VALERIE MULCAHY: Tough task to prepare for life on outside, looking in

As the new season approaches, old stalwarts and perhaps even some young guns will be assessing whether they will return to the pitch in 2017 to take on another season of their chosen sport, writes Valerie Mulcahy.

VALERIE MULCAHY: Tough task to prepare for life on outside, looking in

A sport that requires many commitments affects many people and shapes a year.

Is there ever a right time to retire and what must be considered in this monumental decision?

It is important when making any big decision in life to allow yourself time to consider your emotions and assess your circumstances.

For athletes making a decision to close a playing career, there is a seasonal window of opportunity to make those assessments.

It can be tricky to strike a balance — too close to the final match of the previous season and the emotions of disappointment — or joy of a victory — may be too overpowering and can prevent a well thought-out decision.

On the flip side, if too much time goes by, all of the ups and downs may be forgotten and a certain state of amnesia may kick in.

Sometimes, this can be necessary for some athletes and players to return to training and commit after a disappointing season or after a heartbreaking journey where their ultimate goals have eluded them.

So, what motivates players to keep going and put retirement on hold?

Motivation differs for everyone. It can range from fulfilling a personal goal, for example making the starting team or playing in Croke Park, to simply enjoying the process of being involved in the sport.

Whatever it may be for each individual, motivation needs to be present in abundance when deciding to commit to another season.

As I often reminded myself in moments of apathy, commitment is doing what you said you would do long after the mood you said it in has left you.

We are all filled with good intentions but not always motivated to put in the hard work and see everything through to the bitter end.

Enthusiasm is hard to maintain over a long season, particularly if you have been on the road a long time, have some wear and tear and life starts making other demands on you.

A whole-hearted commitment is required from the day you sign up until the season ends.

If your heart is not in it, you’re probably not going to win it. Or enjoy it.

Every player has their prime-time. It may come when you are young, it may come when you are a bit more mature, or you may be lucky enough for it to be sustained through most of your career.

Ultimately all established players must be prepared for a time when their primary mission may be to play less and assume more of a leadership role off the pitch to guide and help the new crop.

Part of that may be to make way for the next generation of players by spending more time on the bench.

For those accustomed to life in the frontline there can be an overwhelming anxiety attached to watching helplessly.

The fact that I could effect the outcome of a game (when I played) helped me cope with the excitement and tension of matches. If you’re not running off your anxiety, it can be significantly harder to process.

If coping with being on the bench is not one of your strong points, you have to be willing to accept your fate is in someone else’s hands.

If this becomes the case more and more you won’t always have the comfort of going out on your own terms.

It must be more challenging still if you haven’t had the success you dreamed of or reached the goals you wished to achieve.

However, there are still some things to be gained by going out on your own terms and making the difficult decision for yourself.

There is good reason that the WGPA and particularly the GPA have put in place many programmes to help with the transition for players to becoming “former” players.

It takes time to figure out where the player ends and the person begins.

This can be a very difficult, even depressing, time for some.

A period of low self esteem may ensue.

Sport, both exercising and competing, is known to be addictive.

Like everything addictive, it is always important to prepare for its absence.

A healthy replacement is needed to fill the inevitable voids when such a major chapter in life comes to a close.

Many players have fallen into bad habits or turned to negative replacements, like alcohol or gambling, to try and deal with the losses of sport; the loss of identity, the loss of a sense of belonging, the loss of support.

It can be jolting to go from being an integral part of a group, a second family, to being on the periphery and observing what was once so much of your life.

The achievements and accomplishments most dear to me are the ones that required the most commitment, passion and hard work. Anything won easy didn’t hold the same value.

Once you commit to another season, commit fully and have no regrets. Your playing career is short enough when you think about your life on a grander scale.

Just because something is the right thing for you doesn’t mean it’s the easiest thing to do.

Go with your heart and do what is right for you.

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