A Guide to Effective Transition from Professional Athletics
The subjectivity of a professional sports experience perpetrates a realism that is like nature, sharp and absolute.
Imagine a child growing up, he places all of his hopes into one day being a professional athlete. This child dedicates every waking second towards skill development. These skills are so domain specific that they do not serve any other purpose but this single sport. The skills are cultivated on a tower of glass, the image is magnificent, and fragile. I would hate to be the harbinger of reality;
“Coach just wanted his guy in there instead of you, its nothing personal”. The requiem of a professional athlete's career.
There is a burning desire to prove oneself from an early age. The battleground feeds us with every victory, competition invokes intense emotion and sometimes logical liberation. For the amateur this is rocket fuel, it is highly addictive. Something profound happens however when the boy hits the professional ranks; the game becomes his only source of validation. In a sense the boy made it, he feels comfortable, he gazes at all the people as they cheer for him with admiration and approval.
This false sense of security can cause a very damaging result given the frailty of the situation. I encourage the boy to scrutinize his drive to play professional sports. It must not be for external validation, reward, or any other superficial man made motif. He must play the sport for his own personal benefit, he must own it, in fact the sport is him. Motivation such as this makes it effortless to come to work everyday, outwork the competition, and prevail. This athlete’s motivation is deeply ingrained within, his drive is impossible to sway, enter trouble.
The gladiatorial arena interjects with a cruel display of nature. There comes a time where we can be gladiators no longer. Our time to perform, to shine, to be admired for our astonishing qualities is put off as our glass structure shatters painfully. And much like the naturalistic paradigm the younger, stronger ones survive to tell the tale while our athlete is left by the wayside to pass on to the underworld.
This is reality. The spiritual wound left behind can be tremendously damaging. It is something very few people talk about, a hollow sense of self. Our athlete must now wander the world searching for a new arena, to prove himself. However this is the wrong paradigm to have. Why trade one battleground for another? How much self proving must it take to realize he already has everything he needs, in fact he had it all along …
Validation is infinite, you just have to look in the mirror ...
Sports when pushed to an extreme can be superficial. The glamour and validation are like bandage of a unkept wound, we long for them because they are missing from within us. Rip off the bandage to face the wound. How we deal with the wound is what will determine how successful we are in transitioning out of sport or from wherever it was that we had to move on from.