The Life of a Retired Athlete

Being a teacher is pretty great, no doubt.  If you do a good job, you can get things like tenure, so that your career will always be ensured.  Of course, that’s not a privilege that any athletes get.  As they get older, they can’t perform like they used to, and get replaced by younger athletes.  For those who have yet to retire, major game events (like the Commonwealth Games currently going on in Scotland) are a pivotal moment for athletes.  Depending on how they perform, some of them will become household names, while others will fade into obscurity.  Regardless, however, they will have made the same sacrifices and been through the same highs and lows that come with such competition.  Lucrative sponsorship deals and work as sports commentators are only for a select few, so what becomes of the rest of them?

Dame Kelly Holmes

The famed Dame Kelly Holmes.

At the current moment, there are thousands of athletes competing in Glasgow, and hundreds of medals will be given out.  However, medals don’t always ensure fame and fortune.  In fact, the exact opposite awaits many.  Athletes put everything into their sport, focusing on nothing else and often sacrificing relationships, education and work.  However, when it’s time to retire, all of that focus and structure has no outlet for the first time.  It’s a terrifying thing to think about.  And if funding gets cut, athletes face financial difficulty, and finding other work can be a challenge for somebody seeking employment outside of the athletic world.  Athletes, however, have a unique set of skills, and success after their career is just about using those effectively.

British Olympic swimmer Adam Whitehead currently works for a UK charity, the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust.  This organization supports athletes in their transition from post-sport lives through training and coaching, and the athletes are deployed as mentors to disadvantaged young people throughout the UK.  Those skills necessary for competing at top level: focus, determination, confidence and resilience, are those that many young people lack, and so they’ve ended up unemployed, with no qualifications and little hope of finding work in a crowded market during this global recession.  Through the charity’s programs, young people are taken through their paces with team building and confidence-boosting activities.  They look into their health and well-being, prepare for interviews, write up resumes and gain work experience.  The mentor role of the athletes is to inspire young people to work hard and believe in themselves.  So far, the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust has over 240 athletes on their books, through whom they have touched the lives of over 170,000 youngsters.

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