Who am I now? That’s the dilemma facing many elite athletes when they stop chasing their dreams and transition into retirement. Far too young for slippers and often at anage when non-sporting peers are still climbing the career ladder.
For decades, they’ve trained relentlessly, dedicated to the pursuit of glory – to victory and to defeat. They’ve made unimaginable sacrifices, sidestepped the trappings of’ordinary’ life, invested blood, sweat and tears to represent their people on local, national and international stages.
Along the way they’ve formed tight-knit communities and friendships. Adhering to rigid training schedules, out-of-step with loved ones, they become somewhat institutionalised. But such steadfast, single-minded obsession cannot last forever.
When that final whistle sounds, these athletes retire, often left behind by fans and team-mates. An overwhelming uncertainty lingers: ‘What now?’ Post-sport, life isdaunting. From incredible highs to earth-shattering lows.
Studies show that 46% of retired athletes experience depression or anxiety. When the World Stops Watching tells intimate stories of 14 Irish sportspeople. From rugby grand slam winners to Olympic boxers, European Tour golfers to World Cup footballers, from local GAA heroes to international hall of fame winners – offering front-row insight into how elite sports people fare in their sporting afterlife.
With searing honesty, these athletes recount dramatic personal and social changes,from loss of income to loss of purpose. A complex journey of resilience and regret, despair and desolation, fear and fulfilment is undertaken as tentative new beginnings dawn. Woven in are gems of guidance from professionals, academics and experts for the rocky retirement road that leads to a life beyond sport.