In a fascinating article in Sport Magazine last week (“Life After Sport: A study“), Steven Sylvester, former Middlesex cricketer and now chartered psychologist working with world champion athletes, explained the problems faced by full-time athletes as they make the transition into retirement.
As a recreational/community coach and sports fan, I am not sure that I have ever even thought about the challenges facing a professional athlete at the end of their full-time playing career.
But perhaps we can help by trying to instil the “growth mindset” into our charges at an early age – the idea that any challenge can be overcome if it is approached in the right way.
From the outside, there seem to be some similarities between the experience of a professional athlete when they retire from their sport and of servicemen leaving the military. You become exceptionally good at doing one thing, in a relatively closed environment; then, still at a relatively young age, you have to leave that environment and re-deploy your skills (or learn to do something completely different) in a very different world.
Difficult (putting it mildly), and great kudos to those who successfully take on this challenge.
The ECB’s Long-Term Athlete Development (LTAD) model (possibly no longer current?) did include the “retirement, retraining & retention” stage, but as a recreational/community coach, I don’t know how it operates in practice. We deal with young players, and amateurs for whom cricketing retirement just means spending summer Saturday afternoons at home (unless they become umpires, or coaches…).
But perhaps the early stage coach might make a small contribution to the future professional by introducing them to the growth mindset during their “learning to train” or “training to train” stages.
Not “positive thinking” (“things will turn out OK if I think they will be OK”), but “rational optimism” – “I understand what is going on, and I believe that I can make things better if I…”
A young player can use this approach to support his or her (playing) development; an older player might re-deploy the skill to adapt to life outside the professional game.
Might it help? Maybe.
Will it hurt? Surely not!