There is no doubt the underlying intention from all these people was meant to be positive, but to the athlete in me, all I heard was: “it was good while it lasted, but the best is behind you, it’s all downhill from here.” Despite a part of me that disagreed and was angered by the responses to my retirement news, I couldn’t help but 'overvalue' and internalize what others were implying about my future, and left me to consider, 'Am I worth anything to anyone anymore?'
Anyone who works in or around elite and pro sport will understand how it is an all-consuming industry. Whenever I talk to young aspiring athletes I always tell them that being a professional athlete is not a job, it's a lifestyle, everything you do - 24 hours a day 365 days a year - impacts how you perform on game-day. Some athletes thrive in this whilst others struggle with it. I was in the struggle camp. When I was training or playing it was my aim to always give 110% effort to both what I was doing and to my team-mates, however, once I stepped out of the football club I needed to disconnect from 'footy' and focus on something completely different.
At the Youth levels, a holistic and balanced approach should unequivocally be the focus. The overwhelmingly vast majority of athletes will not become pros and the true purpose of youth sports is teaching life lessons for kids to apply in all aspects of their lives. Teaching values, character and integrity through their passions is by far, the sole purpose. However, from my observation and experience, it is sadly the opposite.
“My thought process is to just educate athletes and people around you about what is really going on, especially basketball players,” Jaylen Brown said. “A lot of people wait until the end of their careers to really get things going. I thought it would be more beneficial to start early, put your foot in the door and start educating yourself, because technology investments are where the real money is at.”
I am all in. I am an athlete. I eat, breath, bleed and sleep my sport. I block out all extraneous distractions. I don't need or even speak to people unrelated to my sport or training. All activities that don't directly or even indirectly impact how I perform on the playing surface get excluded from my life. I am all in. I am an athlete.
Is this a recipe for sustained elite athletic performance or a human train-wreck?