How To Mentally Prepare For Life Outside Of Being An Athlete

Every athlete wants to win.

To put yourself in a position to compete at the highest level possible and have a chance to win even just one game, there are so many factors and things that you have to put into motion, so to speak.

It starts with practice and the focused intent you need to have when preparing for an upcoming opponent. You have to also watch film and study your opposition's specific tendencies, plays, etc... You have to ensure that your body is healthy, that you eat right, and that you are well-rested. Finally, you have to go out there, combine everything together and ensure that you're playing your hardest on every single play.

That's in every sport. Every day. 

The amount of preparation and focus it takes to win, especially on a consistent basis is hard as hell.

But it's the preparation, confidence, and hard work that produces the results you get. Without you're already done. This is how you win games in sports and that's how you win in life.

All of this leads me to think that if this is the case no matter what you do in life, then why don't most athletes take the same preparation for life outside the game?

The amount of hard work and effort you put into being a good athlete obviously doesn't come quickly and without sacrifice.

The real world is no different.

All athletes have to start by putting themselves in a position to be successful from day one.

And that starts with your mentality and how you think about life after sports.

3 Ways To To Mentally Prepare For Life Outside Of Being An Athlete

  1. Research- Whatever you want to get into in your next career or whatever you think you might want to do, start by doing your research first. Read everything you can about the industry you're interested in and ask as many questions as you can to people who work in that industry. Rinse and repeat. Keep learning and growing over time. Just like you watch and study your opponent, you have to take the same approach in your professional career.
  2. Build Relationships, Not A Fan Base- The people who cheer for you are not just your fans, they're your future co-workers and business partners. Treat people like people, not as groupies or fans. Those relationships will matter later in life. I can't tell you how many stories I've heard about former athletes collaborating with team managers, dorm mates, or classmates on an idea or project that led to them making a lot of money and impacting a lot of people. The people you see in the stands could become your future friends and family if you're humble enough to let them be.
  3. Stay Ready- I know you've heard the saying "Stay ready, so you don't have to get ready." This is the approach that you have to have. You always have to be ready for anything and everything that can happen because all it takes is one injury, one slip up or one situation to go bad and your athletic career can change forever. You can never predict what happens in life so you always want to have a plan B despite anybody telling you otherwise.

Be Like Kobe

I think a great example of an athlete who took the right approach to life after sports is Kobe Bryant.

When he retired, people constantly asked him would he ever come back to play basketball.

I recall an interview that he had with Rich Eisen which he sad in response to this question:

When I retired, everybody was saying, ‘He’s too competitive. He’s not going to know what to do with himself. He’s going to have to come back.’ I took that as a personal challenge of them thinking I’m this one-dimensional person. That all I know is to dribble the ball, shoot the ball, play basketball and compete at that level.

“So I took that as a personal challenge. I will never come back to the game. Ever. I’m here to show people we (athletes) can do much more than that.

“And creating this business, winning an Oscar, and the Emmy and the Annie—those are things that are showing other athletes that come after, ‘No, no, there’s more to this thing.'”

The last sentence has always hit home for me personally because Kobe did incredible things in the short time he was retired. He won awards and championships not only in basketball but also as a writer and producer. 

Awards that take people their entire lives to achieve and he won them after just a few years into the film industry.

Not to mention his numerous business investments. 

This happened not just because he's Kobe Bryant and he's supposed to be great at everything he does. That's not the case at all.

This happened because Kobe took the same mindset and preparation that he had as an athlete and applied it to the film and creative industry.

Most people don't even realize that Kobe was preparing for life after basketball well in advance of his retirement.

He had started creating and writing several years prior to his official retirement. When Kobe wasn't on the court, he was reading and studying the skill of storytelling.

All he did was take his approach to basketball and apply it to a different craft. 

This is the mindset that every athlete has to take when it comes to life after sports. I don't care what it is you plan to do next.

If it took Kobe, who is arguably the greatest basketball player to ever play the game, several years to ease into and prepare for his next career, think about how long it might take you and why you need to stay ready for when your time comes.

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