I’ll Always Love The Game…
The truth is, I have never officially announced my retirement from the game of basketball.
To this day, I still can’t completely accept the fact that I (probably) never will play the game at a high level again.
To be honest, giving up something that I have done my entire life doesn’t sit comfortably with me all the way, especially because I feel like physically I could still continue to play.
At this point in my life, I felt like the best decision I could have made for my future was to step away from the game for the time being.
In doing this, I have realized two main things:
- How much I miss the game
- What it feels like to go on without it
The latter of the two I am slowly learning to become at ease with, but I know that I will always miss playing highly competitive basketball. I think that is one of the things that most athletes miss when they retire.
The competition, the pure love for the craft, and amount of respect and admiration that you receive are all things that athletes wish they had back once they retire. They are all a huge part of the reason why athletes don’t want to move on without their sport.
There is so much that plays a factor during this transition in an athlete’s life, but I think there might be one aspect that stands out more than all of these other things.
The Hardest Part Of Transitioning Out Of Sports
I’ve spoken to hundreds of athletes about transitioning out of sports over the years. Many of them retired on their own, but most of them weren’t able to make the choice.
Some of them had successful transitions, but a lot of them struggled to figure themselves out.
But one thing I found was that most athletes didn’t necessarily miss the rivalry games, traveling to different places or even the sport within itself. The thing that I noticed most athletes missed the most was the actual team aspect and camaraderie of the sport that they played.
This is because sports is all about community and being apart of something bigger ourselves, which pulls us together as human beings. The connection that you build through sports grows exponentially when you go through the same struggles and obstacles with others.
As people, we are born to value and need that personal connection and that social experience. It helps us relate to others and create lifelong bonds. It helps people understand each other on a deeper level and empathize with one another’s experiences. There is really something powerful about sharing a common goal with people which is what sports are all about.
Athletes struggle in life after sports because they yearn for that “locker room feeling.” That feeling that you have before every game when you know that you’re going into battle with your “family” and no matter what happens they have your back and you have theirs.
They miss that feeling of going through the trenches with a close-knit group for months on end to finally reach the goal of winning a championship, realizing that all of the pain, practice, and rehab were all worth it. This is why athletes feel the need to stay in touch with one another for years after they are done playing.
Non-athletes certainly can experience struggles in similar transitions, but since it has been ingrained in athletes for so long, they almost can’t move on without that team aspect. The most unfortunate part is that this is something that you won’t necessarily get after your playing career is over unless you actively look for it.
How To Get That Feeling Back In Life After Sports
Finding that team aspect in life can be extremely difficult. As an athlete, you’d be hard-pressed to find that same camaraderie that you got from your sport within your inner circle or your family.
Furthermore, it’ll be hard to find it in the workplace, depending on what career you enter into.
The way that you can possibly replicate that feeling is through social groups, recreational leagues, and meetups. To recreate that team experience, you have to find people who are also interested in finding that sense of community as well.
Just because you retire doesn’t mean that you cannot have that same sense of unity and share common goals with others.
It might not be exactly how it was before, but connecting with like-minded people or even people who were former athletes themselves can broaden your perspective, introduce you to new things and help ease the transition to life after sports.
It took me awhile to find this, but once I did I started to figure out my life, as well as who and what I wanted to be going down the road. The people who you surround yourself with will impact you in ways you can’t imagine, but as an athlete, you already know this.
Retirement is no different. Focus on surrounding yourself with people that you’re willing to sacrifice for and struggle with, and you’ll quickly see how you can still have a team on your side in life after sports.
Author: Malcolm Lemmons