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Retirement & Depression

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Retirement, like taxes & death, is inevitable for the Rugby League player.  

The one difference between ‘taxes & death’ & ‘retirement’ is that you have control over the latter. You have the ability to determine the extent to which it can affect your life & that of your loved ones. The effect on others around you as a result of poor transition into retirement can be referred to as ‘collateral damage’. 

 If you want to lessen the impact retirement can have you must prepare early for the inevitable. If not, you may experience a ‘let down’ that could culminate in possible depression. 


There is a direct correlation between retirement & depressive illnesses. This is particularly apparent in Rugby League & other sports and is very similar to that experienced by older retirees.  


With older persons, there is can be the feeling of ‘lessened worth’; the feeling that they are no longer productive or contribute to society in a worthwhile manner. They are forced to try to come to terms with the reality of elder status & the ‘perceived’ societal ‘rejection’ of their worth. 


There is little difference between their particular dilemma & that of the Rugby League player, though the League player has certain specific issues that need to be acknowledged & addressed; and these relate to the nature of the sport itself. To assume that retirement from Rugby League is the same as retirement from a 'white collar' office job as a consequence of age is being rather naive and likely to allow for a greater chance of depression developing. The same could, and has been said, regarding farmers & those from the land or country areas. Their depression, while similar in symptoms, involved a very specific approach in regards to establishing causative factors and the provision of practical assistance and genuine help and support.


While the symptoms for 'Depression' are generally the same - universal; the causes &/or reasons for an individual's depression vary considerably. As such, the treatment may also involve very specific 'practical' measures unique to the individual sufferer. 


One must consider the lifestyle of the league player; the social apsects of the sport and its 'culture'. The sheer physicality of Rugby League, from training to playing, involves biochemical & neuro-physiological elements that are seriously affected through sudden cessation, such as can occur in retirement. Other matters pertaining to self esteem and identity may be intrinsically linked to participation in the sport. Financial & occupational concerns may also occur. These changes can have serious effects on one's mood and most certainly can result in depression.


The advantage for the ‘younger’ ex-player is that they have a greater opportunity to adjust & adapt and continue to contribute, though perhaps in not the manner in which they had before.  


It is essential that preparation for retirement occur well beforehand. In this way you lessen the impact on you and those around you. It also enables you to preemptively plan should retirement be sudden or forced upon you for other reasons such as a career ending injury. Refer to the section on Loss & Grief’ for details about this type of ‘forced retirement’ and the effect it can have.  


When considering the issue of future retirement you should look at specific areas of need:- 



  • Financial        
  • Social      
  • Emotional
  • Physical       



One of the most effective methods of reducing the impact of retirement is that of slow withdrawal from the game. This means maintaining a degree of involvement in the game, though not necessarily as an active player. 



·             Coaching (particularly junior league)

·             Training & Conditioning

·             Administration

·             Playing in lower grades or other alternative comps

·             Promotional

·             Player management

·             Media



These are designed to be primarily ‘part-time’, ‘casual’ or ‘voluntary’. It can be potentially damaging if your plan to remain involved with the game in a ‘full time’ capacity is unfulfilled or does not come to fruition. A key thought to maintain is to remember that the number of players retiring far exceeds the number of ‘full-time’ positions or careers on offer. 



Contented Retirement

  Please click here for Retirement & Depression 'Fact Sheet'.



Should you have concerns regarding any issue relating to your 'mental or physical well-being', 'Kick off' strongly recommend you seek professional assistance. This may entail contacting your GP or similar clinician (Psychologist, Psychiatrist, Counsellor etc.). You may also contact the appropriate agency or service that might assist you. Irrespective of your choice, ensure you see someone who might help. 



Even the world's richest man retires. This may seem a 'light-hearted' look at retirement, though certain points are relevant and some questions are raised; 'What do you do when you retire?'; 'Are your plans realistic?'; 'How do others perceive your move into retirement?' and so on. If nothing else, however, it is quite amusing. Please watch & enjoy. 


Bill Gates - 'last day at Microsoft'


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ADC Psychological Services, PLLC
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