Research Paper By Colin Batchelor
(Wellness Coach, UNITED KINGDOM)
Why this topic?
In my ‘other life’ I work with as a traditional sports performance coach in the sport of cycling, where I work with athletes competing at national and international level. The experience that they and other athletes go through at the end of their careers greatly interests me and it is here I intend to focus my niche. This research paper is therefore a starting point for building that niche.
Most athletic careers span from early teens through to mid or late 30’s. During this period most aspects of an individual’s lives will be totally supported. They will have teams of specialists helping them reach their athletic potential, they will have their day by day activities mapped out for months and sometimes years ahead, they will know what they are doing from moment to moment, often they can effectively be just given a script and asked to follow it. Along with this support network most athletes have high level of self esteem due their reputation and success at local, national or international level.
The end of an athletic career however is the point where all this support stops, it is the point where the individual has to think for themselves, act for themselves and make their own decisions with little reference to others.
End of career issues
The end of an athletic career is often marked by high instances of depression, alcohol and or substance abuse, bouts of fear and self doubt, uncertainty and confusion. Whilst these elements and experiences are not uncommon when set against the general population they are often exacerbated and amplified due to the extreme contrast athletes face when moving from a supportive environment where their every need is catered for to one where that support network stops overnight. It is this sudden stop and lack of preparation for a career end moment that triggers many serious and occasionally fatal health issues.
I plan to look at the potential challenges facing career end athletes and evaluate if life coaching ahs a continuing place in supporting those athletes through that period and potentially beyond.
New life, new stress
Training for the Olympics is easier than being a mum
Gail Emms – Olympic medallist
Imagine if your current life stopped today and a new one began tomorrow. Imagine if all that you knew, all your certainties and all your plans stopped and you had nothing to replace them with, imagine the stress that you would feel. For many athletes at a career end that is their situation, they move from a safe and managed world into one that appears unmanaged and unsafe.
It’s a safety bubble, sport Gail Emms
There will be fears, uncertainty, and confusion. There will be new experiences, new challenges and new obstacles to overcome. Imagine if in your old life there was someone to help guide and support you through such situations, now imagine if in your new life that person is gone and it’s just you and that you haven’t been prepared for that change, how would you feel?
Life coaching can help fill that void, a life coach can offer an environment that allows the career end athlete to feel safe, they can offer support and can help the client gain awareness and through that awareness take movement and progress into this new and stressful life.
Who am I?
During their careers athletes have a very clearly defined self image; they know who they are simply because they are defined by their sport and defined by their position within it. Potentially though this strong self image may be at odds with their underlying beliefs and values. Or due to the strength of the self image those beliefs and values could be suppressed. It is therefore important then when working with career end athletes we pay attention to supporting our client in the development of clarity around their beliefs and values. Once we have supported the client in the discovery of their underlying beliefs we can begin to support them on their journey towards clarity and action.
For many athletes their version of their self esteem is governed by external factors. Their self esteem is linked to their sporting success, this holds a risk for them in so far as the removal of that success at the end of their career can create a crisis in their self esteem. Yannick Stephan’s research paper ‘Bodily transition out of elite sport’ shows significant drops in self esteem immediately following the ending of an athletic career.
Life coaching can continue to offer support during this transition phase by supporting the client as they develop an identity and a list of successes away from the sporting arena. Through focused listening, creating and holding a safe space for the client and powerful questioning we can support our client as they manage the perceived change in their self esteem.
Getting the fix
That fix? How do you get there? Do you get it from alcohol? Do you get it from drugs? Former England Rugby player Josh Lewsey
Something most people get from sport is an adrenalin rush or from the above quote the ‘fix’. It’s a rush from the intensity of the moment. Away from the competitive sporting environment it can be almost impossible to recreate that intense moment. Athletes facing a career end and the move away from that intensity can on occasions turn to drugs or alcohol in an attempt to recreate the ‘high’ they experience during competition.
In situations such as this life coaching can offer a mechanism for the client to understand the issues surrounding their desire to recreate the intense moment and can support the client as they look at alternatives to that moment. Additionally life coaching can support the client and allow them to project into a future where they have another successful career where they can still experience the fix of the moment of intensity. Tools such as visualisation world be particularly apt here and for many athletes this will be a tool they are used to working with, thus we would be able to maintain a comfort zone for our client to work in.