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Humphrey Kayange, a former Kenya Sevens skipper retired at the age of 35 and is currently an athlete's representative at NOC-K. Photo/FILE

Sports

Michael Kwambo: There is life after sport…you just need to prepare for it

NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 28 – You’re an athlete and have been on top of your game for a while now…the accolades, the fame, the monetary gain all coming through. This may at times lure you, the athlete, into a mindset of invincibility and immortality.

There’s nothing wrong in believing in one’s strengths and abilities, there’s absolutely nothing wrong in being ambitious. These after all are just some of the things that make sport worth following.

However, as an athlete, you must be aware that your shelf life is limited. Your career may be cut abruptly cut short through injury, illness or loss of passion.

Are you ready to face life away from the arena? Away from the accompanying fame and fortune? Away from the structure of training programs that have dictated your schedules in the past?

Truth is, nobody is absolutely ready for life after sport, but just as we prepare for competition on a day to day basis, it is also important for athletes to face up to the fact that they can only be active for so long and start preparing for life after sports.

Sadly, this may not always happen as many an athlete will wait until it’s too late before they start preparing for life after sports. This is one of the key contributing factors to the confusion and frustration that we witness among retired athletes as they are totally unprepared for the transition.

Olympic champions Ian Thorpe, Kelly Holmes and Wilfred Bungei are just a few of the high profile athletes who have made their struggles public after retiring from competitive sport.

The preparation for life after sports should ideally start the moment an athlete takes up a sport, but you and I both know that this never happens since most athletes are obsessed by success and will be relentless in its pursuit.

The next best thing for them to do is start preparing as soon as they reach an age when they realize that the game won’t last the rest of their life.

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Even though planning early for your retirement from sports may seem like you’re giving up on it early, it doesn’t mean that at all. Just like you put in the hard yards during training sessions, this is no different.

Proper planning will always prevent poor performance and in life after sports, improper planning can cost you a lot of money and time. The end game might come by choice or it might not, but by you planning ahead of time you can be able to avoid a lot of the mistakes that many other athletes make once they retire.

You owe it to yourself to not let sport use you for your abilities, and get everything you can out of it when it is all said and done. It is sad that quite a number of athletes have failed in life after sports simply because they don’t do these three small things below.

Discover Just One Other Thing You’re Passionate About

Trying to figure out what you want to do after your playing career can be a lot to handle when you have a ton of other responsibilities. Instead, think about just one thing that you’re passionate about and start working on that while you have free time. Whether it’s cooking, music, poetry or broadcasting. Doreen Nabwire, the first Kenyan woman to play professionally in Europe transitioned into football development,  boxer Benson Gicharu has embraced his retirement by engaging in painting, ex-Sofapaka forward Ronald Okoth is giving back to society through his Roads to Goals organization, former Gor Mahia striker Bramwell Mwololo, who also played rugby for Barclays Bank RFC and Kenya is now a talk show host on one of Kenya’s mainstream FM stations, swimming sensation Jason Dunford ventured into broadcast journalism and music while Kenya Sevens legend Lavin Asego has taken up golf and also runs a highly popular sports podcast.

Start focusing on one field or industry that you possibly want to get into, research it and figure out ways you can make money doing it. This way once you are actually done with your sports career, whenever that might be, you have something that you’re passionate about to not only keep you engaged but possibly get into as a career as well.

Network

Let’s face it, life is more of who you know, not what you know. Regardless of where you played or what sport you played, you have someone who is a fan of yours. Take the time to build and nurture these relationships, you never know what doors they may open.

Talk To Someone Who Has Been There Before

One of the great things about being an athlete is that you always have people around you or close by who have been in your exact shoes before and are willing to impart some knowledge on you. Whether they made it to the top or not, you can always learn from their experiences and the things that they did wrong. Don’t be afraid to talk to people and ask questions if you’re unsure. Most people love to feel like they are valued or can help others in some type of way. Whether they are a coach or former player, you can learn something from anyone’s experiences or story.

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These things may seem simple and that is why you might put them off for later, but it is important to have the awareness and discipline to recognize when you have the opportunity to set yourself up for success in your future. You’ll thank yourself later.

There is life after sport.

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