Dear Athletic Support: My son just wrapped up his senior basketball season. He won’t be playing in college, and I can tell he’s worried about making the transition. What is a parent’s role when sports end? How can I help him move on to the next phase in his life? — Recovering Basketball Mom
Dear Recovering: High school athletes invest an inordinate amount of time into sports. According to a recent article published in SKYD Magazine, “High school athletes spend anywhere from 10 to 30 hours per week practicing and competing in games.”
When I look back on my time as a coach and player, I think those numbers could skew even higher, especially in season. For football, we practiced five days a week. Each practice lasted four hours, including film study. That’s 40 hours a week, not even counting games or workouts. Beside the time commitment, though, high school players are also making serious emotional investments, as well.
Many young athletes’ entire sense of self-worth is derived from sports. Something as simple as scoring the winning basket can raise a sixteen-year-old player to local-celebrity status. Her picture is in the paper. She’s getting praise from family members, teachers and friends. Then it’s time for the next game, and the cycle starts all over again.
But when a career is over, there are no more games. No more praise. No more last-second, buzzer-beating shots. It’s just — over.
And that can be tough.
My wife and I were both collegiate athletes. When her pole-vaulting career was over, she turned to her academic studies as a way to keep the fire burning. For me, things were a little different.
I played my first tackle football season at 9 years old. When I got out of coaching, I was 29. Luckily, my daughter was born right at the end of the last season I coached. The timing was perfect. I went straight from the high-octane world of high school football to the never-ending job of being a dad.
However, I still struggled with my self-worth. Gone were the days of being the “star.” There’s nothing more selfless than being a parent. I tried working out, playing pick-up basketball — anything and everything I could do to get back in the game, but nothing really worked.
Not until I found writing.
For me, writing has been my way to keep competing. It’s the summitless hill I climb every morning. It’s different from being a quarterback, a good kind of different.
The best way you can help your son as he makes his transition out of athletics is by helping him find something constructive to do with his time. My wife found academics. I found writing. What will his new purpose be?
A great resource on this topic is a book called, “The Transition Playbook for Athletes: How Elite Athletes WIN After Sports.” There are stories from over 100 top athletes explaining how they continued to thrive after their playing days were over. Check it out, and you might just find a chapter written by a former quarterback/coach turned writer!
Eli Cranor is a former professional quarterback and coach turned award-winning author. Send questions for “Athletic Support” to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit elicranor.com.