Remember that time right after you found out you weren't going pro? Yeah me too. I spent most of that time sulking. I was bitter, frustrated, and honestly disenchanted with life. I was grateful to have a job because so many of my friends (with great educations mind you) were applying and applying with no success. After being in the "working world" for several years I quickly realized I didn't want to do what I currently do (if you know me personally you know what that is) FOR-EV-ER.
Knowing this, I began to go to seminars and conferences hoping to get the "keys to success". I tried everything y'all. If you Google how to be rich, I probably did it. I had been engaging in personal development for some time now, so I couldn't figure out why I was having such a hard time "finding my purpose" because that's what your're supposed to do right? For real though! Every book I read, class I took, event I attended, or podcast I listened to ALL said the same thing...
FOLLOW...YOUR...PASSION... No shyt Sherlock! Did I mention I hate the word passion with the heat of a thousand suns!
I did follow my passion, BASKETBALL and it didn't turn out the way I thought it would so now what? I'm 29, purposeless, and feeling like the only thing I was good at was basketball. Even when you've been out of the game for years (9 years for me) it's hard to see yourself as anything other than a basketball player, especially when you've devoted the majority of your young life to it. So of course, when you're facing an identity crisis you should turn to the internet lol. I came across a published thesis paper by Kerbi McKnight titled Life After Sport: Athletic Career Transition and Transferable Skills. The gist of the paper is that successful (relatively speaking) life after sport isn't simply a matter of going out and getting a job or starting a business. Before you can do any of that, you have to actually see yourself differently and INTERNALIZE how the qualities you acquired during sports is not only transferable, but also valuable in other contexts.
So yes, you could always go get a job, but subconsciously you may not go for the one you actually want because you don't see yourself being able to be a top performer.This was huge for me because it accurately explained the source of some of my hang ups. For my friends that already knew they wanted to be doctors or marketing strategists, that minor shift in thinking may seem like a no brainer. If you already knew your "calling" you're probably happy in your situation and already feel like you're operating at full capacity. You feel that you are living your purpose. However, If you are still looking at your sport as your calling you basically have on blinders and can't see the vast possibilities for yourself...
That little shift in thinking was powerful for me though... because I could now look at my abilities, qualities, and skills that I'd learned since graduating objectively and not through the lens of Shannon the basketball player. I feel this sets me free in exploring possibilities that I previously thought were off limits.
After I read the paper I contacted Kerbi (we are on a first name basis now lol) and she said this
"I currently work as a Psychologist in Alberta Canada. But I have had more people reach out to me about the article in the last two years than in the previous 8 years. It is a very important topic that is often overlooked, but people are starting to talk about it more now, which is great".
Whoa! She wrote the paper 8 years ago, but within the past 2 years more people have reached out to her about this topic? What does that say about the mental aspect of leaving sport? There are sports psychologists that focus on athletic performance, but isn't the mental well being of athletes just as important? How come more people aren't talking about this? For some it's no big deal and for others it's the difference between applying for their "dream job" and just applying for what they think they can get.
There are most certainly other sites and blogs that are dedicated to helping former athletes find jobs, build their brand, or go into another sports related field. Most notably, Athlete Network just hosted a job fair at my alma mater Howard University. The pictures from the event displayed a huge turn out which is fantastic. I found Athlete Network while surfing the interwebs and I was blown away by the collaboration that happens on the site and also the opportunities that it offers its subscribers.
As I spoke with Kerbi we mused over how the mental side of life is glossed over and I expressed a desire to share my experience working through my "identity crisis" hence the creation of Win After Basketball. I told her that I didn't want to mislead anyone, but I did go through a series of exercises, techniques, and experiences that led me to finally seeing myself as MORE THAN. So, while I think the tactical side of life is very very important, I will write about things like networking skills, habit forming techniques, and starting a side hustle. However, I'm more interested in focusing on mastering your thoughts, lessening self sabotaging behaviors, and demystifying the process of finding your purpose. When you are free in those areas you have the confidence to do just about anything.
My final note: If you are looking for the "magic bullet" to happiness and prosperity, you aren't going to find it here. That shyt takes time and work and it's HARD! I once heard someone say "A years worth of gradual improvements can be incredible". What one thing can you do today to move toward your goals? That's what I'm talking about, consistently making gradual improvements each day.
If you were feelin' this post like it, share it, send it to someone you know who is always talking about the good old days lol. Also, leave a comment and tell me how you triumphed over an identity crisis.