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Life After Sports: How Do Players Struggle?

Sports stars are some of our biggest heroes. We watch them in the field and admire them from afar. Perhaps we never think about what will become of these huge personalities once they retire. Can we continue to worship them when they’re no longer in the game? Or is the issue of struggling former sports stars becoming more commonplace than we realize?

The Rising Problem of Sporting Retirement

Much emphasis is placed on sports these days, with pressure to succeed. Sports stars also have access to money and extravagant lifestyles. When combined with the fact that these former stars still feel youthful in their 30s, but suddenly are faced with a loss of stardom, lack of income, loss of identity, and a complete change to their routines, it is little wonder that so many struggle. The struggles that many sports stars face during retirement, particularly immediately after they’ve left the professional world, are becoming an increasing problem. The professional world of sports is incredibly disciplined, something which is hard to leave behind. Depression and a loss of self-worth is common with retired sports professionals, as are relationship troubles and an inability to restructure their lives. It is often that the people they encounter can’t relate to what they’ve been through. How do you empathize with someone who used to be worshipped as a hero? Drug and alcohol related issues aren’t uncommon in retired athletes either. Sports is addictive, creating addictive personalities along the way. It makes sense, then, that athletes struggle when they’re forced to go “cold turkey,” and leaving the world of sports is a difficult transition.

Perhaps affecting more sports stars than these difficulties, though, is the issue of finance. Just how do you get used to managing your money if you’ve always had it to spend? It is estimated that 78% of NFL retirees, for example, have faced financial stress once their careers are over, and it can be difficult for players to adapt to the real world. When nobody has advised you on life outside of sports, suddenly having freedom can come at a huge cost. So what can be done?

Future-proofing Sports Professionals

One thing is for certain: it is essential for the sporting industry and its professionals to be aware of the issues facing young, inexperienced sports stars, and for them to offer assistance at every turn. Hopefully, many of the problems faced by players as they greet retirement may be prevented, as well as instilling certain values and goals into the sports stars of tomorrow. For example, how many issues would be avoided if coaches and managers took the time to explain how bleak a sports star’s future can be? Career advice is just as important at 35 as it is in school. So, to a certain extent, the sports industry is responsible for helping floundering former players find their own way. Many sports stars will have stumbled into their sports careers right out of high school, following a promising career path with scholarships, scouting, and the big leagues. They simply don’t know how the real world works because they’ve never had to face it. Bucks owner Wesley Edens is one such professional targeting vulnerable stars in the infancy of their careers. He offers occupational and financial advice in the hopes that they will one day successfully support themselves. While such advice will not completely eradicate the loss of identity, the risk of depression, and periods of hopelessness that often haunt sports stars with retirement, understanding their finances more clearly and being more prepared for “life after sports” will definitely ease the burden.

Life after sports can be difficult for many athletes. The lack of routine, feelings of worthlessness and an inability to find more work can often start incredibly early into retirement, leaving sports stars depressed and at risk of financial ruin. With a little advice towards the beginning of their careers, and during their tenure with a team, hopeful sports stars will learn to thrive outside of sports.

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