Money Smart Athlete Blog

The psychology of retiring from sport at a young age

Sep 5, 2018 | Financial Psychology


Professional athletes are considered to be by nature mentally tougher than other people, due to the hard work and devotion to their sport in their everyday life. Professional athletes have also dedicated their lives to sport and made personal sacrifices to pursue their athletic dreams. But what about when the time to retire comes? Can all these years of hard work be terminated without distressful reactions and psychological effects? 

Retirement can be involuntary and voluntary. Involuntary retirement occurs when athletes have no choice in the matter, most likely due to age, or due to illness or injury. On the other hand, voluntary retirement can happen at any age, and it’s the athletes’ decision to leave their sports career and move on. In any case, once professional athletes leave their sport, they usually find it very hard to adjust to their new lives. 

Plenty of psychological, behavioral and emotional studies conducted during the last decade from various researchers, attempt to explain the changes in an athlete’s life after retirement. As a Money Smart Athlete, you should be aware and be prepared for these physical and psychological changes when retirement comes.  

Dealing with your Emotions 

First, you should be ready to take control of your emotions before these emotions direct you towards making wrong decisions and desperate moves. 

Anxiety: Anxiety could be pervasive, making you too conservative with your dreams, your personal goals and lowering your self-worth. You need to learn to control the causes of your anxiety. If you are so worried and stressed about your prospective retirement you will never be able to see clearly and decide what to do next. 

Jealousy: If you are jealous of your friends’ or other peoples’ careers and possessions then in trying to keep up with ‘the Jones’ you might end up doing something you don’t really like after your sports career ends. Stop thinking about the others and try to focus on what you have, not what you lack. Each day, jot down one thing that you’re thankful for. Soon enough, it will be second nature to focus on the good stuff in life. 

Regret: If you beat up yourself all the time about lousy decisions of the past then you are stuck in the past. Channel your regret into a learning opportunity. Forgive yourself for any past mistakes and focus on strategies that will steer you clear of the same missteps in the future. 

Sadness: When people feel sad or depressed because of a problematic or stressful situation, they avoid talking about it or thinking about it. Find a trusted person, a mentor or a psychologist who can assess the situation and help you in whatever needs to be done. Discussing your difficult situation with a professional psychologist or a mentor or even a friend, helps take the pressure off—and knowing that you are getting help in taking control of your life may even help lift you out of your depression. 

Taking Action 

There are numerous steps that a Money Smart Athlete can take to reduce the probabilities of anxiety and depression after retirement from sports.  

  • Step #1. Discover your skills and interests in other activities beyond sport. Expand your self-identity to other directions and reduce your exclusive identification with sports. 
  • Step #2. Develop your time and stress management skills; such skills will help you find personal balance and reconcile your sports activities with other roles. 
  • Step #3. Keep solid relationships with people in your life who really care about your personal success. Managers, coaches, mentors, friends and family, can significantly support you in the procedure to discover your after-sport identity. 
  • Step #4. Consult a sports psychologist before finding yourself helpless, desperate and confused. A psychologist can help you explore aspects of yourself you have not even thought of. 


You should always remember that with proper help and support, you can be empowered to withstand societal pressures and expectations, and take proper action towards your retirement. By educating yourself, learning new skills and becoming a lifelong learner, you will enhance your after sports career and direct yourself towards attaining financial independence. For assistance in dealing with your retirement issues you may get in touch with us at [email protected].