How to Deal With Transition Out of Sport - Q/A with Melinda Harrison

How to Deal With Transition Out of Sport - Q/A with Melinda Harrison

We love having honest conversations with athletes who strive to take their performance to the next level.

We interviewed Melinda Harrison, a Canadian multi-talent. Melinda has achieved massive success as a former competitive swimmer, coach, Canadian Olympic Athlete, and author. We highlight a few critical lessons that allowed Melinda to overcome obstacles and achieve her goals in - and out - of the water. 

Listen to the full interview here.

Q: Can you explain your theory on the story that athletes create for themselves as they grow their athletic career?

Melinda Harrison: With a lot of athletes, we start engaging in certain sports, and we didn’t choose to engage in the activity in the first place. We are put in the sport by our parents, grandparents, neighbors, or friends. The story gets further and further embedded when an athlete wins their first race. 

You think, "I'm good. I have potential!" and eventually, what happens is that you gain the self-belief that you're good, and your whole environment creates this belief that you're good until you're not. Until you hit a hurdle, but then when you hit that hurdle, you have all these people around you, supporting you, saying, "We'll get through this hurdle. We'll get through this obstacle. You can overcome that failure. It's not a big deal."

Listen to the full conversation here.

Q: What Are the Major Life Impacts for Athletes Transitioning From Competing to a High Level Into Retirement?

Melinda Harrison: It's the environment that surrounds you. 

Your whole way of being has been the environment, people, sports, expectations, and learning to deal with failure. All those things are embedded in this story, and then the story ends. Suddenly no support, no idea what direction to go in. You just become this person that goes, "Wow, what does my life mean right now?" Because all that meaning and all the events that created that meaning before are no longer. In transition, we have to understand the story that we're told and go back and say, "What parts of that story do I want to keep?"

There are a lot of really great things about being an athlete, but some things aren't always that great. Like the injuries or sometimes the lack of education that you get. There are demands of high-performance athletics that don't help you after sport. You have to decide what parts of that story you want to keep, what parts you want to get rid of, and the ones you want to keep in transition. As you accelerate into the next part of your life, those are the ones you have to act on. If you don't show that same dedication in the next thing - you're not going to get good.

Listen to the full conversation here.

Q: What Do You Think Younger Athletes Should Consider When Retiring From Sport?

Melinda Harrison: I think some of the things you can do get curious. Get curious about what brings joy outside of sport. It's a complicated question, but when everything is about accomplishing something, we tangle up success and self-worth without those accomplishments. Start to understand your worth outside of your success and what brings joy outside of your success. If it's not accomplishments that bring joy, you're going to be living a life of reaching an accomplishment and going through a tough time.

Listen to the full conversation here.

Q: What Does #CultivateGreat Mean to You, and How Do You Apply It in Your Daily Life?

Melinda Harrison: I think we have to step back and understand what great is, before we can understand how to cultivate great. As I said earlier on, we're told the story about the definition of great, and it usually has something to do with performance. But is that the definition that resonates with you, or do you need to create your own definition? It's important to challenge that word once you've done that - then it’s time to figure out how you're going to get to that state, that final state, cultivating it.

Cultivation means constant development and constant growth. I've framed it through the nine practices that you're constantly developing, and each letter of the word practices refers to a part of how you cultivate great: 

  • P: proficiency
  • R: regulation
  • A: attitude
  • C: commitment
  • T: being tuned into other people
  • I: understanding your identity
  • C: how do you build confidence (especially in a time when you don't have confidence)
  • E: using your emotions and having a secure base

All of those practices help me cultivate great. 

Listen to the full conversation here.

Bottom Line 

Are you interested in learning more about Melinda’s journey? Listen to the full interview with Melinda Harrison and Reina Iizuka on our YouTube Channel.

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