Only a very small number end up doing media work, again, only a very small number end up engaged in high level serious cricket coaching, so the question remains, what happens to them?
For many of them, they go into either the corporate world where their name may benefit the new employer, or they extend their business interests or initiate a new enterprise. But all the best plans sometimes come to naught.
In Cricket at least there is now a fund, set up by the late Kerry Packer to support those cricketers who have fallen on hard times. The Retired Australian Cricketers Bi-Annual Newsletter regularly addresses the issue and the ministry, Life After Cricket also assists where able, as does the various 'national' and 'state' Cricketers' Associations.
The same can be said for tennis players and golfers and motor racing drivers, not least AFL, NRL, NBL and a host of other sports.
The adage that everyone in sports does well is a nonsense. In our now 20 years of athlete respite ministering to Australian Institute of Sport athletes, one of the key topics of conversation is inevitably that of what happens when all this is over.
The Reverend Peter Nelson the AIS chaplain of 21 years who was a chaplain at both the 1996 Atlanta and Sydney 2000 Olympics reported that from Day 1, when a percentage of athletes finish their competition, 'what happens to me now' became the major topic of conversation in those quiet moments of reflection.
The Atlanta Olympic Religious Services venue was in this instance particularly helpful as it was a facility that was manned with chaplains 24/7 – in other words in the wee small hours of each morning when many athletes came for a chit chat and ended up discussing the major issues of life, especially their future.
We can say a number of things about this.
First, it is a myth to suggest that every elite athlete does well after sports. Some even end up in crime and get imprisoned. Even Gold Medallist rowers.
Second, there are few support structures in major sports to help those on their way. There are seminars held for retired athletes in some sports, and having talked to many of these athletes across the board, these provide principles but in effect, you are still on your own to make your own way.
Third, after a life in sports, whereas their original school friends have gone to university and secured good long term employment, these athletes find themselves well behind the play for the remainder of their working life – for many the next 40 years.
The real question is - how do we as a nation value our athletes. While they are in the lime light there are scholarships at the AIS and if they are at or near the top of the tree, sponsorship comes their way. There is a cut off point for all these goodies and its called 'sport retirement'.
Should there be a national program in place that in effect 'holds their hands' until they can get on their feet in business or in the corporate world, with professional mentors in these endeavours, that in effect says, that we as a nation are grateful for your contribution to national well-being and the sacrifices you have made.
Or is this pussy footing to an already over protected and cotton-wool portion of the population who have been courted and splurged with the finest and best for all these years. Now they need to stand on their own two feet like the rest of us.