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5 Lessons Every Athlete & Parent Must Learn From Andrew Luck’s Retirement

Most of the sports world was shocked when Indianapolis Colts Quarterback, Andrew Luck, retired from the NFL. 

It seemed to come out of nowhere.

But Luck’s decision didn’t come out of nowhere. He admitted he wanted to retire weeks before his press conference, and had contemplated retirement during rehab of each of his most recent injuries.

And about that press conference…

You can tell Luck was in pain – and I’m not just talking about physical pain.

That’s what I want you to share with you.

There were five things that jumped out to me in the first 15 minutes of that press conference that every athlete and parent needs to hear.

Look, amateur and pro sports are in an interesting place right now.

  • Overuse injuries are on the rise.
  • Early sport specialization is under fire, and more and more experts and athletes are speaking out about it.
  • Mental and emotional health issues are being talked about more openly. I just think about retired Patriot Rob Gronkowski’s advice to Luck to “focus on your physical AND emotional health.”
  • And we have data and statistics from initiatives like the Aspen Institute’s Project Play that should make every parent with an athlete call their own timeout and learn more about what is threatening their athlete’s future.
  • And as a high-performance and life coach, I’m seeing the aftermath of bad decisions. I’m the one getting hired to work with pro, college, and Olympic athletes with many issues that could’ve been prevented when they were younger.

So here’s what jumped out at me from Andrew Luck’s press conference. 

Athletes, take notes. 

Parents, take notes. 

#1 – Don’t ignore your feelings

As he addressed the media, Luck said things like,

  • “I felt stuck”
  • “Football has taken my joy away”
  • “I feel quite exhausted and quite tired”
  • “I feel tired and not just in the physical sense”

Parents: Ask your athletes how they’re feeling. Give them the opportunity to share what’s on their mind without them having to worry about what you or others think.

Athletes: Don’t ignore your feelings. Don’t run away from them. Lean into them. Journal about them. And if you feel strongly about something, act on it. Follow your gut. Ask for help.

#2 – It’s OK to say NO

I’m unable to pour my heart and soul into this position.”

Not only does this statement by Luck prove that “when you’re done, you’re done,” it gives every athlete the permission to walk away when they feel they can’t go on. Luck didn’t quit. Instead, he said “NO” to continuing to play a sport he no longer could commit his heart and soul to.

Parents: You know how it feels when you’re exhausted. I sure do. Your mind plays tricks on you. Irritability kicks in. Your body feels blah. And, in some cases, you even question your very existence. 

Imagine feeling this way every single day, and then having to compete at the highest level possible against the world’s best athletes. I’ll admit – I couldn’t do it. 

So, if your son or daughter gets to the point where they’re exhausted…where they can’t go on any longer because their love for the game isn’t there…their inner drive is non-existent…

Let them know it’s OK to walk away. 

BUT…

There’s a key piece that most parents miss. 

Help them find what will fill the void…something that they’re passionate about AND want to pursue mastery in with ALL of their heart and soul.

Athletes: It’s OK if you’re done and don’t have any energy and drive left to continue your career in any given sport. No one wants a teammate giving 50% of their effort. And you don’t deserve the guilt and shame that comes with going through the motions. 

Be honest with yourself. If it’s time to hang it up, it’s time to hang it up. 

And remember this…you’re NOT defined by the sport you play. Instead, you’re a unique person who so happens to play a particular sport. That sport was just part of your life’s journey. Life won’t end when playing your sport does.  

#3 – You’re in control

In his press conference, Luck shared that he, “made a vow to myself that I would not go down that path again” and that “I can’t live the life I want to live.” He was referring to the physical and emotional pain he was going through rehabbing from injuries and not being “all in” when it came to his career. 

Luck showed us that despite what the Colts, teammates, fans, or the media had to say about him retiring, at the end of the day, it was up to him to keep playing. Luck proved that he was 100% in control of his career and prioritized being true to the vow he made to himself and the life he wanted to live.

Parents: Don’t believe the myth that you have to follow a particular path that some coach, expert, or advisor told you that your athlete needs to follow. Do your research. Get information from trusted experts. Have an open discussion with your entire family. Then, design your own plan. If you don’t take the initiative to design your own plan, someone else will design it for you.

Athletes: Take control of your career. As soon as you feel like you’re drifting on someone else’s plan for you, that’s when it’s time to call a timeout and ask yourself what YOU need to do to get back control. Legendary Sports Psychologist Ken Ravizza used to always say, “Control the Controllables.” What I’ve found is that most athletes don’t take the time to identify what those controllables are and it’s costing them their careers.

#4 – Clarity is key to forward progress

Check out these two statements Luck made:

  • “It’s sad, but I have so much clarity about my next steps.” 
  • “I had to figure out why I wanted to come back and play football.”

Parents: Your athletes don’t need more confidence. They need more CLARITY. 

Clarity breeds confidence. I can’t tell you how many athletes I’ve met that can’t even articulate their goals in life and sports. Even more can’t tell me WHY they’re playing their sport. Ask your athlete about their goals. Make sure they’re clear on why they’re taking every step they take.

Athletes: Take some time to yourself and write down every reason WHY you’re playing the sport you’re playing. Are you emotionally connected to those reasons? Do they drive you? If not, it’s time to be honest with yourself.

#5 – Family is everything

At about the 13:30 mark in his press conference, Luck was visibly shaken when talking about his family. You could tell how much pain he was in over the past few years. I get it…because I was there…fighting battles that I didn’t have the heart to fight. It crushed my heart, soul, and drive. It crushed my family.

Parents: Your athlete needs you. Despite what he/she is saying to you (or not saying to you), EVERY athlete I’ve worked with since 2005 has said family is a key piece to their success and a big part of their problems. So, if you’re a parent, ask yourself this: Is what I’m doing or saying giving me the BEST chance to have the greatest relationship possible with my child? If not, it’s time to change course.

Athletes: Your family is your X-Factor. I can give you story after story about athletes whose performances and careers have been drastically affected by family. Again, I can relate to this one firsthand. 

Bottom line, winning starts at home. If things are off at home, you have a crack in your foundation. Just like a house, that crack may not be an issue now, but the more time that passes, you’re bound to have a bigger issue that could risk everything. 

Don’t take that chance. Open the lines of communication. Share your feelings with your family. Most importantly, make sure that everything you do is honoring your family, not tearing it apart.

If you’re an athlete, you want success. You want the same confidence that the world’s best have – that confidence that you can achieve anything you put your mind to. And you want to be happy doing it.

If you’re a parent, you want your athlete to experience every bit of that success, confidence, and happiness they want…in LIFE, not just sports. 

So, listen closely to Andrew Luck – one of the most talented athletes in the world. It’s not just believing these five key points can transform the direction of your life and career. It’s also about putting them to practice…every day.

Which of the five key points are YOU going to work on, starting today? Drop a note in the comments below. I want to cheer you on!

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