Category Archives: Athletes’ Ultimate Game Plan

An Athlete’s Exit Game Plan: Three Essential Steps for Successful Transitions

Hanging out with Big-Al-Chelsey Former NFL Star

You hear business owners talking about having an exit plan. If you are an athlete in college or entering the Pros, it’s even more important for you to have one. Although you may have spent your entire life preparing to make the team and become the star athlete, the reality remains: it is not uncommon for an athlete to swiftly and unexpectedly get cut from the team through performance, financial decisions, or through injury.

Unfortunately, many teams seem to be interested in “what can you do for me today?” Nor are they generally focused or necessarily appreciative of what you have done for them in the past. What you embraced as a promising college or pro career can be immediately impacted by unexplainable struggles on the field or court, another player emerging that is hungrier or more talented than you… and of course, the dreaded injury that dwells in the back of every player’s mind during practice or live games.

Having an exit game plan for your career after sports gives you direction and helps you to prepare now for whatever your athletic future holds in store for you. Below are steps you can take now to ensure a successful transition for wherever you are in your life and career.

Three-Step Game Plan for Success

1. Take stock of your talents, gifts, and passions;
2. Cultivate your esteem and love of self as essential to success; and
3. Create your own destiny.

Talents, Gifts, and Passions:

It is likely you have dreamed all your life of making the Pros in your sport. What else makes you passionate about this kind of a life plan? Is it teaching and coaching other players, being a leader of your team, being the analytical specialist, or being able to make a difference in the world with your celebrity as the drawing card. Perhaps, one of the joys from your achievement and stardom is being able to influence the young and eager wide-eyed youth who look up to you—giving them hope and inspiration for a better quality of life—that they too can create their dreams.

In reality, it’s more than giving hope and fulfilling dreams. It is about making a true difference in someone’s life, starting with your own. Can you become a financial planner to reach other athletes? Do you desire to motivate others through corporate presentations or speaking and writing to help others reach their dreams?

Begin to make a list of your passions. Then make a list of the skills that would complement your passions and help you fulfill them. A word of caution: don’t let your critical, analytical self-talk you out of your highest dreams. You can do it, but the first step is getting clarity and honesty about your desires, skills, and talents. Whatever is deep in your heart, you can reach them.

Cultivate Self-Esteem and Love:

The lack of love and self-acceptance are two primary enemies that sabotage your success in life, relationships, and career. If you are self-critical, you talk yourself out of taking steps towards your goals. You may have used criticism to propel you to change your behaviors and skills for athletics. Yet, these put downs and harshness toward yourself can later lead to feelings of failure and not feeling good enough…and the deadly tendency to compare yourself to others. When you do compare yourself with others, it is all too easy to find those who are quicker, stronger, more skilled, smarter, etc. The natural result of these thoughts is that you begin to feel more inadequate, which then translates to diminished self-esteem, confidence, and performance.

You don’t have to beat yourself up! Instead, you are here to learn to be your best self by being your foremost supporter. When you encourage yourself—even through mistakes and shortcomings—you are learning the art of Conscious Loving™, the power of which is to give yourself the best intentions and allow your brain to support you as you make the best decisions for yourself. In contrast, when you start with yourself in showing unconditional love, you immediately lift your energy, spirit, and mental game—and almost magically, you achieve far more. Remember self-love and acceptance equate to healthy self-esteem.

Create Your Own Destiny:

As an athlete, you are in charge of your own destiny. You determined how much you practiced, strengthened and conditioned, the types of foods you ate, the coaches’ instructions you employed, and the lifestyle you lived to give yourself the best possible ways to physically, emotionally, and mentally thrive in your sport. However, if you are terminated from your sport through injury or displaced from your team, you might believe that you have few options.

Keep an open heart and mind; consider that every adversity and challenge can create an opportunity for you to grow even more—and thrive—if you can face and deal with each new situation. You remain in control as the conductor of your life. No one makes these decisions for you, and you certainly don’t need to ride the train as a victim of circumstances! You do not need to believe or feel the current situation you are in defines you. No! Each momentary setback is designed to help you create an even more impactful direction for your life. What lessons can you learn from your situation? How can you leverage the desire to create even better outcomes? For a hint, go back to step number two: leveraging your self-acceptance and love.

Know that when you truly love yourself, you choose beliefs, thoughts, and actions that are consistent with supporting yourself and your dreams and visions.

Know that you are not alone. Many others have experienced what you may be going through. First, look inward to ways you can give yourself support and affection. Then reach out to others for their support and guidance.

With the many players that I have spoken, those who are the most successful are the ones who started to transition outside their given sport while they were in it. Some started taking college courses in the off-season. Others started writing their thoughts and experiences for a book to capture their highlights and inspirations; they learned to be grateful for overcoming personal fears and struggles. Some started working with life coaches to get a “game plan” for an optimal life after their sport.

Don’t put your head in the sand; believing you’ll manage situations when they are dealt to you. This is a reactionary course of action and produces poor outcomes. Instead, begin to think, dream, formulate, and take action now—to create the life you truly envision and deserve.

Mamiko Odegard, Ph.D. specializes in working with athletes to assist in transitioning from their sport to find meaning and success in new possibilities and careers.


