Look, I know you dream of playing in the NFL, but as you know, the odds are against you.
But even if you do make it, the odds are against you playing any longer than 3 years (although Mr. Goodell says that isn’t true), and that leaves a lot of life left to live.
Here are some tips that I think can help you prepare for that transition to life after football.
I wanted to get more information on helping our own clients make that transition to life after pro football.
I decided to do some digging around for some ideas, and today, I’ll be sharing with you some of the things I think stood-out in the resources I looked-into.
Below are links to some of the articles in case you want to give them a read yourself.
Lesson #1 – Take Advantage of “Life After Sports”-Type Programs Provided By Your School or Players Union
There are quite a few programs like the Life After Sports Mentor Program at the University of Louisville that help student-athletes prepare themselves for professional careers outside of sports.
Why you wouldn’t take advantage of stuff like this is beyond me.
Louisville’s program partners former student-athletes with mentors that work in their fields of interest, so they can get acclimated to what life in the “real world” is all about.
Louisville’s program is designed for players who’s eligibility is already up, and in my opinion that can be a little late, but it’s still better than nothing.
Even if you’re a current pro athlete, there’s programs like the NFL Player Development Program and the CFL Player’s Association offers would be silly; unless, of course, you’re in denial, thinking that “everything will work itself out, there’s nothing to worry about.”
If you happen to make it to the NFL, or you’re currently in the NFL, take advantage of the Player Development program.
If you’re a current NFL player and you never got your degree, they’ll work with your former school, or help you find another school closer to where you play or reside in the off season, to help you get your Bachelor’s or even your graduate degree.
If I were you, I’d take this topic seriously, and try to plan for this as early-on in your collegiate or pro career as you can.
Speaking of starting early…
Lesson #2 – Start the Process as Early as Possible
Even though the article I’m about to discuss is about former NFL players, the premise is still the same;
The earlier you start planning for this, the better.
In “Crossing the Bridge: Finding Your Best Life after the NFL”, the author, former NFL DB, and VP of the NFL Player Engagement program, Troy Vincent, interviews Eric Hipple, a former NFL player, who’s had his fair share of life challenges in his post-playing days.
In the article, Eric talks about how players that prepare for life after football tend to be more optimistic and prepared for their futures after the game, while those that fail to plan tend to have a harder time adjusting.
Many former players have confided that they are so distraught about their playing experience being over that they can’t even drive by the stadium where they once played,” says Eric, “it is simply too painful. Some won’t even watch television or sports as they associate it with their football days. Worse, some won’t even tell people that they ever played football. In an effort to manage their emotions and pain, they don’t want to talk about it.
The article points out the importance of figuring things out early, before it’s too late.
Although I didn’t play at a big school personally, I can tell you from experience that it’s tough getting used to being just a regular
person, when you’re used to the preferential treatment and comraderie you experience as a collegiate athlete.
The end is inevitable, so it’s best to prepare early, to make the process as smooth as you can make it.
Going through this transition can lead to feelings of being alone, and can even lead to depression, which is yet another reason why Eric says that it’s important to try to address this issue before hand.
If you’re still not convinced about the importance of getting started on this early, check out the words from former NFL line backer Coy Wire:
“If I could give one message to players about the end of their careers, it would be to ensure that they will be able to hit the ground running with a new career. You don’t want any down time because when there is down time, that’s when you think about all you used to have. That’s when you can get depressed. That’s when you can experience anxiety attacks. That’s when you wake up in the middle of the night with what you think is a heart attack or a stroke, when really it was a panic attack.”
Do you really wanna deal with that? Especially if it’s avoidable?
Lesson #3 – Deal With Your Emotions Head-On
In the article, Troy and Eric make it clear that dealing with your emotions is paramount to getting through this stage:
“Ultimately Eric believes that the player who openly discusses all the aspects of his transition is the player who opens up his life to all the endless possibilities and opportunities that await him beyond the field.”
Therapists will tell you that one of the best ways to deal with anything, even traumatic experiences in life, is to face your feelings.
It sounds cliche, I know, but it’s true.
Even before you reach the end of eligibility (or the end of your pro career), consider talking to someone you trust about your feelings about life after football.
Whether it’s a coach, guidance counselor at school, or a former teammate who’s already been there and done that, find somebody you can voice your concerns (or lack thereof) to.
In fact, Eric, agrees with that advice:
“(Eric) believes that the best way for a former player to successfully “cross the bridge” to a new life and a fulfilling career is to talk to others about what he is feeling about his playing days coming to an end.”
You might find comfort in getting it out in the open.
Check back soon for part 2!
Click here to let me know about any topics you’d like to see covered here at G2TL, or just leave a comment below.
Follow me on Twitter! @alvingrier