Athlete Identity


I first met with this challenge when I was 18 years old. Until I reached this age, the only thing I was doing (despite going to school) was playing basketball. I absolutely loved it and spent nearly every minute of my free time on court. All my friends were in some way or another connected to the sport. I was liked by my peers but preferred to go training instead of going out and partying with my friends. The only thoughts I had were in some way connected to basketball: How early can I start training, who can play with me, how many shots should I make etc.? My mum never asked me where I was going, and when one of my friends popped around to ask about me her answer was always the same “I did not ask her but I’m sure she is on a basketball court”- and she was right.
Then my life changed and for personal reasons I decided to stop playing basketball. I was passing people by on public courts with tear drops in my eyes. I could not help it; it didn’t even matter that strangers were looking at me. It took me a long time to try and manage these emotions and even longer to understand who I am when I’m not playing basketball. I thought I’d lost a sense of myself and that I wouldn’t feel complete and satisfied with my life again…
I also came across this challenge when I was working with my very first athlete. Her words touched me deeply. When an amazing person says to you that she feels like she had lost her identity as a person during a transition from junior to senior level sport. It really makes you think.
I began to meditate, analyse and learn about the identity of athletes. The more time I spent doing it, the more convinced I was that the cause is sown deep in to our culture. What is one of the very first questions you ask after meeting someone for the first time? What do you do? And the answer you usually get is “I am a banker, a doctor, a lawyer, a mechanic.” Notice that no one asks ‘WHO you are.’ Unfortunately in society we associate our profession/job with who we are. We are absolutely everything that we want to be! And limiting ourselves to a single label is very detrimental to our growth.

My understanding and explanation of “identify “can be stated us
“ I am a human being, that can do, love and enjoy absolutely anything, the feeling I have got are
mine and only mine, they cannot be taken away or depend on winning a medal, people’s approval or financial reward.

Another crucial aspect related to loss of athletic identity (especially after a career has finished) is the loss of constant validation from outside world. We get use to the titles, prestige and ovations. When this is taken away from us it is difficult to accept. This is a time where it’s important to tell yourself that you are good enough, and even more important to believe

“Your ability as an athlete and the success you once had should never overshadow your other abilities as a person”.



The skills you already possess from being part of a team can give you an advantage in the world after competitive sport. When you were an athlete you may have been supported by the team of specialists that helped you perform at your best. In the same way you should create a team that will help you with the transition into a new chapter of your life. You can consult with a lifestyle advisor, career advisor, coach, family member or friends, which will help you to choose the right pathway. The very last piece of advice to consider is listen to the wise words and suggestions from your loved ones. But also remember that at the end of the day you are the one who is making the final decision. This process is really about you becoming more self-aware of yourself. There is no right or wrong decision, it may be that you will have to use the process of elimination to realise what you really want. Also understanding that you don’t want something is a valuable lesson bringing you a step closer to discovering a new you.