Athletes Beware: Avoid the “Superman Syndrome” by Planning for Retirement

Too many athletes fail to conceive of, let alone plan for, retirement during their sporting career. Viewing it as off in the distant future or as a problem for someone else, they subscribe to the Superman syndrome and believe in their invincibility. Surely, they think, “it’s not going to happen to me.” But it will.

The reality is that you will either have the good fortune to bow out on your own terms, or the decision will be made for you.

This summer will see the end of many a footballing career. During the transfer window, some players will sign lucrative deals and be lauded by media and fans alike. But there’s another side of the coin. What happens to the players whose contracts are not renewed, who have suffered a career-threatening injury, or who are simply getting too old to continue playing at a professional level?

Following retirement, you may wake up not knowing what you want to do with the day, let alone with the rest of your life. So, what can you do now to prepare for the next stage? Follow these five tips to create the retirement of your dreams:

  • Cultivate self-awareness

In Western society, our self-esteem is often tied to what we do rather than who we are. Consistent with this, when you hang up your boots for the last time, everything that made you feel good about yourself will be cast aside.

Before that day arrives, consider your strengths. What do you do well? How can you use your strengths to your advantage and in an area you’re passionate about? Long before retirement, you should start looking for other ways to boost your self-esteem outside of sports to gain a balanced perspective on your personality, values, and future goals.

  • Take control

We all want to feel at least some degree of control over our lives and have the autonomy to make our own free choices. If you’re forced into retirement on account of an injury or age, then you don’t have any control over that decision.

My best advice is to not leave it all to fate. Accept that you will have to retire at some point and start planning now. Doing so will give you a sense of direction and control that you can hold onto long after your final game. In fact, planning for a career after sport may actually improve your athletic performance in the interim.

  • Know what’s important to you

Without sugar-coating it, after retirement you might feel as though you’ve lost your family. After all, you’ve literally been kicked out of the locker room from one day to the next. The same fans who once begged for your signature no longer give you a second glance. Not surprisingly, many former athletes end up feeling lost, lonely, and as though their best years are behind them.

That’s why it’s vital to know what you want in life, what you value, and to be clear on your future goals. Above all, seek out new experiences that are personally meaningful and rewarding.

  • Grow your support network

As an athlete, you’re connected to your team, your fans, and feel a strong sense of belonging. In a word, you’re never alone. After retirement, unless you have a very supportive family or circle of friends, you’re likely to feel a significant void.

Surround yourself with the right people throughout your professional career, rather than relying on hangers-on and teammates to boost you in the end.

  • Make time for hobbies

For many athletes, nothing compares to the adrenaline rush they experience when they cross the finish line or score the winning goal. And perhaps nothing ever will.

However, if you pursue other hobbies and interests throughout your career, you’ve got a much better chance of finding pleasure again. It’s also worth emphasizing that you can still enjoy the game post-retirement.

No matter your career stage, retirement is inevitable and you need to take responsibility for it. Embracing this can help you to prepare for your life after sport. Although the transition may be challenging, following these five steps will help you on your way.


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