Can Career Coaching Enhance Athletes' Strength Pre- and Post-Retirement?

  • Career Development Resources
  • Published on October 26, 2023

From global soccer and rugby tournaments to tennis, golf, and athletics, a thrilling autumn of sports lies ahead.

Years of rigorous training will culminate in spectacular competition. Dazzling victories and heart-wrenching losses will unfold on the global stage, creating moments etched in history.

Yet, regardless of whether it's medals or despair, athletes at the heart of the action must eventually step out of the sporting limelight.

I have previously delved into the challenges and psychological hurdles confronted by retiring sports stars. However, when athletes are tirelessly striving to be the best, they seldom have the luxury to ponder life after sport. Besides, diverting attention to planning a second career risks losing competitive edge. 

Or does it?

Professor David Lavallee of Abertay University in Dundee suggests the opposite might be true. 

Drawing insights from 632 elite rugby league players in Australia, Lavallee discovered that implementing a retirement strategy during an athlete's active years not only enhances performance but also prolongs athletic careers.

The research revealed that the value athletes place on pre-retirement planning surpasses the pressure to focus "solely on sport." Contrary to undermining performance, participants experienced positive advancements.

Lavallee concludes: "It is crucial for players, coaches, and senior administrators to understand the positive effects concerning team selection, team tenure, and career longevity, dispelling misconceptions that preretirement planning is time wasted."

Further studies indicate that athletes with established goals and a seamless transition into retirement exhibit "higher cognitive, emotional, and behavioural readiness for their career transition" compared to those who retire without plans.

The active athlete

Given the stakes involved, it's high time we reconsider how retirement is perceived and how the sports industry supports its most valuable assets – the athletes. So, what can be done?


1. Extend a Helping Hand

Current athletes must acknowledge the significant connections they have with family, friends, and colleagues. Robust relationships act as essential guides through the uncharted territories of a new profession.

Programmes like the Five-Step Career Planning Strategy, crafted by Natalia Stambulova of Halmstad University, Sweden, empower individuals to cultivate practical skills necessary for a smooth transition.


2. Preparation at Every Stage

Professor Paul Wylleman of Vrije Universiteit Brussel illuminates the journey by dissecting retirement into three phases:

  • Pre-Retirement: Cultivate self-management skills; delve into long-term planning and decision-making.
  • During Retirement: Foster positive habits to create an environment conducive to transition. Leverage professional contacts, maintain fitness, share experiences, and secure financial backing.
  • Post-Retirement: Athletes continue to transfer skills into their new lives, relying on online platforms and groups to integrate into society post-sport.


3. Organisational Response

  • Mutual benefits: Organisations should realise that what benefits athletes also enriches their teams and clubs.
  • Communication: Senior figures should educate athletes about the challenges they might face post-retirement. Effective communication ensures all stakeholders are aware of available support systems.
  • Allow time to explore: Athletes should be given the space to build social networks and explore options, fostering an identity beyond sports.
  • Coaching and mentoring: These programmes are pivotal in equipping athletes with the mindset and lifestyle management necessary to achieve future goals.

Athlete Career Transition

Athletes make for exceptional employees; they possess huge talent, discipline, and are used to performing under extreme pressure. Athletes understand the meaning of giving 100% for themselves and their team until objectives are met.

However, transitioning to new professional arenas requires support.

At Athlete Career Transition, we provide comprehensive, world-class programmes ensuring athletes seamlessly transition into a thriving second career.

Click here to discover more.