Things were not going well for the Buffalo Bills, an NFL team based in New York. As the halftime siren sounded, they were trailing the Los Angeles Chargers 28-6.
While their coach was trying to regroup for the second half, quarterback Vontae Davis had other ideas; he decided to retire. The ten-year veteran of the game said, “I shouldn’t be out there anymore.” He told his coach at half time he was done and went home.
Retiring at halftime seems disrespectful to the club and his teammates who fought back hard in the second half to bring the score to a more respectable defeat of 31-20. When is the right time to retire?
Roger Federer is 38 years old and shows no signs of impending retirement. Federer became world number 1 at 22 years of age and dominated tennis winning a record number of Grand Slams.
Age would begin to catch up with Federer but he still managed to find ways to keep winning becoming the oldest world number 1 in history at 36 years of age. Australia’s Pat Rafter was a much-loved tennis player winning back to back US Open titles; Rafter played his last Grand Slam at age 29.
Still playing at 40
In the AFL Dustin Fletcher played for Essendon for 23 seasons including playing his 400th game at 40 years of age. Richmond’s Alex Rance surprised football fans earlier this year by announcing his retirement from the game at just 30 years of age. How should professional athletes decide when it’s time to pull the pin?
Enjoying the game
Cricketer Brad Hogg played cricket for Australia in all formats of the game from until his retirement at age 37. Surprisingly Brad Hogg reemerged playing in the Big Bash League with the Perth Scorchers at 40 years of age.
Hogg’s return to cricket was so successful he was called up to represent Australia. Which Hogg continued to do until age 43 and continued to play Big Bash cricket until he was 47.
Consider the contrast with Pat Rafter who said that he lost all motivation to play tennis at the highest level. If you can’t motivate yourself to play the game; it’s time to call it quits.
Stop believing in fairytales
Professional athletes are often encouraged to ‘go out on top.’ Sporting fans have romanticized ideas about athletes ending their careers with a fairytale ending. Why does it matter?
Roger Federer could finish his career holding the Wimbledon title or by being knocked out in the first round by a no name qualifier; what tangible difference does it make?
Finishing one’s career by losing doesn’t take away any of the wins that occurred along the way. Fans might prefer an athlete to retire at the top of their game but why should an athlete base their career choices upon the wishes of armchair sports fans?
The family factor
Kim Clijsters was a world number one tennis player who won the US Open before retiring at age 23. The following year Clijsters gave birth to her first child. After a two-year hiatus Clijsters returned better than before winning another 3 grand slams over the next four years before retiring a second time and having two more children.
Family is an important consideration for professional athletes. Athletes often begin their careers young and single but as time goes by an athlete will likely have to take into consideration the needs of a spouse and children.
As athletes age hopefully they’ll come to see their sporting career as one part of an otherwise larger life. Clijsters recently made a second return to tennis at the Dubai Tennis Championships in February saying she loves the game and loves the challenge.
Dustin Fletcher’s 400th AFL match was his last but only because he was injured during the match. Many professional athlete’s careers have ended against their will due to injury. Another footballer Jonathan Brown retired after suffering a concussion saying, “It wasn't worth the risk of going out there and copping another head knock and jeopardizing my future with my wife and kids.”
Darren Beadman was an incredibly successful Australian jockey who retired in 1997 to study at Bible College. He returned to the sport in 2000. Footballer Alex Rance said he was retiring to prioritize the more important things such as spiritual growth, family and friends.
Professional athletes have a variety of reasons for calling it quits and they should be free to play for as long as they like.
Travis Barnes lives in central Victoria with his wife and two daughters. He is a contributor for Christian Today and a sportswriter.