career – in many sports you can not benefit from all day workout – if your in the Million $ club create a place you can help people and make an actual job of it – destroyed my body by age 32 –
    unfortunately , drugs have also played a greater role in sport and have created people with an unrealistic view of who they really are –

  30. MimiGolfer says:

    Hi Tom

    I am so very sad that I appear to have never been notified of this message you posted … a year ago. I would have been more than happy to have corresponded with you.

    Hopefully you found some athletes to correspond with and to help you with your dissertation.

    Mianne

  31. JustOneCommonMan says:

    This article is testimony for the phenomenon that giving games too much importance is a bad thing. Probably playing game is most harmless thing one can imagine. But if we do not play it with the right attitude it could be disastrous.

    Why do we play games?
    This is perfectly explained in this video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e5jDspIC4hY

    Here I would like to highlight a few points.
    Life can be a Game.
    We play game not for physical fitness but for mental satisfaction.
    We simulate the game of life by playing any kind of Game.
    What is the difference between a game and life?
    The laws of game are simple whereas laws of life are complex.
    So instead of working on life to understand its rule and succeed we be satisfied by succeeding in game.
    Even if we are successful in game we have to specially work to succeed in life.

    To conclude I would say Playing game would lead to more delusion in real life…

  32. Klaudia Malenovska says:

    Hi everyone, my blog about this topic is on malenovska.com , I just started again, so there are only couple of interviews with other athletes and their struggle. My vision is to create an online platform that would create a community with a lot of functionalities. Maybe counselings, coaching and basically help. I am also doing an event for former athletes in Slovakia on December 12th, if anyone is interested. I am also planning a former athlete retreat weekend where we would go with some life coaches, psychologists and other specialist into the nature and talk about our lives and get some sort of direction. What do you guys think?

  33. Athletic Courage says:

    Excellent, what a blog it is! I read a few of your other posts too. Thank you for taking the time to write and share your story! Check out my blog about athletes training,Stories, and athletes topics. Hope you will find it interesting.

  34. kholabs says:

    Such a great article!
    Hi everyone, check out my App about athletic topics. https://www.kholabs.com/category/injury-directory/ The Kho App allows Athletes to ask any injury question they have. Thanks for sharing.

  35. Hoi Hoi's Lab says:

    I was under high intensity training daily when I was in secondary school but after that, I decided to continue with a different career path for some reason afterwards. Yet, the transition wasn’t easy, took me few years to battle with mental and physical issues and for a more sustainable routine. I am from Hong Kong and now studying in England. And in fact, it would be more helpful if included the education of ‘post-retirement’ as part of the physical education curriculum in diploma of secondary education, to prevent the depression and any other possible negative effects to take place in the first place after athletes retired from sports.

  36. This is a great article! It sheds light on an important – and not very commonly spoken about – issue that athletes can face. I believe that this is something that all athletes – current and retired – should be aware of. When I retired from my career as an Olympic athlete, I went through something similar. At times, I felt that no one could understand me, but I’m pleased to see that I wasn’t the only one going through this.

    Now, having read all your stories, I started to reflect on my experience. I was in my prime when my career ended abruptly. At the time I felt invincible, I thought that nothing could go wrong. And, I can honestly say that I (and my team, coaches and support staff) never thought about retirement – I saw it as something distant and abstract. Hence, when I actually had to retire I was utterly unprepared for it.

    So, I have a couple of questions for you guys. Did you (and your coach, managers or whatever) developed a worst-case (a.k.a. retirement) plan during your career? Or, did you have to make one only when retirement actually came knocking at your door? How prepared (mentally, financially and existentially) were you once you actually had to retire?