Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Life after Championship Sport - what happens next?

I was asked in September 2013 to deliver a talk at the SMART Way Forward conference about 'Life after Championship Sport - what happens next' - here is the outline of that talk.

We started by looking at the legacy of two well known Sports Professionals, Dame Kelly Holmes and Paul Gasgoine and the differences in what they had achieved after retirement. Dame Kelly with her foundation and Paul Gasgoine struggling with addictions.

When we look for facts and figures around this issue then we need to look to the United States, studies there have shown

·         The average career span for professional basketball, football, and baseball player is a mere 4.5 years, 3.2 years, and under five years, respectively

·         By the time they have been retired for two years, 78% of former NFL players have gone bankrupt or are under financial stress because of joblessness, divorce and overspending.

·         Within five years of retirement, an estimated 60% of former NBA players are broke.

So what's going on...?

There have been many studies have been done to track the emotions that people experience in the face of change.  The best known of these is Dr Elizabeth Kubler Ross (July 8, 1926 – August 24, 2004) was a Swiss-born psychiatrist, a pioneer in Near-death studies and the author of the groundbreaking book On Death and Dying (1969), where she first discussed what is now known as the K├╝bler-Ross model.  In this work she proposed the now famous Five Stages of Grief as a pattern of adjustment.  These five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. In general, individuals experience most of these stages.

Her original work was done around grief, and has since been adapted to reflect responses to change in general.

When we retire it is a change and it may be unexpected through injury and it is when we can become more pessimistic in the choices we have available to us.

Kubler Ross Model

Once we had explored the model above we went onto look at 'Annie Page's Point of Transition' model which is part of a wider piece of work that I deliver around Change within Sport and Business. There are three areas of the model that we looked at.

Belief - Why we do what we do

“Believe in yourself and all that you are. Know that there is something inside you that is greater than any obstacle.”
Christian D. Larson

Identity - Who we are

“First of all, what happens is, when you’re good at something, you spend a lot of time with it.  People identity you with that sport, so it becomes part of your identity.”
Mike Krzyzewski

Me in my Ultra runner Identity!

Purpose - Our Driver

“Winners are people with definite purpose in life.”
Denis Waitley

What seems to be currently happening at the moment is we wait until people are at their lowest before doing something.

Why leave it so late?

Making a decision before the change happens is much more powerful and long lasting, the dip into the Pessimistic part of the graph need not be so dramatic and the time it takes to move through the change curve is quicker – you will still go through it!

I was shocked by some of the information I found about suicide in professional sports people, addictions – drinking, gambling, drugs, bankruptcy, divorce...

In August 2013 there were 150 ex professional footballers in prison for drugs offences – mainly regarding drug distribution!

Kenny Samson, Arsenal – sleeping on a bench due to gambling addiction

So what can be done

Brian Moore writing in The Telegraph said:

“What also clearly emerges from anecdotal and empirical evidence is that those who cope best with the problems of sporting retirement are those who at least give some thought and planning to it before they bow out.”

and Brendan Batson said:

‘key to making the difficult move from the somewhat closed world of sport into the world of business, is preparation during your playing career’.

Looking to the future you can - Expand your identity, know your future purpose, understand what you believe.

You already have the skills to start doing this – the same as the ones you needed to succeed in sport...

Write up from SMART Way Forward after their conference in September 2013

Life after Championship sport – What happens next? – was presented by Annie Page, Director of Essentii and ‘Annie Page’s Point of Transition.  This was a very interesting and thought provoking workshop, which proved very popular with the Olympians and elite athletes / players who were attending.  Annie shared a brief insight into her ‘Point of transition’ model.  Having an identity is very important to everyone.  However, when you are a successful sportsman, sportswomen, celebrity or public figure – your self esteem and confidence is elevated to a level higher than normal.  Therefore, many people who have been privileged to be in this position, then find it very hard when they are no longer in the public eye.  Annie highlighted some excellent examples of sports people and businessmen who had made this transition successfully – however, it was shocking to see the statistics for how many sports people found it difficult once their careers had come to an end.  A great session, which highlighted the importance of self belief, acceptance, confidence and self control.  It was very popular with the performance coaches and managers in the audience.


  1. I think many of us, in fact most of us, can think of a high profile sportsperson who has come crashing down, and for all the money in Sport now, this is really important work. I don't think it is an exaggeration to say that "Point of Transition" could well be a life-saver.

  2. Thank you Richard - it is an area I am most passionate about - Change and Choice!

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