Research Paper By Juliette Posner
(Transformation & Business Coach, UNITED STATES)
As a former gymnast, I remember being told to train through the pain. In fact, some pain was looked at as a positive thing – as it meant that limits were being breeched. Over the years, I have noticed many former athletes are able to apply this ability to strive forward despite pain and other obstacles. The adage “no pain, no gain” becomes ingrained in their psyche. As these athletes leave their chosen sport, these belief sets, methodologies and conditioning tactics come with them. When and how do these tactics succeed or fail for these athletes? Separately: Can non-former athletes observe these systems and apply similar approaches in their life?
Many competitive athletes begin training at young ages. In gymnastics, training may begin as young as 3 or 4 years of age, in soccer/futbol the age range may start around age 5. Young athletes are more pliable – both physically and mentally. However, even those athletes who start their sport slightly later in life may be molded through repetitive drilling, practice, and intense competition. When the competition ends, many athletes feel a sense of loss. The time they devoted is now empty and they need something to take its place.
Frequently, an activity/endeavor with similar drive is sought to fill in the gap. Former athletes may seek out an activity that is equally competitive to see if they can succeed in a new arena. Being goal-oriented to win, these individuals may apply similar regimens, schedules, and tactics. If they succeeded once, they figure, it should be possible again.
When does it work?
There are storied success stories of individual athletes who were at the top of their game in one sport and seemingly with ease moved to another profession or other forms of success. A good chunk of these individuals were able to transition as they each had a passion for something in addition to their sport. Their determination to succeed in their second passion drove them to use their learned tactics to leapfrog across hurdles.
Steve Bell-Irving, cofounder of Athlete Evolution Services, which helps connect college athletes with employers, spoke with Business Insider and explained why Wall Street is the perfect match for former athletes: “Employers see how athletes are driven to compete, strive to constantly improve, and have the thick skin to accept critical feedback. Industries that require great tenacity target these individuals when hiring, because the employer believes these skills will transfer to the workplace. The financial industry is a perfect example of a group of employers that zero in on former high performance athletes as recruits.”
When does it fail?
While every population has a spectrum between the complete success stories and the absolute failures – former competitive athletes may be so driven by one passion that other interests fall by the wayside. Without recognizable passion and interests, former athletes may succumb to depression, ambiguity, and frustration. There may be no central figure who they believe can provide instruction on what options should be followed to lead them out of their hole.
Tiki Barber, a former American football player who had a temporary job in broadcasting explained:
I couldn’t figure out what to do next [after his broadcasting job ended]. It was strange to not have people telling me what to do because that was all I’d ever known. All of a sudden there was a malaise taking over me. I imagine that happens to a lot of players unless they’re able to catch on to something. 
Who can guide them now?
Coaches in sports instruct players in the fundamentals of the chosen sport and direct team strategy. But, when competition ends, guidance may be few and far between. Family members, friends and associates may be well meaning, but do not have the training to assist or are too closely connected to the person to be objective.
While some of these individuals may not know it, other types of coaches can step in to provide this guidance. In various areas of their lives, life coaches can assist the former athlete with the development of new goals / life plans, and over time provide tactics attuned to a competitive person’s abilities/sensitivities.
Approach for non-former competitive athletes:
Competitive athletics takes focus, determination, and consummate practice in addition to some inherent skill. Non-athletes who take up a sport may also realize how much time it takes to get incrementally better. While scientists have debunked the myth that 10,000 hours of practice makes you an expert , the vast majority of novices will show some improvement through consummate practice.
Take Dan McLaughlin , an average guy (by his own account) had minimal golf experience, but created a plan to become a professional golfer by logging in 30-plus hours a week to obtain 10,000 hours of practice time in under a six year period. While his goal is still in progress and ultimate triumph is not known, the process by which he is approaching through iterative development, practice, and coaching has already helped him achieve success.
Others can follow in Dan and competitive athletes’ steps. Questions can be posed to these individuals including:
- For which goal can you imagine pushing past your known limits?
- Who can provide you the coaching you need to achieve this goal?
- How much time and effort can you dedicate to achieving this goal?
- How would you rate your determination on a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being the highest)? Why?