Athletic prowess is at the minds of every Motswana these days. With the just ended BNSC awards, there is no doubt that we have great talent in this country.
National sports federations and club invest considerable resources in an effort to identify and train exceptionally gifted young athletes. Theoretical constructs developed in industrialised nations are imported to Africa with the hope of accelerating young athletes’ developmental process into elite sport. Individual athletes together with their coaches discipline themselves to train and practice for many years over their athletic careers. There is no doubt that the government; sport federations, sport clubs, and sponsors have put pressure on athletes to excel at the international level more than ever in the history of sports.
Even though a significant amount of resources have been spent on athlete development, there is less talk about programs to help athletes’ transition out of competitive sport. Retirement transition occurs across all ages, but careers in competitive sport are usually shorter than occupational careers. It is evident from research and previous experiences that not all athletes who compete at professional level are able to successfully make a living out of professional sport. Nevertheless, most athletes are able to make a living from their sport only as long as they are engaged in it. It is actually a fact that a significant number of athletes never reach an athletic standard that would ensure them a livelihood. It is therefore crucial for all stakeholders to institute athletes retirement transition programs for retiring athletes. Transitional challenges that retired athletes have to deal with include, among others, adjusting to a new life and a new lifestyle following the sport career.
Retired athletes have to deal with missing the sport atmosphere and competition, as well as bodily changes that come with retiring from competitive sports. Federations should provide, pre-retirement counseling, career planning/information on jobs and education opportunities, financial help/advice. In addition, introduce part-time employment/attachment for current elite athletes (e.g., five hours a week). Part-time employment accords athletes the opportunity to learn both soft skills (communication, creative thinking, work ethic, networking, problem solving and critical thinking) and hard skills which employers need. Provide vocational and professional occupation training for elite athletes, including vocational guidance (e.g. resume, interview, curriculum vitae), knowledge of the job market, networking, and career advice.
Tshepang Tshube PhD
Physical Education Department
University of Botswana
Note: the author writes in his personal capacity by email