AFTER THE GAME - Bridging the gap from winning athlete to thriving entrepreneur | by Jay Dixon

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In the realm of sports, athletes are molded by rigorous training, fierce determination, and unwavering dedication. However, their journey is not just about winning games; it’s a transformative process that cultivates a unique set of strengths. So, as athletes transition from the sports arena to the real world, they carry with them a wealth of qualities that can shape their narrative and drive success beyond their athletic careers. Consequently, we delve into the concept of the Athlete’s Identity Map – a powerful tool that helps athletes recognize their strengths, embrace their identity, and craft a compelling narrative for success in the real world. Read more about the story of Jay Dixon and how he transitioned the identity in sports to business.

Understanding the Athlete’s Identity In Sports: A Source of Strength

  • The Multifaceted Athlete Identity: Athletes undergo a profound transformation during their careers. They develop a multifaceted identity that goes beyond physical abilities. Hence, Dr. Robert Schinke, a sport psychologist, emphasizes that athletes’ identities are rich with mental and emotional attributes, which contribute to resilience, discipline, and determination1.
  • The Strengths Cultivated in Sports: The journey of an athlete is not merely about winning competitions. It involves the cultivation of transferable skills that are highly valuable beyond sports. A study published in the “Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology” highlights how athletes develop attributes such as leadership, teamwork, and time management that are applicable in various life domains2. These strengths serve as a foundation for real-world success.

Creating Your Athlete’s Identity In Sports Map: Shaping Your Narrative

  • Self-Reflection: The Starting Point: Self-discovery is key to creating the Athlete’s Identity Map. Athletes must reflect on their accomplishments, strengths, and values as athletes. So, this introspection helps lay the groundwork for transitioning their identity.
  • Identifying Transferable Skills: Building Bridges: Recognizing transferable skills is crucial for shaping a new identity. The ability to communicate effectively, set and achieve goals, and handle pressure are just a few examples of skills athletes can leverage beyond sports.
  • Crafting a Narrative: Weaving Your Story: Athletes can weave their athletic journey into their real-world narrative. This unique story not only highlights their achievements but also showcases their growth, resilience, and adaptability. Authenticity and vulnerability play a significant role in making the narrative compelling.

Navigating Real-World Challenges with Your Athlete Identity Map

  • Overcoming Identity Crisis: Staying Grounded: The transition from athlete to individual often comes with an identity crisis. Therefore, to overcome this challenge, athletes must draw from their strengths and remember that their identity extends far beyond the realm of sports.
  • Resilience and Adaptability: Tools for Success: The mental resilience developed in sports equips athletes with the tools to navigate challenges in the real world. Explicitly, a study published in the “Journal of Applied Sport Psychology” suggests that athletes who embrace adversity during identity transition tend to experience higher levels of well-being3.

Case Studies: Athletes Who Mapped Their Success

  • Case Study 1: The Entrepreneurial Journey: One inspiring example is Michael Jordan, who transitioned from a basketball legend to a successful entrepreneur. His identity map guided his business decisions, echoing the leadership and determination that marked his sports career.
  • Case Study 2: Advocacy and Cultural Impact: Venus and Serena Williams, renowned tennis champions, have masterfully wielded their identity maps to advocate for social justice and gender equality. Beyond their athletic achievements, the Williams sisters have used their platform to address important issues, breaking barriers in a predominantly male sport and inspiring countless individuals worldwide. This example underscores the power of aligning one’s identity with impactful causes.

The Athlete’s Identity In Sports Map is a compass that guides athletes beyond their athletic careers. By recognizing and harnessing the strengths cultivated through sports, athletes can confidently navigate the challenges of the real world. Their identity map serves as a reminder of their journey, their growth, and the myriad of skills they possess. As athletes craft their narrative, they become champions not only in the sports arena but also in the game of life.

  • Schinke, R. J., & Hanrahan, S. J. (2009). Sport psychology: The journey from theory to practice. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
  • Stambulova, N. B., & Wylleman, P. (2014). Athletes’ careers across cultures. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 15(3), 213-222.
  • Park, S. Y., Lavallee, D., & Tod, D. (2013). Athletes’ career transition out of sport: A systematic review. International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 6(1), 22-53.