by Fabienne Raphaël, Business Coach and former Handball national team member

Elite sport provided me with the skills to be successful as well as being persistent, goal oriented, having the knowledge to hire the best people to help me progress and believe in my power to make things happen.

Photo: Fabienne Raphaël 

You know that this time will eventually come.

You are aging out of your sport and keeping up is harder than it used to be.
Or maybe you’ve dealt with too many injuries.

In the elite sporting world, nothing can be taken for granted.
Losing your spot to a rising star. One more serious injury and you’re done.

By done I mean you’re done training full time.
Done traveling for competitions.
Done feeling that “greatest feeling” you get after an intense training session or a fulfilling victory.

But being done does not mean you’re done.

Life has so much more to offer.
A career, a professional life or a business which hopefully will fulfill your future because athletes live and breathe intensity.

Many athletes lose their sense of belonging when they retire from their sport.
They feel like they lose their identity.
Some fall into depression.
Others feel that they don’t fit in the ordinary world or the 9am to 5pm grind.

Let me tell you why

As an athlete, you’re a high-achiever and high-achievers never settle.
They always aim for more.

And that’s the attitude that led you to be selected for your sport and to represent your country.

Kobe Bryant said to Draymond Green, when Draymond was at the worst point of his career, “Draymond, 99 percent of the world is okay with mediocrity, or worse. But, at best, mediocrity. You’re chasing something so much bigger that, how do you ever expect anyone to understand?”

So, as an athlete, if you don’t feel like you relate to the rest of the society, this may be why.

Now, what can you take from this?

While I was in Lima for the 2019 Pan American Games as an athlete mentor, I had many conversations with athletes anxious about retirement. They wondered how smooth the transition would be, and had concerns about maintaining a routine. The high-performance athlete life allows you to travel a lot and experience very intense emotions while competing, and the athletes feared they might struggle to find that same feeling and stability in retirement.

The transition does not come without challenges, while you are finding new passions you cannot help but grieve the sport and identity you cherished. Many athletes live in between the athlete and corporate world to fund their careers, and start to feel grief even before the transition occurs. Others make the decision to take financial loss by leaving lucrative professional careers to pursue education and are concerned with how they will cope with the transition to a professional education setting.

How can you make your transition out of sport as smooth as possible?
How can you find a career that suits your personality, your talent, your knowledge and/or your expertise?

I suggest starting your own business because entrepreneurs and athletes have a lot in common.

Athletes =  Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs are high-achievers.
They aim for excellence.
They have grit.
They have passion.
They are resilient.
They don’t let setbacks stop them from reaching their goals.
They are open to growth.
Just like athletes.

There are a few things you would need to do before starting your own business. You will need to identify what your strengths are and what your zone of genius is. It could be related to your sport or another special skill. It could also be related to what you studied in school or something you’re passionate about.

Then, you need to know what problem you want to solve with your skills.
What are people actively looking for that you can solve with your zone of genius?

You could be a financial consultant, if you’re good with budgeting and investments.
You could be a life coach, if you have the ability to change people’s lives by helping them overcome mindset or life challenges.
You could stay involved in your sport by creating your own virtual training programs to help your teammates perfect their skills or you could become a coach.
There are many possibilities.

In Search for a Spark

My transition from representing Team Canada involved playing provincially for 2 years. This really helped me because I did not have to stop playing sport all at once. When I retired from representing Canada in 2008 I was a full-time physical therapist. I was ready to move on from sport physically and mentally, but it was as if this job wasn’t enough for me. I was always someone who got bored with routine and this new path was no exception.

I was eager to find new challenges in my life, since international competitions would not be a part of it anymore. My new life was missing those sparks I felt when I competed. In fact, when I left Team Canada, there was a part of me that felt empty. Handball had played such a big part in my life and now I had to find something else to fill that gap.

My life partner has been a great influence on me. At the time, he was already open to personal development and working on himself. So, he encouraged me to take on my first business move: to resign as a physical therapist and start working as a consultant. 

My dream came true when my previous employer hired me as a consultant. What a great start! So now, I had a healthcare agency, a home staging business, my own TV show and eventually I discovered the online world.

I had fallen in love again but this time with online marketing and business coaching. The online world came into my life as a new opportunity, one that I had to embrace. It came with its fair share of challenges but my skills and personality as an elite athlete helped me navigate this world. Elite sport provided me with the skills to be successful as well as being persistent, goal oriented, having the knowledge to hire the best people to help me progress and believe in my power to make things happen.

Photo: Fabienne Raphaël

As an online business coach, I have the flexibility to work on my own terms and choose my own clientele. It also allows me to help change people’s lives by teaching the skills to own their own coaching business. When my clients reach success, have breakthroughs and mindset shifts, share their gifts with the world and/or make more money, it fills me with joy and excitement.

I’m quite happy to say that even with all the challenges I’ve faced, I would not have changed my path of being where I am today. My past has shaped the person I have become and because of it I will be open to a forever evolving road.

If you’re contemplating retirement from your sport or if you’ve already retired, if you feel that the workplace isn’t for you or you are already in the workplace but feel it is not the right fit, know that you have other options. You can and will find your spark.



Fabienne Raphaël is a business coach, speaker, podcaster and athletes’ mentor at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru. Her background in radio and television hosting has allowed her to conduct unique interviews on her top ranked podcast “Marketing to Crush Your Competitors”, where she has broadcasted 300 episodes. Through the course of her career she has hosted her own TV show, shared the stage with John Lee Dumas, Chris Brogan and Sue Zimmerman and spoke at the last New Media Europe conference in London, England. Fabienne has also been featured in Forbes, ABC, FOX, CBS, Inc. and Huffington Post and has appeared on over 30 podcasts, such as CopyChief Radio and Entrepreneur on Fire. 

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