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Career Transition is a Player’s Toughest Opponent

By Doug Reed

Stories of former professional players suffering difficulties are common. They can involve troubles with finances, mental health, alcohol, gambling or personal relationships.

At first glance these various issues may seem unrelated but often they share the same root cause of struggling to adapt to a sudden and drastic changes in their lives from one day to next as they go from current to former player.

We have identified 11 key challenges they have to overcome.

The Transition 11

1. Environment

No longer in their familiar daily environment with its accustomed structure and routine that they have known their entire adult lives.

2. Social Network

Lose the daily camaraderie, community and interaction, including having a support team, that is involved with being part of a football club.

3. Purpose

Loss of the well-defined short, medium and long-term goals to focus on and that give a clear purpose to pursue.

4. Competition

The feelings of accomplishment, satisfaction and pleasure generated from participating in highly competitive sport are no longer there.

5. Spotlight

The idolisation quickly begins to fade and no longer the centre of attention which can affect feelings of self-worth and status.

6. Mastery

From being one of the most skilled in your profession to a feeling of not being competent or qualified in what you will do next.

7. Identity

From a personal identity built around being “a footballer” to the destabilisation and unsettling feeling of not knowing what you now define yourself as.

8. Physical

From training every day and being extremely physically fit to potentially not exercising because there is no reason to, resulting in significant hormonal changes in the body.

9. Financial

Built a lifestyle suited to a very high regular income and then suddenly having a significant drop in earnings. Far too frequently even well-remunerated players have little savings because of receiving bad financial advice and lack of appropriate financial planning.

10. Relationships

Change in relationship dynamics due to a sudden increase in time spent around partner and family at the same time as you are trying to deal with the emotions of coping with the transition.

11. Uncertainty

From having a clear journey you were on as a footballer to having no idea what your future is.

With so many obstacles to overcome, preparation is crucial to be able to manage the transition and minimise the disruption it brings. A key strategy to address many of the issues is replacing your playing career with another pursuit that you find motivating and rewarding.

Over 8 out of 10 retired players said, if they could impart a key learning onto current players, it would be to work on an alternative career pathway in a survey conducted by the Australian Players’ Union. Doing this helps create a bridge to your new career rather than having a huge gap to negotiate.

Fortunately, more players are heeding this advice with many studying for degrees and coaching qualifications whilst still playing or exploring interests outside the game. At Player 4 Player we see helping players get ready for this inevitable and critical transition in their lives as a key part of our work.

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