It doesn't matter how successful or infamous your sporting journey, from the those who didn't quite make the heights of international stardom to the super elite, life after sport is a struggle. Niall Quinn (Arsenal, Manchester and Sunderland Soccer International), Greg Louganis (4 Times Olympic Diving Gold Medalist) Ben Johnson (1988 Olympic 100m Sprint Champion - later stripped of his title for taking a prohibited substance), have all travelled down the dark tunnel of depression after sport.
Interviewing the men for the Crossing the Line Sport Summit last week in Ireland highlighted for me that sport is wanting in its prevision of athlete welfare support for athletes across their sporting journey. Johnson in particular was left carrying the load for a substance abuse ridden Track and Field - if it wasn't for the love of his mother and spirituallity he may not have survived the dark tunnel of public shame. Louganis whose sexuallity saw him personally targeted and doors closed on product endorsement - struggled post career with being identified as a diver. While Quinn in failing to prepare for life after sport, not only struggled with depression that comes from a depleted neural system, but was left questioning "who am I if I am not an athlete anymore". Quinn's healing started with the wisdom and strength of his wife.
Social support was critical through the darkest of times for all of these athletes and many others. As stories of unresolved grief and confusion were shared, tears were shed by not only by those on the panel but others in the audience, who for the first time, realised their silent grief was a shared experience and why?