For many athletes, the choice of when to announce your retirement from sport is a luxury. So for those of you who have the opportunity to go out on your own terms, when is the best time to announce that you’re finishing and what things will you need to consider?
As you’ll know by now, at The Final Whistle we are big fans of having a plan; so here are some of the key considerations you’ll need to take into account when deciding whether to announce your retirement early in the season.
1. You have to be sure you’re ready to walk away
We’ve all seen the stories of athletes announcing their retirement only to turn up again the next season or a few years later. Whether it was Brett Favre, Kobe Bryant or Justine Henin, the chances of returning to your prior glory are slim, and by clinging on, many only delay the inevitable and confuse their transition to life after sport.
2. It can put pressure on your selection
Whilst everyone loves to dream about the fairy tale ending to a stellar career, the alternative can be true as coaches or administrators start to look to the next generation of stars to invest their time in. If you continue to dominate on the field or in your performances, no problems, but if your form slips or just on par with other younger athletes, there is a chance that the selection decision could go in favour of the athlete who is still going to be around next year.
3. You have to think about who you want to be after sport
This might seem like a benefit, and it is, but is also a tough process. For many athletes, sport has been a huge part of your identity for most of your life, and it takes some serious soul-searching and courage to step towards a different version of yourself.
1. It puts a timeline to your transition plans
Ideally, you have already been developing a plan towards transition, and now you can put concrete steps in place to manage this period of your life. If not, then announcing your retirement early allows you to do this.
This certainly means you can plan holidays, allow loved ones to prepare for the change, and prepare both financially and mentally for the change to your new lifestyle.
2. It lets employers know that you are available for positions
By now you have probably developed fantastic networks through your sporting connections, and by announcing your retirement early, you can let them all know that you are a potential employee. You might even be able to communicate a starting date to them. This allows you to have more specific conversations, potentially gain some work experience or even arrange mentors to help you determine what your best career options are and how to make them a reality.
3. It allows you to reflect on your career and enjoy your final season
Speaking from personal experience, when your retirement decision is something you can’t control or comes unexpectedly, the abrupt change and shock to the system can leave a bad taste in your mouth.
By making your decision early and overcoming the emotion of letting the world know that this season is your last, you are free to reflect on all the amazing experiences, achievements and friendships you’ve made through sport, and use these to start building an identity and confidence in other parts of your life.
So what’s the answer?
There is no right or wrong answer here and the decision to announce your retirement early in the season or at the end of the last game will be unique to every athlete.
The key is to have a plan, and remember, if you are in a position to make these decisions you are better off than the thousands of athletes who have this decision made for them through injury or selection.
Whatever your decision, knowing what your options are and why you’re choosing that path over another, is all you can really do to live a life with no regrets.