Professional athletes are the pride of the fans that support them, and the teams and the country they represent. However, being a professional athlete comes with a number of challenges, which they face almost every single day of their careers, and which they have to deal with and overcome in order to be successful. Below is a look at some of the top challenges faced by professional athletes today.
Too much pressure to perform
Professional athletes are considered by their fans as heroes, source of inspiration, and role models. However, this admiration comes with a very high expectation that the athletes will perform, and failure to do so disappoints the fans, and can even cause a lot backlash from them. In addition to the expectations of the fans, athletes also find themselves facing a lot of pressure from the teams/clubs they represent and the organizations sponsoring them. If they fail to impress, they can lose their positions on the team, and in some cases, also lose their endorsement deals.
While the pressure to perform might be a great motivation for some athletes, most of them find themselves in a vicious cycle where they need to win every time to keep everyone happy. Coming out of this circle is not an easy task, and those who stay very long in it are at a very high risk of becoming victims of stress and other problems such as depression (http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/pressure-and-the-pro-why-do-so-many-of-our-top-athletes-suffer-from-stress-424937.html). In addition, some athletes resort to drugs and alcohol abuse in order to cope with the pressure. Over a long period of time, this can cause their performance to worsen or even ruin their careers.
Dealing with media and publicity
Athletes are considered to be public figures, just like politicians and celebrities, where their day to day lives will always attract the attention of the public. However, there is a downside to this kind of attention, their actions and opinions are always being watched by millions of people all over the world. The situation has especially been made worse by the exponential growth of social media, which has can make anything an athlete has said or done go viral.
Many professional athletes have thus found themselves at the receiving end of publicity, especially when some of the comments they made were misunderstood. And since most of the fans who monitor their lives do not know them personally, they end up criticizing and judging their actions very harshly, even when they had not intended to offend anyone.
In addition to negative publicity, professional athletes have to deal with the celebrity status that is afforded to them. This means that even their personal lives are the subject of debate by news channels, newspapers, magazines, tabloids, and on social media, even when they would want some of the things being discussed about them to remain private. (https://djones6.wordpress.com/2010/01/30/the-medias-effect-on-pro-athletes-careers-and-public-reputation/)
Traveling during the season
Traveling is another concern that professional athletes have to deal with in the course of their careers. Since the events and competitions that they engage can be held anywhere in the world, athletes are forced to travel from time to time. The amount of traveling they have to engage in during the season means that they are separated from their families a lot of times, which can affect their personal relationships.
In addition to being separated from their families, traveling during the season is very hectic and frustrating, especially when you are entering countries that have strict foreign travel regulations. For example, take the case of an athlete who is traveling to Canada to play, which has strict regulations for people who have been a criminal record as a result of driving under influence (http://www.duicanadaentry.com/news/news-and-articles/news-articles/athletes-with-criminal-convictions). Most athletes, who are usually victims of celebrity DUI will thus have a very hard time entering Canada to take part in a competition. In order to be allowed entry, athletes with a DUI record must first undergo criminal rehabilitation to receive absolution from the Canadian government for their crime(s) (http://www.duicanadaentry.com/criminal-rehabilitation/). Alternatively, they must apply for a Temporary Resident Permit that will help them enter Canada for a temporary period.
Failure to receive a Temporary Resident Permit or to undergo criminal rehabilitation would see them detained at the Canadian border, which can be very inconvenient, not to mention humiliating.
Relationships with agents, managers, coaches, and other athletes
Professional relationships are another thing that professional athletes have to deal with during the course of their careers. They must maintain good working relationships with their coaches, managers, agents, and other players, even when it is not very easy to do so. Therefore, they must set their pride aside, and sometimes and make huge sacrifices in order to be part of the team. Athletes who fail to do this can gain a bad reputation of being too individualistic or hard to work with, which can negatively affect their careers.
Transitioning after retirement
Another challenge that most athletes have to deal with is how they will transition back to normal lives after their careers come to an end. After retiring the celebrity status that professional athletes are afforded starts to disappear slowly, and so does the attention they received while performing in front of millions of viewers all over the world. They also have to worry about other issues such as:
Loss of the large salaries they are used to – professional athletes are used to receiving millions of dollars in earnings and endorsement deals. However, these huge salaries tend to disappear once their careers come to an end, and most of them can have a problem readjusting their lifestyles, especially if they had not made good investments.
Risk of drugs and alcohol abuse – during the course of their career, some athletes have been known to abuse drugs and alcohol. After retiring, the problem can become worse due to an increase in the amount of free time they have and the fact that they are no longer required to be in top form when performing.
Feeling insignificant – during their careers, professional athletes have a strong sense of purpose, and they feel significant and valued. However, after retiring, some athletes feel like they have lost their purpose. This together with the reduced publicity that is common after retirement can make them feel like they are not valued anymore.
Loneliness – professional athletes perform as part of a team, which gives them a strong sense of belonging. However, once they retire, they become outsiders, which can make them feel isolated.
These problems that professional athletes have to deal with after retiring can lead to problems such as anxiety, stress, depression, anger, and bitterness if they do not get help. In addition, the uncertainty and fear of what their lives will be like once they retire can cause them to experience stress and depression during their careers, which can affect their performance negatively. (http://blog.actpathway.com/2012/11/facing-up-to-retirement-from-sport/),