If you are wondering what YOU3 is, you will be interested to know it is one of the underlying tenets of the programs I teach… the work I do as the leading authority on overcoming self-sabotage in love, relationships, and high-performance. It is the belief that we have three diametrically different kinds of love, which we must understand and manage. The first is the love we have for ourselves… the jumping off point of all other love we hope to experience.  Another deals with the relationships we have with friends, family, and professional peers and finally, the love we feel romantically.
As I connected with the various attendees and sought to develop relationships at this stellar, and unique event, I was blessed to join and communicate with amazing people:  Kim Sherlock Anderson, a former actor and now stand up comic and Larry Mallory, Board of Directors of the Fort Worth Police Athletic League, a 501C organization that provides youth a place to play sports, learn, and to become leaders in the community and my golfing partner, Joe Wesley, now a Safety manager in Houston. Clearly, these communications were in the second category of professional peers, but I could easily see how some of those would shift to more of a friend status over time – you just know when you really develop long-lasting relationships with others.
I thought of the YOU3 of romantic relationships as I met fabulous wives and partners such as Dr. Amy Lewis, A National Board Certified Accupuncturist and President Acupuncture Society of DC, Brooke Kalama, an actress, and speaker, Dr. Monica Hill, a couples and family therapist.  In another post, you can read about how a group of us had fun and camaraderie building a dog house and painting them to help raise funds for Forever Loved Pet Sanctuary.  All the while, my mind considered the wives and partners of the EXTRAordinary sports figures, knowing that without question they have been-and remain- the backbone of the players… they are the beautiful spirits who inspire athletes and participate in the ultimate game plan as they emotionally and physically support them.

As you can probably tell, there were many layers of connections at this event, and many memories started we will all carry forth to the next annual event! The concept of teamwork extends so far beyond the game!

NFLPA: John A. Amos

As a peak performance expert working to help athletes’ achieve their ultimate game plans, it was a pleasure indeed to connect with John A. Amos, Jr. at the recent NFLPA event. Talk about a person who has figured out being EXTRAordinary – John certainly has!
There is much to be said about John and his career, but all of that can be seen online through various media pieces. What fascinates me is his playing full out in life – not just in his sports. A part of me would like to interview this remarkable young man and inquire, “What was the mental/emotional connection for you between sociology studies, college football, social work, and Golden Gloves boxing?”
And then… there is John’s further life journey that included writing, television roles – some a comedic take on life, and others drama-based such as The District and the 1977 miniseries, Roots.  The list of his television roles is lengthy, and his work as writer and producer of Hailey’s Comet gained international acclaim – rounded out by stints on Broadway. and the release of an album of original country music songs. This EXTRAordinary performer has the distinction of winning more TV Land Awards than any other actor.
On a more personal level, we see John’s standards of performance extending to being a veteran of the 50th Armored Division of the New Jersey National Guard and Honorary Master Chief of the U.S. Coast Guard. At the end of the day, all in all, I feel honored and grateful to have met this impactful man – and look forward to seeing just how many more ways he can think of being EXTRAordinary!

NFLPA Former Players Convention 2017 / Scottsdale AZ

Some might have called this a media-fest, but what I experienced left me in awe, and thinking, What an incredible convention! The event? NFLPA Former Players Convention 2017Imagine the collective of former players, who believe, “We are “One Team”, built around a fraternity of former NFL Players who are aligned, connected and engaged, working together in life beyond football” who met March 17-21 at the beautiful Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch in Scottsdale, Arizona. And guess who was there with amazing sports figures who took time out to reunite and network with teammates, hear from exciting guest speakers, participate in sports skills competitions for prizes, there was a never-ending feast. Between you and me, I was in good company with my appetite. Haha! And we all enjoyed myriad social events? All of this fun and developing powerful partnerships – life can’t get much better than this.

I was privileged to be in attendance when the 2017 Convention Speaker John Amos gave an awesome and funny keynote address to the attendees! He spoke about the poem he wrote called “The Turk” which was penned upon his being cut from the Kansas City Chiefs.

The organization, based in the District of Columbia,  develops and communicates the valuable programs and resources available to over 18,000 former NFL players.

Wade Manning

As I continue to focus on bringing others to being Irresistible Invincible and Iconic, I was blessed with the distinct honor to be among people who were outstanding in their field, yet remain the “salt of the earth” kind of individuals who continue to positively impact the world.

Imagine my delight… visiting with Wade Manning, President of the Denver NFL chapter and on our golf foursome team… or having “photo moments” with speaker, Anthony Brinkley!

Anthony Brinkley
John Booty

Another great connection was a former player and now TV sports commentator and analyst, John Booty.  

It was difficult to not feel “dwarfed” by these NFL Greats… not so much by their size, but by the size of their hearts – such as Big Al Chelsey who gives so much to the world as a speaker and advocate for preventing sexual abuse against

Isiah Robertson,

Oh!  And how about legendary Isiah Robertson, Hall of Famer with six pro bowl appearances, Nfl defensive rookie of the year in 1971, and founder of The House of Isaiah, a long-term drug and alcohol recovery program for boys and men?