This heartbreaking quote was used as the title to a cyclingnews.com story about the retirement of Yoann Offredo (Circus-Wanty Gobert), who was forced into unwanted retirement by an injury. He was open about struggling with depression as a result of this transition, and about not having an identity outside of cycling.
This is so sad. The focus of support for so many athletes is on race performance, with little to no support for anything outside of that domain. While some National Sports Institutes offer services like “Performance Lifestyle” or “Athlete Career Education”, many athletes around the world don’t have access to these. Sport is a short first career, sometimes made even shorter through illness or injury (or a pandemic), and all athletes need to plan their exit strategy. This means doing the work early in their sporting career to understand their interests, values, and strengths, and then taking the first steps towards their second career while they are still an athlete.
The transition out of sport can be horrible for people if they’ve been told that their sport has to be their entire life, their entire identity. It’s common in sport to treat athletes planning for their next career or pursuing education for it to be considered to be showing a lack of commitment to their team. It’s unfortunate that this attitude exists, because when an athlete has a full life and plan for what’s next, they are more resilient and are able to give their best to their sport.
Remember, transitions are FROM something and TO something else. Knowing what you’re transitioning TO is what helps you move on with your life. Knowing who you are at your core is what gives you the strength to make the jump.
If you are an athlete at any stage of your career, amateur or professional, I’m here as an independent coach with no agenda. Let’s start figuring out not just what you do, but who you are. Knowing these things can help you give your best to your sport.