Life After Professional Sports

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Life After Professional Sports

Zoe Lin, Staff Writer

During the professional seasons of elite athletes’, their life is largely occupied with intensive training, and nearly everything they do is closely monitored and controlled. However, when an elite athlete retires, everything about their life changes. Restraints on how they present themselves to the public eye disappear and control over what they post on social media ceases to exist. These retired athletes will have to adjust to drastic changes like this in their lives. Even those who have been preparing for the retirement transition may find themselves having trouble getting used to their new lives. 

An athlete’s career is typically very short-lived; the average lifespan of an athlete’s career in the NFL, NBA, and MLB lasts from approximately three to six years. For most athletes, the general age of retirement is somewhere in their thirties. So what exactly do athletes do after retirement? While some athletes retire with millions of dollars that will sustain them for several lifetimes, others find themselves in bankruptcy. In fact, a Sports Illustrated article stated that approximately 78% of the NFL’s retired players have gone bankrupt or are struggling with financial problems. In addition, Sports Illustrated estimated that 60% of NBA players also become bankrupt in no more than 5 years post-retirement. 

To add on, many pro athletes experience depression, anxiety, and loss of identity as a result of the sudden change in their life. According to Huffington Post, a 2015 study consisting of 224 retired athletes revealed that “depression, eating disorders, and general psychological distress were the most common health issues experienced by former sporting stars.” Additionally, as athletes struggle with settling into their new lifestyles, they must learn to adjust to the ‘average’ life. This task is not one that is easy to overcome, especially because of the fame and spotlight that elite athletes are exposed to. When asked about life after sports, former basketball player Lauren Jackson told Huffington Post she “went into a shell” and stated that retirement was “really, really difficult.” 

During their careers, athletes devote a large majority of their time to sports. After retirement, that majority is suddenly gone, which might lead athletes to develop a loss of identity. During their careers, athletes devote a large majority of their time to sports. After retirement, that majority is suddenly gone, which might lead athletes to develop a loss of identity. An athlete’s career revolves around competing, and when that is taken away, there is a loss of purpose. Many athletes aren’t sure what direction their life should be headed next. 

Of course, though some athletes encounter difficulties from retirement, many continue to be successful after leaving their sports career behind. Some will still involve themselves in sports-related occupations, such as being a sports coach or commentator. Others will make profitable business investments, while some even go into politics. But regardless of whether or not athletes struggle or succeed after finishing their careers, retirement at a young age is inevitable for athletes, and it is important for them to be prepared for the new changes.

Photo courtesy of CALS.NCSU.EDU.NET