What happens to athletes when the Olympics are over?
Transitions. We all face them in our lives, whether it’s the start of a new job, a move to a new city, the addition of a family member or retirement. No matter what the transition is and when it happens, they mean the same thing: change. Change can be scary and unsettling, but it can also be exciting and inspiring. For Team USA athletes, transition often means retirement. But did you know that many members of Team USA do not get to choose when they retire? Whether they “age out” of sport, get injured, or don’t make it all the way, athletes retire—some when they’re not ready to “give up” their sport.
Athletes who realize the Olympic dream and actually earn a spot on Team USA are among an elite group. In the last Olympics, the chance of making the U.S. Olympic swim team was .0013%. You have better odds of making the NFL at .03%. Even if you’re in the top tier and do make the team, very few athletes end up with Olympic medals. In many cases, the difference between an Olympic medal and a non-medal finish can be less than a tenth of a second.
Even after the best athletes retire, there’s a place where they have a chance to excel again: their new, non-athletic career. Now, the critical transition out of sport can last weeks, months and even years and it can be very difficult to navigate. Having to adjust your sense of self when you have been among the best in the world at what you do can be daunting. I have heard it compared to falling into a black hole or feeling like you are starting your life completely over at the bottom of the ladder. Some athletes have expressed they feel like they have reached the highest pinnacle in their life in their twenties or thirties and are concerned they will never feel as passionate about something again.
Fortunately, Adecco is here to help shine a light into that darkness. One of the goals of the USOC’s Athlete Career and Education (ACE) Program, in partnership with Adecco, is to help these high-performing athletes plan for that eventual transition while they are still training and competing.
ACE career coaches can help foster the confidence some athletes often lack when transitioning out of sport and into their next career. The coaches help them develop skills and encourage them to dream big—again—just in a different setting. It’s a win-win situation.