Do you believe in a life after retirement?
Sport is an incredible career but it’s short lived. For some of us we will remain in the sporting industry in some way but rarely to the extent of our performing years. An athletes retirement age depends on their chosen sport for example gymnastics 19/20, NFL 28, squash 35, and golf (never too old!). The ages clearly resemble the intensity or impact amount upon the body as well as the time period of mastering a skill.
I recently read a study that was done on almost 600 elite athletes in regards to retirement and plans for life after sport and it was surprising to find that most of them did not have plans or would delay retirement as long as possible to avoid the life after. Most on average would not enter into another career until 12 months after their retirement.
I can relate well to the ‘fear’ of retirement, for an athlete to think about it especially whilst still performing is difficult. You’re considering an end to your entire life’s commitment before it’s barely begun. Crazy! I believe retirement (by choice – not physically) is about personal satisfaction and leaving the sport without any regrets.
There’s an assumption that most athletes will go on to be coaches or managers and remain within the sporting industry. I love coaching, kids or adults, when they’re keen to learn and love the game it’s extremely rewarding. The moment everyone talks about when the child’s face lights up, because they got it right really is the best bit. Personally though, coaching is a last resort for me, maybe it’s my age and life perspective at the moment, but I would want to explore the world of work away from my sport which I have done my entire life so far. It’s good to give back to your sport but it’s ok to take one for yourself as well, after all, you have just dedicated your life away to it for how many years?
As we know sport is extremely unpredictable and having dealt with various injuries I know how quickly it can go downhill. It’s lucky I had good parental influence to plan for the future. I never liked school so I left before I started my final year, with the thought in mind that there was two things I wanted to do, squash and fashion design, as for both I did not need school.
A degree in fashion design was top of my list to complete, after which I have set up my own label ‘Meaks’ and even sold a few products. It has since been placed on hold whilst squash is my priority focus for the immediate future. The fashion label is my back up which provides peace of mind that it’s set up and waiting for me when I’m ready. Don’t get me wrong I’m still adding to it regularly with ideas and creations but in terms of production, it’s paused. My long time passion to have my own sportswear label after squash is already in progress and I’ve put myself into a position where it’s about making it successful when I’m ready.
The decisions of what I wanted to do came easily and I imagine for some it’s not so obvious. Even though I knew what I wanted to do I have never shied away from exploring other options or seeing what else is out there. Working in a gym while injured at one stage got me interested in personal training. I undertook courses in fitness training which were of immense value. I discovered a love of photography and I somehow have a great eye for it. I think all the tourist shots have given me plenty of practice. Participating in fitness classes made me think about becoming an instructor, although I quickly realised that learning crazy amounts of choreography and preaching to people wasn’t for me. All due respect to my beloved fitness instructors, I have a great appreciation for your work.
The point is that you never know what might take your fancy and you may not even realise it until afterwards. The first place to look is your interests and hobbies. Do the things you love and of course, the ones your good at. It could lead to an amazing career in any industry.
In the end I would choose playing squash and participating in sport as a career before anything else. Being pro-active and using my own initiatives I have already mapped my alternative career options or plan B. The window for peak performance is small so take advantage and keep an open mind on plans for later. You could still be an astronaut!
& that’s My Athletes Mind…