IN conversations with retired players, especially those who have recently hung up the boots, one of the challenges that seems to be inescapable is “the identity shift”.
From active player to retired player. From one part of the team to on your own. From collective thinking to individual focus.
A lot of people seem to struggle with letting go of who they were and stepping into the next chapter of their lives and who they could be.
We look back upon the choices and decisions that got us to where we are today and see thers are hundreds of “what if I did this instead” moments, yet we look forward to what’s ahead of us with through the lens of “what’s meant to be is meant to be.”
Reread that. It’s worth understanding.
Because one day you’re taking part in your first ever senior training session and next it’s your last.
Time stops for no man, and the older you get the quicker it goes. If you think the journey stops now and all roads have led to you being “a retired footballer” you’re ignoring the fact that tomorrow affords you just as many opportunities to succeed at something else as yesterday did.
Anyone watch Cristiano Ronaldo on Piers Morgan last week? Car crash stuff. That’s a man refusing to accept the forced evolution of his identity.
For the best part of 15 years he’d have seen himself as the best player on the planet, and for the most part been able to put up a strong argument for that. Not anymore though. The problem is he still sees himself that way.
Because of that friction of hanging on to an identity which is no longer true, the man’s heads away. Celebrating like a maniac for a goal that he didn’t score. Craving external validation at every opportunity. And with this example that’s unfolding before our eyes, there’s a chance that his inability to accept change will ultimately cost him the very thing he wants most – trophies, medals and legacy.
This might be a hot take, but I think Portugal would have a better chance to win the World Cup if he spent less time on the field when it mattered.
You only have to look at how things unfolded at Manchester United this season to see the clues.
So don’t beat yourself up if you’re low on motivation, unsure of what to be at and not feeling yourself post retirement. You aren’t alone. And I’d say you’re still handling it better than Cristiano.