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Former college football players compile advice for winning after athletics

Rob Curley (left) and Phil Costa talk about their book, “The Transition Playbook for Athletes,” with Donna Drake, host of the TV show “Live It Up! With Donna Drake.” Submitted by Phil Costa

Regardless of the sport played, the level of competition or the number of accolades garnered along the way, there’s one thing all athletes have in common: the transition out of sports. Like most athletes, former football players Phil Costa and Rob Curley knew life would be a little different after they took off their helmets and pads for the last time, but they didn’t anticipate just how jarring the adjustment period would be. They didn’t expect the loss of identity. The imposter syndrome. The humbling experience of going from having a name that crowds once cheered for on Saturdays to a name unrecognized in an employee directory.

So Costa, who played at Maryland and then for the Dallas Cowboys, and Curley, who played at Lafayette, set out to create a resource they wish they had a few years earlier — a book with practical advice for athletes transitioning out of sports. The end result, “The Transition Playbook for Athletes: How Elite Athletes Win After Sports,” is a compilation of lessons, tips, personal stories and motivational quotes from more than 100 former college, professional and Olympic athletes. From tips to starting off in a new career to guidance for adopting new healthy habits, here’s a sampling of insights from the book.

Be prepared to feel like a freshman again.

“Like being a freshman, there is a bottom-of-the-totem-pole feeling. There is a lot to learn, and others are much more knowledgeable than you. You need to be a sponge and take in as much as you can as quickly as you can to have a competitive edge.” — Marc Quilling, Lafayette football

Establish a new routine.

“I like to exercise first thing in the morning so I don’t spend all day thinking about when I’m going to fit in my workout. Start your day with some simple accomplishments so that you are ready to focus on what’s next.” — Summer Sanders, Stanford swimming

Don’t wait to leverage your network.

“See all those fancy people standing on the sidelines at games or practice? Get their business cards and connect with them. They want to help you if they can. When you become a former player, they often become less interested in helping if they didn’t know you when you were a player.”­ — Jon Harris, DePaul basketball

Adjust your lifestyle habits.

“I had to reevaluate my food choices based on my new activity level. It was earth-shattering to realize I couldn’t still eat two steaks and wash them down with Gatorade at every meal.” — Obumneme Akunyili, Maryland football

Know that your wins may be less obvious outside of sports.

“I’ve struggled with defining clear and visible metrics for measuring success. As an oarswoman, it was clear who was performing and who wasn’t. I kept my head down, worked hard, and let my performance speak for itself. As a lawyer, my colleagues can’t see whether or not I’m doing good work. I’ve had to learn how to advocate for myself and tout my successes in order to advance in my career.” — Caryn Davies, Harvard rowing

About Champion

Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.