Why this matters
Guest host and producer Karen Given takes you inside the life of former Australian pro basketball player Russell Hinder, whose story exemplifies the full scope of an athlete's journey, including how he found purpose and drive after retiring from his playing career.
On the latest episode of the Global Sport Matters Podcast, guest host and producer Karen Given sits down with former Australian National Basketball League (NBL) player Russell Hinder, who discusses his experience transitioning out of a long playing career into a new life as a father, student and all-around regular guy. This episode is the first part of a two-part series from Given on the athlete's journey and the transformation of body and mind that comes with the transition out of professional competition and into everyday life.
During his career, Hinder was not paid the type of salary an NBA player in the United States might make, but he was comfortable, and most of all, very popular and famous in the town in which he played.
"It got to a point where days after games, I would choose not to go to the shops with my wife because it was, there was a quarter million people in that town, 300,000," Hinder explains, "and that's all they had."
When he retired, everything was different. He lost control of his body and lacked a sense of purpose in his life.
"For 17 years of my life, my parents told me what to do," Hinder says. "My teachers told me what to do, where to be for the next 17 years of my life, my coaches, my trainers, my everything told me what to do. So I kind of ended up at 34 with no one telling me what to do."
Hinder developed situational depression and violent thoughts, with prescribed pain medication only making him things harder on him psychologically. Still, Hinder was able to emerge from that period of his life by returning to school, finding new purpose as a family man and in a job where he could do manual labor and get the physical workout he was used to.
"They can be at the peak of who they are and still understand that at some point, you know, unless you're Tom Brady, the game will end, it always ends," explains Karen Gallagher, faculty in the School of Allied Health at the University of Alaska, Anchorage.
"And when it does, there has to be something else, a purpose when you no longer serve the team, when you no longer have the bonds of your team, um, and that purpose of winning you need another purpose and you need another team. And if you haven't done anything, any work or any thinking beyond the game, you're going to be lost."
This is the story of Hinder, but it's really the story of what happens when an athlete departs the only thing they've ever known, and what it's like trying to get back to normal.
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If you are what you repeatedly do, what happens when you stop doing it?
The athlete's journey outside of competition is not often covered in media, nor considered all that much by fans. It can, however, be core to athletes’ lived experiences, impacting decisions on where to play, which business opportunities to take, how to take care of their physical and mental health and more.