There is nothing harder than knowing when it is time to be an athlete no longer. The famous poem called To an Athlete Dying Young puts everything so perfectly into spoken word poetry that can speak to the soul of every athlete. The reason that being an athlete is hard to walk away from is because there is a fear that people will never cheat you on in the same way again. It is hard to believe that you can do anything else that would make your name as renown as it is now or once was. You are faced with the decision of bowing out in your prime while you are on top or waiting to fall off and be forgotten. In the Dark Knight, Harvey Dent said: “You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” The words could not ring any truer. Here is the poem To an Athlete Dying Young.
To an Athlete Dying Young
To An Athlete Dying Young – Walk Away Earlier
To an Athlete Dying Young = Leave On Your Terms
Why is To Any Athlete Dying Young so Relevant Today?
The poem is relevant today because of a lot of the mental health issues that we are currently seeing in the athlete world today. I had a childhood friend I grew up with commit suicide, and there have been way too many similar stories. The hardest decision any athlete must make stems from not knowing when to retire and figuring out what to do after retirement. I wanted to leave anyone in this current spot with some tips on moving forward.
As an Olympic track and field athlete, I learned quickly that as quickly as the spotlight comes, it can be taken away just as fast. The spotlight is not loyal, and neither is the world of sports. You have to take care of yourself by preparing yourself for retirement. I was able to retire and not look back for a second for these reasons. I lived out my version of To An Athlete Dying Young but focusing on what I could do outside of sports. When it was my time, I did not look back.
Tips For Retiring From Sports Based On My Thoughts From To an Athlete Dying Young
Treat Every Opportunity Like It is Your Last
One day you will be right, and the opportunity you have will be your last as an athlete. Then you will have another chance that will be your last in life. This is a great way to live life and make the most of everything that you do.
When you are at practice or competitions, enjoy it all. Not just the winning but the friendships you build, having a coach, team trips because these are things that you will miss the most. The wins are secondary when you look back on it all.
When you walk away from the game, you want to know that you have used every piece of talent you could. Don’t retire with any left because if you do, you will leave you questioning what could have been and
Build a Passion In Other Areas – To an Athlete Dying Young
You have to start looking for other areas that you are interested in while you are still an athlete. For me it was entrepreneurship, and that was what led me to start Kho Health. I started running track when I was seven years old; I could not just put in 16 years to running and then all of a sudden retire with no other passion. It will leave you empty, and most athletes are used to being passionate about what they put their time into.
It is essential that you start this process early. When you wait until you are retired to start, it is too late because the moment is upon you. You want this new passion to be so strong that it passes what you have for your sport. It makes walking away make a lot more sense because there is something great already waiting for you.
Talk About It Often
You have to talk about it with the people you love. Make them aware that you think about it all of the time and that you will need their support when that day comes. You cannot tackle this alone because a lot of yourself esteem as an athlete was built up by your support team. It is your friends and family that watch you play, and deep down you feel like when you leave the game, they may not cheer you on in life. They will, but it will just be in a much different way, and that is a good thing!
The more you talk about it and put this day on your brain, the more you will prepare for it. The more time you spend preparing for, the more you will be ready for it. Some might say too much time preparing for it is a distraction from the goal of playing as long as possible and I call BS. When you are an NCAA athlete, you spend a lot of your time in the classroom, in study hall and with mentors making sure you get that degree so that you have something to fall on outside of sports. It is more than possible to work on being a successful athlete and preparing for life after it.
Find Mastery In Other Skills
When I think back on my career, I think about how many accelerations I did as a sprinter in my 16-year career. It is mastery, one movement that I worked on 20-30 times every practice, six days a week, 11 months a year for 16 years. Humans crave mastery! We have a desire to do things we are good at and to continue to improve.
When you find that passion outside of being an athlete, it is vital that you find something to master. You need something that is worth throwing your all into studying until you can say that you are one of the best.
Will you set sail on your career in your prime like To an athlete dying young, or will you wait for the sport to stop loving you and push you out?