Pro athletes are often less prepared for retirement than you know
When will the various leagues and unions of professional sport deal with the effects retirement or injury have on their players? Too many times, the story has been told of athletes retirement and he/she has lost a fortune, became a victim of bad business deals, sustained a chronic injury, abused a spouse, divorced, fallen to depression or the ills of society, i.e., booze, crime, drugs, or most devastatingly of all, murder or suicide.
Most recently, BlackSportsOnline explained that William “Refrigerator” Perry has been battling alcoholism since his playing days. The Fridge is obese and battling various health problems.
Last October, Junior Seau’s story of driving off a cliff after suspicion of domestic violence was breaking news, and one can only speculate that his transition to “normal” life, like others before him, has been difficult and painful.
No player is immune. It can happen to a star player or a role player. Fortunes come and go. Who would ever think that after making millions of dollars throughout their careers, athletes like Evander Holyfield, Antoine Walker, Latrell Spreewell, and Michael Vick would lose it all. Michael Vick is the rare exception in having an opportunity to regain the glory and the wealth.
Similar to life as a military hero, who braves the odds and risks his/her life to protect a country, athletes risk their health, privacy and sanity to entertain a country. Of course, the argument can be made that they are paid hefty salaries to do so, but the damage to their lives on a long-term basis can be startling.
Tight end Ryan Neufeld, whose wife Dawn is a cast member of VH1′s Football Wives, wrote a blog post about the ups and downs an athlete and their family can experience within the pro sports lifestyle. He says…..
As players, we get so used to people telling us what to do, where to be, how high to jump, how many yards to run. When that stops, it is hard to establish a life and routine after football.
I’d be hard-pressed to find one athlete who’d say their transition out of sports was easy. Even on a collegiate level, when the uniform comes off for the very last time, the reality that awaits is often confusing and frightening. How does one prepare for virtual obscurity after living under the glare of the spotlight?
What will Brett Favre do now that he has finally hung up his cleats? Was the fear of that decision what fueled him to continue to play, in spite of waning prowess and a broken down body? How did Michael Jordan cope? Was he in therapy? Or was the serenity of the golf course and a good cigar enough to help him cope? Who is there to lend support to those that have fallen on hard times? Its sad to think that our beloved sports figures can be left by the wayside in times of need.
I contend that something must be done to help athletes prepare for life during and after sports, and it should begin at the earliest possible stages.