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Fear of losing status and recognition is a major issue for many people

Both men and women, who have achieved the level of personal significance they require through their work, have fears or concerns that this will fall away when they retire or experience a major work change, along with their ability to maintain it.

‘When the cheering stops’ – (Source: National Football League)

Where do players go when the cheering stops and the game leaves them behind?

Every Athlete’s Challenge

Going from ‘on-field stardom’ to a ‘sideline has-been’ is brutal. No more autographs, applause, million-dollar contracts, front-page photos, and product endorsements. Retirement is more than the end of a job – it feels like death.

For professional athletes facing transition of life after sports, the source of this transition may play an important role. For example, few professional athletes retire from the game on their own, most are forced to leave because of age, injury, or because intense competition forces them out via a coach’s decision. How you leave the sport has a significant impact on how you cope with transition into life after your career.

“The biggest challenge many of our players have is looking ahead for the rest of their lives. They have everything, in a sense. In the NFL, they’ve achieved their dream of playing at the highest level. They have a lot of money, but it comes to an end quicker than most of them can even imagine.”— NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue

When the game is over, players face unexpected and overwhelming challenges:

  • Denial — One of the greatest challenges players face in transition is the reality that the game is over and life has changed. Keeping the illusion of fame alive is costly.
  • Drinking & Drugs — Alcohol, illegal drugs, and prescription drugs are often abused by athletes during their career and can become a bigger problem in retirement as players turn to these substances for emotional relief.
  • Divorce — Half of the divorces among NFL players occur in their first year after leaving the game.
  • Financial Loss and/or Challenges — The average annual NFL player’s salary is 25 times greater than that of the average U.S. household income. Athletes used to six- and seven-figure incomes find it difficult to adjust to a new standard of living.
  • Physical Loss and/or Challenges — 65 per cent of NFL players retire with permanent injuries.
  • Lack of Purpose and Significance — More than half of retired athletes feel they’ve lost their purpose in life. Only a third of retiring NFL players are college graduates.
  • Depression — The suicide rate among former NFL players is nearly six times the national average.
  • Anger and Bitterness — When a player leaves the game, anger and bitterness are common. Fans, media, coaches, administration, players union, family, and friends often become the brunt of their frustration.
  • Loss of Structure — Players used to a rigid schedule often find it difficult to plan their own lives and carry out simple tasks.
  • Isolation — “I’m no longer part of a team – I’m all alone.” Few people understand the challenges players face as they look “in” from the “outside” on what used to be their culture.


This article may focus on a very narrow niche and may seem like a million miles away from your world but the premise still applies, doesn’t it?

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