Retirement Is an Important Call for an Athlete

Madan GopalCorrespondent IJuly 24, 2008

One of the NFL's (National Football League) elite quarterbacks is attracting a lot of attention as of late. The attention is not based on his on-field play, but something that happened in March 2008. Yes, after leading the Green Bay Packers to the NFC (National Football Conference) Championship, he decided to retire after a stellar career, accumulating practically every passing record on the way.

The team then decided that Aaron Rodgers would be the starting quarterback (four years of studying Brett Favre) from this year onwards. Everything seemed to be going smoothly, when all of a sudden there were reports that Brett Favre wanted to come back!

Thus the attention in recent weeks.

This leads to the question, "When should an athlete retire?"

There can be a variety of answers to this question. Some might say to go out when he is on top of his game, but is getting old; some might argue that the right time to retire is when his performance is going downhill; or a few others might say that an athlete should retire when he knows he is good enough but cannot keep up the high standards that he had set for himself.

Many people are of the view that once you are above 35-years old, the reflexes tend to slow down and, although today's athletes are fitter than before, their skill-set is bound to suffer just a little.

Of course, age is not a criterion for retirement, but performance sure is. So if an athlete is 35+ and can still deliver a strong performance, why not continue with him?

The answer to this retirement question lies with the athlete himself. No outsider should coerce an athlete into retirement.

Was Michael Schumacher, the legendary F1 champion, forced to retire? No one knows the answer to that question. So once an athlete decides to retire, he should feel that he gave his best shot and should not have any regrets.

Announcing his retirement and then trying to make a comeback is just going to make him lose the respect and admiration of his fans and teammates.

It shows a weakness in his mind, when he is unsure of his actions. One of India's great yesteryear cricketers said it best that a sportsman should retire when the world asks, "Why?" rather than, "Why not?"

When an athlete retires and people ask the question "Why?" the athlete is going out on his terms, with his respect, admiration, and accomplishments intact. The second question, "Why not?" indicates the athlete is overstaying, and he may be past his glory and is slowly but surely becoming a burden on the team.

An athlete can have strong career of about 10-15 years, provided he stays fit and injury-free. He can make enough money during this period to support his family for the rest of their lives. So, money should not be a factor in considering "retirement".

Is there a fear of stepping into an unknown world? Maybe. For an athlete who has been actively involved in his sport for such a long period of time, the thought of not being able to pursue his only passion in life may lead him to play more, ignoring his performance aspect.

Therefore, in my opinion, an athlete should call it quits when he is still able to compete at a high level, but not with the high standards set for himself. That, to me, is a job well done!