I’ve spent quite a bit of time since I retired thinking about why so many players struggle so much when they leave the game. Retirement from elite sport is a time in your life when there are multiple significant changes occurring at once. Loss of income, structure, fitness, purpose and camaraderie are all challenges retiring footballers face at the same time.
The other thing that occurs which doesn’t get spoken about as much, is the loss of status and the importance that holds for people. From the day players are first drafted, they’re treated as special by people around them, which eventually leads to players thinking positively about themselves as the increase in social status provides a positive feedback loop. The inverse of this holds true for footballers in retiriement, while still the same people, are no longer treated the same way by others, leaving many to question their self worth.
I think in a lot of ways, it’s the same for anyone going through a job change or retirement who’s been heavily focused on their work and linked their identity to their profession. You’re faced with that same essential loss of status – being around people who need you, or who look to you for something every day.
No matter what kind of work you’ve done, or where you’re going, if you can find a way to be flexible and open up your thinking about yourself, it can make all the difference when it’s time to take a new course.