Thursday, October 28, 2021

Preparing athletes for life after sport

It has been said that athletes die twice, first in their career and then in their life.

When athletes blow the whistle on their careers, some of them often struggle with depression and substance abuse. Athletes may be forced into retirement due to age or sport related injury which can happen anytime in their career.

Speaking to this publication, Sport Science and Exercise expert, Dr Tshepang Tshube noted that retirement from sport is a major life event with significant impact on elite athletes.

“It is one of the major predictors of athletes’ ill-health at mental and physical level,” he says, adding that “when elite athletes transition from active sport to retirement, they experience a loss of identity and social networks”.

Tshube notes that one of the setbacks of retirement in athletes is that they experience anxiety, depression, anger, and in some cases, descend into substance abuse. One of the observed risks in sport is injuries, sports injuries are likewise associated with depression and anxieties, he says.

With all these negative effects on athletes, Tshube says there will always be a need for timely interventions to help athletes to transition well into life after sports.

“The Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC) and Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) needs to establish career assistance programmes. The programmes should have dual career support, life skills support, and retirement transition support services,” Tshube advices.

“Life skills are crucial to support athletes into their retirement. Retirement transition support services ensure that athletes are supported to apply for jobs and adapt into post-sport career,” he adds.

As active athletes adhere to a strict standard diet routine, Tshube says their retirement from sport will sometimes require that they change their diet. This change will at times cause increased weight gain leading to body image issues amongst retired athletes.

The Sport Science expert however says retired athletes can return to their natural body look. “Athletes need to follow an exercise regimen consistent with their fitness level. The challenge is that sometimes athletes completely stop training at exercise and gain weight. It is important for athletes to continue a reduced exercise regimen,” he says.

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