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Lately there has been a lot of TV and online discussion about athletes “transitioning” to a life after sport. Some say more should be done to assist our sports stars to make sure the move from sport to life, is easy, supported and managed by the federation, admiration or team that the athlete represented; others are of the opinion that an athlete retiring from sport to a life in “the real world” is just like a university student needing to find a job after they get a degree from years of study, focus and sacrifice. Basically, just get on with it.

BY JACQUI COOPER

What you will find when an athlete retires (whether or not they reach their goals) is a sense of grief, anxiety, loneliness, helplessness and depression. I spoke to a high achieving AFL player just weeks after this retirement and he felt like he was in a great abyss – an unfathomable void. A scary place with a feeling of being lost.

Recent articles state that some athletes believe that when they leave sport they leave with no skills, no value and render themselves “unemployable”. Going from a daily/weekly feeling of pride, importance, support, value and achievement, it’s no wonder many find the transition a make or break of their spirit. The average “successful” transition of an elite sports person is 3 years. That’s over 1000 days of re-invention.

I spent 20 years representing Australia; 20 years of perfecting skills, honing my craft, developing an athletic brain, planning, processing and setting goals that needed a commitment and a dedication that would be an endless driver in a cruel and brutal sport. My driver, that internal fire was the ace in my pocket. It pushed me and drove me to do more than anybody else. That same flame picked me up when I was down and got me knowing and believing that I could do anything.

Nearing the end of my career and knowing that my window in sport and the opportunities that come with that life were coming to an end. I felt like I was on a train that was getting faster and faster, heading to a destination that I knew nothing about. I spent hours and hours wondering what the first few days and months would be like; what my life might look and be like beyond being “jumping jac”. Instead of being scared about the unknown, I felt excited. I was extremely excited; It’s not often in life that you have the opportunity and a chance to be something else and something new. I had a blank canvas…….a blank canvas with a skill set like nobody else.

20 years in sport gave me skills that are used, needed and essential in business. Everything I did from the age of 16 to the day that I retired at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics when I was 37 was filling a tool box that I could take with me anywhere in life. The experiences, the relationships, the isolation, failure, hardship, mateship, passion, achievement, drive, logistics, belief, commitment, passion, heart, plus the ability to change, focus, plan, execute, work closely with others as well as receiving and processing feedback, makes me valuable and employable.

People in business and life are constantly making transitions. Some are planned, some are not. Constantly (mentally) packing and unpacking your tool box, accessing it, and adding to it, gives you the confidence that your skills, values, personality traits and experiences make you more valuable and employable……. anywhere and at any time.

I “crossed the line” 7 years ago. Retirement from sport wasn’t the end of my life; it was the beginning of a new life using skills from sport, turning on my athletic brain and continuing to approach every day with a champion attitude.

Everyone can and do extraordinary things; success comes from a full tool box and a champion attitude. When you have a champion attitude you will always have champion results.

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