Ex-Athletes often struggle to adapt to their new lives and find that the characteristics that were valuable in sport are not equally useful in 'ordinary'life.
They often start experiencing disorientation, depression, self-doubt or even illness, a new study has concluded.
According to the new research, successful athletes at the elite level develop characteristics that should generate success also later in life. However, this notion may be wrong.
As part of a study, ex-Olympians from Sweden, Switzerland, USA and Australia were interviewed. All subjects participated in either the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing or the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
Some well-developed features turned out to be very useful in the retired atheltes' lives.
Two examples are perseverance and organisational skills. However, characteristics, such as perfectionism, hyper-competitiveness, self-centredness and submissiveness, are much less useful and are indeed not desired - at work, in school and in family life.
"Some ex-athletes say that adapting to post-sport life is more difficult than anything they ever experienced as athletes," Natalie Barker at the University of Gothenburg, who headed the research project, said.
The study reveals that those who managed to keep some kind of distance to their sport, or who were able to critically reflect on their experiences, were able to develop a more flexible and mature self-image.