Having been pastorally involved with many elite athletes who have reached the pinnacle of sport and then discovered that life is more than all that glitters I can concur with swimming champion Kieren Perkins who said he was "not surprised" to hear that Ian Thorpe had checked himself into rehab suffering depression.
Moreover Perkins is right. There are potentially thousands of athletes similarly struggling to cope after retiring from elite sport. This was the critical component is establishing Life After Cricket in 2000 after having served as the team chaplain for 17 years.
In his 2013 autobiography Thorpe said he had at times considered suicide and confessed to drinking huge quantities of alcohol to deal with his crippling depression. Although Thorpe's multi-media management team denied he was in rehab in late January they never denied he suffered from depression. (www.theguardian.com)
Imagery of travel fun with elite athletes
Barcelona 1992 Road Cyclist Olympian Darren Lawson who after his elite sporting years spent eight years in mission in Russia said: "Each sport seems to think they are the only ones where athletes struggle finding their way after sport."
Two years I wrote of the wisdom of six times Olympian James Tomkins on a holistic view of sport and life. (au.christiantoday.com)
James Tomkins is the chairman of the Australian Olympic Committee's Athletes Commission and his sport credentials are second to none. At the 1992 Barcelona Olympics his rowing team won gold, a feat they repeated in 1996 in Atlanta (the team became known as the ''Oarsome Foursome''). He then won gold again in 2004 in Athens, as a coxless pair with teammate Drew Ginn. He now shares the Australian record for competing in the most Olympic Games (six). He is also the only rower in the world to have ever won world titles in every sweep oar rowing event - pair, coxed pair, coxed four, four and eight. (www.smh.com.au)
Part of James Tomkins role as chairman of the Australian Olympic Committee's Athletes Commission is looking at whether Australia's sportsmen and women lead unbalanced lives, spending too much time in training and competition.
This is the first of the three test scorecard (unbalanced lives) that James Tomkins recently expressed to Gareth Hutchens of the Sydney Morning Herald.
The second, is the importance for athletes to have something else to do when they're not competing. James Tomkins noted that it makes for a better athlete for starters … "and it makes for a better person all round. And it makes you more employable and it gives you more direction afterwards. It's sort of a no brainer really.''
The third is family. This might include parents and siblings on the one hand, spouse and children to the other end of the spectrum. James Tomkins said that with family … it gives you absolute perspective, especially having children. Moreover, "At the end of the day (in my case) you're in a boat rowing down a river pretty much. 'You're not saving the world. So it puts things in perspective.''
Having fun is OK
Something about having a career
A recent News.com article listed some of the careers our Australian Winter Olympic athletes have to keep the wolf from the door as their sports do not sustain an income from either performances or promotions.
Astrid Radjenovic is a vet, Lucas Mata a PE teacher, Heath Spence a personal trainer, Amy Sheehan a writer and illustrator of children's books and so the list goes on. (www.news.com.au)
In my early years as the Australian cricket team chaplain (1984-2000) the fellows had careers and I met several of them away from cricket at their work places, their homes or elsewhere. This produced something of the balance that James Tomkins speaks about.
An even greater issue
One can still have all these three – work, leisure and family and still be very lonely and feel very much alone. The Christian message is clear about this. None of the above completely satisfy. The human soul has another yearning and that can only be filled with the Spirit of Christ.
This is what Jesus spoke of to Nicodemus in John 3 that one must be born again. He wasn't speaking about a physical birth, rather a very different kind of birth, a spiritual birth that fulfils the human heart where they meet their maker on a different unseen level.
It involves raw data such as repentance, recognising one is unable to be satisfied with the things we can see and touch and a personal decision to invite Jesus Christ to enter one's life as Lord beginning a fresh new existence with a whole different world view.
This is as real as the other things we cannot see such as loyalty, trust, love, compassion, fulfilment, ambition … all the intangibles of life.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html