Essential Reading for Your Transition Journey
A reflection on athlete transition (and a few books that may help you navigate retirement)
By: Marissa Morah | Timeout Copywriter, editor, and strategist
As a former collegiate volleyball player, it was always in the back of my mind that my career would eventually come to an end. However, no matter how much I thought about it, nothing could prepare me for when reality set in and it was all over. I was left with a feeling of total loss, not really knowing who I was or what my worth was outside of my sport.
So many retired athletes can relate to this, no matter how long their career lasted. Whether your career came to an abrupt ending due to an injury, you’ve graduated, or whatever the case may be, it can be unsettling to know it’s all over. In many cases, you almost have to start over in finding yourself. I really struggled for a few years after my career ended, and those close to me could sense it. Luckily I had a few concerned friends and mentors around me who shared some helpful resources.
I’ve always been a reader, so when I got some of these books geared towards how to handle this really difficult transition, it was the perfect way for me to process what I was feeling and even find some helpful coping tips as I continued on.
Here are three books that were critical in my journey after my athletic career came to an end. I highly recommend them for anyone currently transitioning or nearing the end of their journey.
Who Am I After Sports? An Athlete’s Roadmap to Discover New Purpose and Live Fulfilled
This was written by former Division I athlete and motivational speaker Darryll Stinson. He is also the founder of Second Chance Athlete, a resource for athletes to navigate life after sports. This book touches on how to really navigate through the question, Ok, what’s next for me? It explores loss and validates all of the feelings athletes might experience when their career comes to an end. The thing I found most helpful was the prompting questions he asked, which ultimately led me to truly think about my identity, putting sports aside. He also outlines ways to channel negative thoughts when they do come, and helps you pinpoint ways to remain positive and productive in your new phase of life.
The Athlete After: A 10-Week Guide to Balancing Life After Sports
Aside from the mental aspect of how hard it is to end an athletic career, many don’t think about how you essentially have to relearn how to do life when it’s not completely scheduled out for you. The author of this book, Katie Hargrave, is a Life Coach and Personal Trainer and talks through mind, body, and food. I found out that working out was a struggle, which might sound crazy, but for me, I found I didn’t know how to exercise without training for my sport. This book was a great guide to show what kinds of exercises are good for your body post-career. In addition, your body has to relearn how to fuel itself. Many retired athletes struggle with an appetite geared towards performance, and it’s hard to know where to start. Hargrave gives a great guide to what you should be eating and how to adjust your diet to life after sports. There is also space for notes and reflections.
The Transition: Every Athlete’s Guide to Life After Sports
This book really taps into every emotion one can feel once they go through this major life shift. This book was written by former USC Volleyball Player, Kelli Tennant. She dives into the pressure former athletes can feel once they’re applying for jobs and looks into how our athletic careers can impact our professional life, and how to navigate that. She also dives into her personal story and features many other athletes’ stories to show that this is a community-wide struggle. This book left me feeling like I wasn’t alone in my struggles and that it was ok to process and feel everything I was feeling.
If you’re experiencing anxiety about your career-ending, or if you are in the middle of the transition and are struggling, reach out to a coach, mentor, or friend and let them know where your head’s at. There are also many professional counselors who have specific training for this kind of life change. There’s no shame in feeling a sense of loss–because it’s a huge deal. Finding your identity after something you’ve dedicated mental, physical and emotional energy to is not something that happens overnight. Trust the journey, know it might take some time, and most importantly, give yourself a little grace during this challenging time.