Why I rate having a Plan B

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In my role as a consultant for @ThirdEYE International Sports Consultancy recent conversations have got me thinking about players transitioning away from sport.

The dictionary definition of the word transition is ‘the process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another’. It implies that this period is thought about and planned for as a process generally has preparation, and then a beginning, a middle and an end.

In a sporting context transition is sometimes like that, most often when an established player chooses to retire when the time is right. However, the reality for most players is that transition is forced upon them, often when they are least expecting it and have not been mentally prepared. Many injuries are unpredictably career ending; and being de-selected or cut from a squad feels the same.

When my daughter was cut from an international sports programme it was traumatising for her as a player. Her sporting dreams and hopes for her future were shattered in a matter of minutes creating an understandable turmoil of raw emotions. As her parents who had invested in her journey for over 10 years, it was the toughest test of our emotional strength as we grappled to find the right words and actions to support her.

Thank goodness we were the sort of family who had regularly discussed the ‘Plan B scenario’ and what life after sport might look like. We had insisted on prioritising academics alongside sport and had regularly encouraged her to seek out and take up work experience opportunities. What saved her, when she came up for air, was she was able to make a meaningful plan about her next chapter because she had already started to invest time and energy in finding out what she was good at outside sport. She had many connections in business, a brilliant degree, and meaningful employment that was already in place and running alongside her sporting commitments.

She also had a family that loved her for the journey she had been on, not for the medals she had brought home and hurrah to the great friends outside of sport that were there for her when she most needed them.

I can now say as a sporting parent that what has made me most proud is seeing the new life she has created post her international  sporting career. This month we are one year on from the day her world fell apart, she is embracing a fabulous new career and I have never known her happier, healthier or more full of life. She is valued and appreciated by all those around her. What more could a parent ask for?

For an athlete forced to transition rediscovering an identity outside of sport takes time, energy, difficult conversations and self reflection. I now support this process by coaching parents and athletes who are on the elite sports pathway to have a healthy pragmatic attitude to the roller-coaster of a journey they are on. I am living proof that difficult times can open new doors.