Transitioning from college athletics to the next phase of life can be challenging, both emotionally and practically. It’s important for athletes to recognize that while their sports career may have been a defining part of their identity, it doesn’t have to be the only defining part. There are a number of ways that athletes can prepare themselves for what lies ahead, from establishing an exit strategy during their playing days to developing new interests and skills outside the arena.
Here are a few things that athletes can do to prepare for and cope with the transition:
1. Explore other interests
While athletics may have been a primary focus during college, it’s important to remember that there are other things that can be fulfilling and meaningful. Athletes should take the time to explore new hobbies, interests, or career paths that they may not have had the chance to pursue while playing their sport.
Related: There is Life After College Sports End: Here’s How to Make the Most of it
2. Build a new support system
Being part of a team provides a built-in support system, but it’s important for athletes to seek out new sources of support as they transition out of sports. This could include building relationships with co-workers, joining a community organization, or connecting with alumni groups. Who knows? In finding support in college, you just might make some of the best friends of your life after sports.
3. Seek out resources
Many colleges and universities have resources specifically for athletes who are transitioning out of sports. Athletes should take advantage of these resources, which may include career counseling, networking opportunities, and mental health support. There’s comfort in being prepared and seeking out the resources you may need in the future before you need them can pay off in retirement.
Related: 5 Ways Former Athletes Can Stay Involved in Their Sport Once Their Careers End
4. Embrace the lessons learned
Athletics can teach valuable life skills, including discipline, perseverance, and teamwork. These skills can be applied to other areas of life, including relationships, education, and career–that’s something to celebrate and look forward to!
5. Remember the positive memories
While the transition out of sports can be challenging, it’s important for athletes to remember the positive memories and experiences that came with being part of a team. These memories can serve as a source of motivation and inspiration as athletes move on to the next phase of their lives.
Ultimately, the key to a successful transition is to approach it with an open mind and a willingness to embrace new opportunities and experiences. While leaving sports can be a difficult and emotional process, it can also be a time of growth, learning, and discovery.
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* Originally published on March 30, 2023, by Kelly Wick