Most players find it difficult to transition out of the game. It has been such a huge part of your life for so long. Some players are unable to come to terms with the fact that they are no longer playing. The risk rates for problem drinking, depression and other mental health issues arising are high, as are divorce rates. Here we explore some of the feelings that might arise when transition in any area of your life happens.

“I am lucky to have played without injury for most of my career. I have been lucky and have stayed with the senior team throughout that time. I always talked about ‘when I retire I will be able to…’ But I’ve been away from a ‘normal’ life for a long time and I’m not sure what I will do now. I’d like to go back training and helping out with the club. I had it all planned out but now my wife is looking for me to spend more time at home and my boss wants me to travel more with work now that I don’t have as many training commitments. I am angry and upset with them because my plan is not working out so far and retirement is not what I thought it would be. I am out of touch with what was my life and out of touch with my home… everything feels difficult after all my years in the game I feel like I can’t adjust to normal life.”

— Fictional Example; Part 1

Facts About Transition & Retirement 

Once you retire, for whatever reason, you can become a past playing member of the GPA where you will still be entitled to support services such as personal & professional coaching, career advice, education and up skilling grants.

Many players also choose to stay involved in the game in some capacity. Players often opt to train as coaches while others will throw themselves into their careers making up for lost opportunities in the workplace. However, most players find it difficult to transition out of the game. It has been such a huge part of their lives for so long. Some players are unable to come to terms with the fact that they are no longer playing. The casualty rates for drink, depression and other mental health problems are high, as are divorce rates. 

Transition, Retirement & Anger 

Players may experience many different feelings when they retire. In this section we focus on the effects of anger. 

What can happen to players when they retire:

  • Most players began playing as children and will have been playing at an elite level since their late teens.
  • For some players the end of a career in sport can be unnerving and depressing, and apart from sadness at leaving the game there are more practical considerations to do with spending more time at home and keeping yourself occupied. After years of having many aspects of your life closely managed, suddenly players have to manage things for themselves — which can be frightening prospect when for years you just had to turn up, train and play the game.

“My wife doesn’t understand what’s going on with me and she says she’s fed up with me hanging around the house in a bad mood all the time. I say ‘It’s my house and I can do as I like’, but it’s true I have nothing else to do, I don’t train anymore, I don’t have a routine so I get angry with the kids and I get into bad fights with my wife. I feel bad afterwards and that makes me resent her and I get angry again.”

“Recently, I had a bad fight with my wife. She kicked me out and told me to sort myself out. Everyone knew about it, I felt really bad and confused about everything. I missed her and the kids and realised that the most important thing is my family. I went to my doctor and he found me an anger management course where I could go and learn how to control my anger. He also referred me to a therapist and I’m learning how to talk about stuff that upsets me. He told me to do some exercise — that made me laugh but I could see that the anger started when playing stopped. I am going back training with the club again and it feels good, it calms me down. I don’t know what the future holds but I am in control of my life again and I don’t feel so scared about what’s to come.”

— Fictional Example; Part 2

Physical Effects of Anger on Your Body: 

  • Affects digestion (contributing to the development of heartburn, ulcers, colitis, gastritis or irritable bowel syndrome)
  • Heart and circulatory system (can lead to blocked arteries)
  • Blood pressure (driving it too high)
  • Immune system (making you more likely to catch ‘flu and other bugs)
  • Less able to recover from operations, accidents or major illnesses 

Emotional Effects of Anger 

These might include:

  • Addictions (to alcohol, gambling, tobacco, or illegal drugs)
  • Compulsions (eating disorders, such as excessive dieting or binge-eating, overworking, unnecessary cleaning and any other behaviour that is out of control, including sexual activities)
  • Bullying behaviour (trying to make someone else feel bad, because you think it will make you feel better) 

What Happens When You Get Angry:

  • Anger causes excitement in your body and emotions. The glands are pumping your blood full of the hormone adrenalin, preparing for fight or flight
  • You are full of energy, alert, ready for action. Tension builds up, but is released when you express your anger. The release is good for you, helping to keep body and mind in balance and able to face life’s challenges. But while expressing anger may release tension, it also leads to a range of negative consequences for the person as well as in their relationships with others
  • Anger is a natural response to feeling attacked, injured or violated. It’s part of being human; it’s energy seeking expression. In itself, it’s neither good nor bad, but when it is out of control it can be frightening
  • Angry feelings can lead to destructive and violent behaviour, and so we tend to be frightened of anger. The way we are brought up, and our cultural background, will very much influence how we feel about expressing anger
  • If someone bottles up their feelings, the energy has to go somewhere. It may turn inwards and cause them all sorts of problems. Suppressed anger can have very negative effect, physically and mentally, and all of these will damage relationships with other people, and this is likely to lower your self-esteem further and can lead to depression

What Can You Do To Help Yourself? 

It’s much healthier to recognise anger and express it directly in words, not in violent action. Expressing anger assertively in this way:

  • Benefits relationships and how you feel about yourself
  • Allows you to say what you mean and feel, and stops you from reaching ‘explosion’ point
  • Assertiveness Training - there are many anger management and assertiveness courses around which help people learn ways to control their anger and channel it into more positive action. 

Caring for Yourself:

  • Exercise increases self-esteem, so don’t let the training slip
  • Don’t drink too much. The effects of alcohol on the emotions are well known. Often people drink more when they are upset or depressed which only makes them feel worse. Too much alcohol can lead to loss of control where people say or do things they will later regret 

Look at Behaviour Patterns:

  • Get to know your own pattern of behaviour and history around anger. Was there lots of anger in your family? Who got angry, and what happened when they did? 

Talk to the GPA, find someone to talk to or talk to the about your feelings — an understanding friend, or a professional counsellor