At the young age of 24 I was in the peak of my soccer playing days. I was playing in the state league for one of the dominant teams in the WA competition, I was surely in my prime and having a great year in the game I have grown to love ever since I was just a child. I was as fit and athletic as an athlete could strive to be at that age and enjoying my role as a striker and part of a team of mates I had grown up with playing what we all believe to be the greatest game in the world. I have always been competitive in my life so in order to be at my peak on the playing field I always trained hard.
Not getting a regular start up with the first team was starting to really get to me. I was working so hard and was constantly overlooked for the starting line up. I was training, not only two times a week like the rest of the team but was putting in five training sessions to maintain my high levels of skills and fitness. I was constantly frustrated throughout the year, as I was in my prime, extremely fit and had exceptional skills and control with the ball at my feet. With my usual weekly routine being half a game in the reserves and pulled off at half time to sit on the bench for the first team, I was not totally enjoying the game I had grown to love as a spectator and most importantly for me as a player.
I now found myself in a very tough position. What was I to do? Do I quit the game I have played most of my life competitively, which really meant more to me than anything? Or do I find another team to join. Well, I really did not want to go to another team so there was only one alternative to me at the time. Quit! That word had started to play with my mind. Do I just quit and get on with life? I was an athlete at the age of 24 still in my prime in health and fitness. Did I want to lose all that? It was surely time to quit! But how would I come to terms with my new thoughts? What would I find to replace this new-found void in my life if I was to go through with it? How would it affect me? These questions were constantly running through my head.
Peter Dafinkas (AEP, ESSAM)
Lavalle & Grove (1997) in their study “Retirement from Sport and the Loss of Athletic Identity” found that individuals with a high athletic identity at the time of retirement were more likely to experience a higher degree of emotional adjustment difficulties.
Lavallee, D., Gordon, S., & Grove, J. R. (1997). Retirement from sport and the loss of athletic identity. Journal of Personal and Interpersonal Loss, 2, 129-147.