At some point in our lives, we will all go through a major life transition. Whether it’s leaving home for the first time, changing cities, losing your job, or breaking off a relationship. We all end up facing moments of change, from one way of being to another. This can be a very challenging experience to navigate, especially if done alone.
For most athletes, there has been no greater transition than the one you faced when you finally walked away from your athletic career. It was a moment that you knew was an inevitability. It was only a matter of time until you faced what every athlete faces at some point in their life... finally saying goodbye to the game that you had spent much of your life pursuing greatness at. And, although you knew that your professional career had to come to an end, nothing prepares you for the actual experience of leaving it all behind.
Whenever we go through a transition of any kind, we are forced to look at the story of who we are, and figure out a way to retell that story without the thing that gave us so much meaning for so long. As an athlete playing a team sport, the life change can be a really isolating experience to face alone. We were accustomed to going to work with our teammates, working towards a common goal with a band of brothers all focused on the same thing. And no one tells us that as soon as the game is over, all of that support and sense of purpose fades right along with it.
How each of us handles our transition journey, and any feelings of isolation and loneliness, is up to us. The Härt Collective’s Founder, Joe Hawley, chose to hit the road. If you ask him, “why?” this is the answer he’ll give you:
“Well, to be honest, I just didn’t really know what else to do, I just knew that I had to get moving because I didn’t want to sit in the pain of the void I felt from saying goodbye to something that was such a big piece of my life. I’m grateful I did because it led me on an incredible journey that taught me so much about myself, who I am, and allowed me to find deeper meaning in life, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t come without its challenges. And the biggest challenge was, and continues to be, the overwhelming feeling that no one really gets what it’s like, what I’m going through, what it took to reach the top, and, how hard it is to watch it all fade away in an instant.”
That’s why he created The Härt Collective, a community that provides the support, connections and feeling of belonging that athletes miss from their playing days. It’s a community of like-minded brothers who are focused on continuing to pursue greatness off the field. Of men who know that just because the game is over doesn’t mean that their lives are over, but that they are really just getting started.
The missing piece to any transition is finding a community that understands what the experience is like, so you don’t have to go at it alone. Leaving professional athletics is unique in that a lot of people just don’t, and will never, understand. You no longer have to navigate this experience alone. We can lean on each other, challenge ourselves and continue on the journey towards becoming the best versions of who we know we are capable of being.