Many athletes struggle with the final act of walking away from their sport.
At the university level, second semester represents the final chapter for many graduating student athletes; the real world is beckoning, and life beyond the lines of the field, court or arena looms ever larger.
At Carleton University, former Ontario Hockey League and Carleton Ravens forward Brandon Belding is a poster child for post-retirement success, having walked away from the game regret-free towards a rewarding post-athletic career.
“It’s a big issue,” said Belding, who retired after a partial season with the Ravens in 2015-16, of the mental health of recently-retired athletes. “In terms of knowing one thing and knowing it really well for a long time, it’s hard to switch gears and mentally focus on something else.”
The Ottawa, Ont. native has taken the same focus and energy he brought to the hockey rink every day and transferred it to a new arena: school.
“I made a commitment when I left hockey to focus on school and grades, with the goal of going to graduate school,” said Belding, a student at Carleton’s Sprott School of Business. “It’s been a pretty big 180Â°, for sure, but also an enjoyable and rewarding one.”
By throwing himself into his schoolwork with the same tenacity with which he used to throw punches for the OHL’s Mississauga Steelheads (2013-14), the 6-foot-3 power forward-turned-finance guru is building his non-hockey resume quickly.
Along with friends Simon Tomlinson and Rory Taylor, he has started Breaking the Trend, a website aimed at increasing financial literacy amongst a population the trio identifies with âÂ students.
“We figured now that we’re doing our own research into personal finance, why not share our knowledge with other people, like the younger generation coming out of high school,” explained Belding, whose work has earned him speaking engagements. “It’s something totally different than sports, but it’s just as engaging and just as much fun.”
In terms of advice for this year’s crop of graduating and/or retiring student athletes, his advice is simple.
“Find something else you’re passionate about,” said Belding. “It doesn’t have to be sports-related, or even school-related focus on what gets you up in the morning, whatever brings you happiness and go after it.”
Brandon Belding understands that while his hockey career may be over, his rest-of-life career is just getting started. Critically, he’s taking the lessons he learned during his time in the gameâtenacity, goal-setting, focus, etc.âand applying them to the real world.
Isn’t that ultimately what sports are all about?