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Sporting Heroes: After the Final Whistle


In last night’s programme on BBC1, Michael Vaughan, the former England Cricket Captain, explored life after retirement with a range of sporting characters. The theme was simple:
• How do sportsmen and women cope with retirement 20-30 years before non sportspeople retire?
• How can they better prepare and cope with retirement?

From our clinical work we know that any period of transition or life change is accompanied by a set of emotional responses. For many the change is easily managed, some experience transient emotional distress and a small number develop psychological illnesses such as depression, anxiety disorder, alcohol or drug problems etc.

In providing the Rugby Players Association (RPA) confidential counselling service over the last 3 seasons ( we have seen a number of players in need of psychological support at the end of their career. Some question their true identity – “Who am I?” as Tony Adams asked himself after leaving football. Some have a crisis of confidence, robbed of the self esteem which was previously based on their sporting achievements. Some pursue destructive paths in pursuit of the lost buzz of performing and winning.

Our work generally involves 3 or 4 sessions of cognitive behavioural coaching to challenge the negative and self defeating mind-set that can creep in during times of change and uncertainty. We encourage people to draw on their strengths and use the attributes and behaviours that have seen them achieve in sport to best effect in their new roles. And the results are very good.

More important than this reactive approach to ‘career termination issues’ however is the invaluable preparatory work done by the Player Associations for their members. Josh Lewsey the former England Rugby World Cup winner (aka “ex-minor sporting celebrity”) emphasised the importance of an “early investment in the future”. Through education & training, work placements, businesses networking events and other services, the Associations help their members to improve their performance during their careers and their prospects afterwards.

The mindset shift between pre & post after retirement was evidenced by comparing the carefree cricketer Matthew Hoggard to all the retired sportsmen. But most of all by comparing him to the reflective quadriplegic ex-rugby player Matt Hampson (“You come to realize there’s a lot more to life than sport”).

If Mr Hoggard was serious when he said, “Sometime I’m going to have to grow up!” he could do worse than hitting this link: watch the video and then speak to his Player Development Manager at the Professional Cricketers Association.

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