We understand that the end of your competitive sporting career may leave you wondering what to do next, and that these concerns could impact your mental health.

From developing a non-sporting identity to reaching out to your support network, there are ways that you can ease yourself into this transitional period.

For further advice and resources on how you can support your mental health when you retire from sport, check out our dedicated #MentallyFit resources.

Retirement can be an especially difficult and stressful time for athletes, so it is important that you feel comfortable and supported in discussing how you are feeling with those closest to you – and that you know how and where you can go for further support. Below are some recommendations for managing some of the mental challenges you may face during this period of change.

Managing the mental challenges of post-competition life
  • Maintain communication and support networks – remember, your friends, family, team-mates and coaches will be there for you.
  • Maintain commitment and self-regulation – this could be keeping your workout schedule or bedtime routines, or other pre-retirement norms that you had.
  • Remain physically active on a regular basis, as physical activity has a beneficial impact on alleviating stress, improving sleep and alertness, increasing energy levels during the day, and healthy weight management. Physical activity also has a significant impact on mood and self-esteem, which are key indicators of mental well-being.
  • Broaden your identity beyond your sporting role and other interests, including through study or work placements.
  • Consider a coaching or mentoring role, where you can support other athletes and share your experiences.
  • Find a team atmosphere – even if you may no longer be part of a sports team, you can find social settings or hobbies that emulate the team feel or atmosphere.
  • Get support – reach out for professional help or advice from sports psychologists or psychiatrists.
  • Keep in mind that retirement from sport is a process, not an event. It may take time to adjust, and that’s OK. Setting smaller personal and professional goals can be helpful to manage the adjustment over time.

Being an elite athlete has given you countless life skills, which can be used to your advantage outside of competition or outside sport.

As you prepare for this life change, we want you to look forward with anticipation for what’s to come, and to look back with appreciation of your achievements.

Recognising your unique value and transferrable skills

Being an elite athlete has given you countless life skills, which can be used to your advantage outside competition or outside sport. These skills will contribute to your future personal and professional success and include:

  • Goal setting
  • Time management
  • Teamwork
  • Dedication
  • Work ethic
  • Communication
  • Social skills
  • Leadership
  • Problem solving
  • Decision making 

Check out this video from the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust, which highlights the concept of #MoreThanMedals and explores the values that athletes have to offer beyond their sport.

Post-career planning

Education and networking are two important places to start when looking ahead, both of which can be done while you’re competing.

Education

  • Enroll in online courses or further education – there are many courses online that can be completed remotely at your own pace.
  • Athlete365 Career+ provides online resources, training opportunities and job placement support, helping elite athletes manage the transition from sport to a new career.

Networking

  • Create a LinkedIn account or other online professional presence and start developing your network.
  • Attend events, webinars and group meets in your desired professional subject area.
  • Completing an internship is also an excellent way to develop connections in a professional environment, and there are many that you can do on a part-time basis.

As you prepare for this life change, we want you to look forward with anticipation for what’s to come, and to look back with appreciation of your achievements. Sport has given you many invaluable life skills, and now there are resources available to help you recognise and utilise these skills as you take steps into the next chapter of your life.

Visit Athlete365 Career+ for tools and resources designed to meet you exactly where you are in your career.