After the Glory Fades (Transcript)

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Good Sport
After the Glory Fades
March 29, 2023

[00:00:00] Jody Avirgan:
This is Carli Lloyd, four-time Olympian, two-time World Cup champion. A legend of US soccer.

[00:00:06] Carli Lloyd:
There's this picture of me after we lost to Canada in Tokyo 2020. It was a really bad game played by our team and, um, I just had a moment with myself on the field.

[00:00:23] Jody Avirgan:
In the photo she's talking about, Carli's sitting on a ball in the middle of a field. Her head is in her hands. She's staring down at the green grass in front of her. There's no one else in the picture, no spectators, no teammates. It really looks like Carli's alone and in despair.

[00:00:40] Carli Lloyd:
I was upset. Yeah, I was pissed.

[00:00:44] Jody Avirgan:
Most people who saw that photo were probably thinking, “Oh, she's just really upset. The US lost in the semi-finals. They're not gonna get a shot at the gold medal.”

But, there was so much more going on there that we didn’t.

[00:00:58] Carli Lloyd:
Yeah, that was me just having a moment, just reflecting that this was my last world event.

[00:01:05] Jody Avirgan:
Her last world event. Before the Olympics, Carli had decided it was time to hang up her cleats, time to retire, no more Olympics, no more World Cups. And I'd imagine she hoped her last game on the world stage would've ended with a gold medal around her neck, but it was not to be.

[00:01:22] Carli Lloyd:
You know, it was, it was heartbreaking. It was, it was gut-wrenching. You always have this, this image in your mind of how you would like things to play out, and life doesn't always give you exactly what you want.

[00:01:35] Jody Avirgan:
Well, it's like sports teaching you one last lesson on the way out. You know?

[00:01:39] Carli Lloyd:

[00:01:41] Jody Avirgan:
Carli didn't get her storybook ending. Not every career can end on a high note. But that's sports. It's simply the fact that for all of us, there comes a time when the sport we play and love and our ability or desire to play it at the level we're used to passes us by.

In sports, retiring is kind of a strange and humbling thing. You spend years devoting yourself completely to training, competing, chasing that next gold medal or championship or record, and then one day, usually with most of your life still ahead of you, you’re done.

When they face retirement, athletes put something we all face—aging—into sharper relief, both in terms of the body it breaks down and something more existential. I was one type of person defined by the things I love. Now that that's over, what am I? I’ve been going through this myself lately. For most of my life, playing top-level sports—which as I've talked about on this show, was mostly ultimate Frisbee—it shaped my life.

Every day was filled with playing or training for tournaments. My social circle was made up of people I played sports with. The field was where I could focus my drive and work out my frustrations, and it was an ego boost. I'll cop to liking the fact that I knew that I was very, very good at something.

And then my body started giving out: a couple torn ACLs, continuously pulled hamstrings, Achilles surgeries. I just couldn't bring it anymore. I needed to stop playing. I knew that. But then, it's like all those things that I love, they just go away? What a racket.

My name is Jody Avirgan, and this is Good Sport, from the TED Audio Collective. This episode, we’ll get some guidance from athletes, much wiser and much more accomplished than me who faced this change and found their own answer to the big question. What comes next?

I promise this isn't just a therapy session. You'll meet some great athletes. You'll learn something too about how all of us—athletes or not—can think about aging and the years ahead with a little more insight and a little more optimism. So, what comes next? Well, for one, the show's theme music and then you know, more podcast.


[00:04:15] Jody Avirgan:
As a top pro athlete, Carli Lloyd practically lived on the road, and that grind got more and more grueling the older she got.

[00:04:24] Carli Lloyd:
You know, there were, there were several years in a World Cup or Olympic years where we were on the road 250-some days, and I, I definitely felt it getting tougher and tougher the older I got. Tough to be away from home, leave my husband and not really see my family and friends and, um, you know, I'd come home for short little window breaks and, and I'm trying to cram everything in in a week or 10 days. It’s, it’s tough.

[00:04:52] Jody Avirgan:
But at some level it's like the highs are worth it to put up with the 12 hours a day of, of grind and, and BS?

[00:05:01] Carli Lloyd:
I would do it again in a heartbeat. Uh, I would sacrifice everything for it. You can't do what we do and, and what players do on the professional level if you, if you, if you don't have that, that sense of commitment and willingness to sacrifice.

[00:05:18] Jody Avirgan:
I asked Carli if she felt like she had to give up any semblance of a normal life in order to play at that highest level.

[00:05:26] Carli Lloyd:
I've, I've asked myself that. I've, I've thought about it. I think that there's a, a very small percentage of people that get to the professional lever-level, and then there's an even smaller, smaller percentage that are up on that peak, on that mountain top. Alone, for the most part. I had to be that extreme.

[00:05:49] Jody Avirgan:
Carli lived in that extreme almost her entire life, but now, she was in her late thirties. And for any athlete that age, you inevitably ask every season: is this gonna be my last one? It's one of those strange things about retiring from sports. You make this huge life transition pretty early in your life, way before most people consider their careers over. And it can be hard to know when to call it quits.

[00:06:14] Carli Lloyd:
You know, sometimes it's a coach forcing you out. Sometimes it's an injury. Sometimes you're just, you don't have what it takes. You know, you're, you're slowing down and you're not performing well.

[00:06:25] Jody Avirgan:
But Carli never wanted to get to that point. She wanted to choose for herself when to walk away.

[00:06:31] Carli Lloyd:
I always wanted to dictate my ending. I always wanted to be the one to decide when I was gonna hang up my boots, and, and I'm very grateful because there's not a lot of people that get to do that.

[00:06:41] Jody Avirgan:
After the Olympics, she played a few more games. Her last match with the national team was in Minnesota. The stadium was full of people chanting her name, holding signs that said things like, “Thank you, Carli” and “Happy last game to the GOAT. We'll miss you.”

[00:06:56] Carli Lloyd:
The stadium was electrifying. The only complaint I had would maybe have to play a, a few more minutes, maybe come out with like one minute remaining in the game. Maybe banged in a goal.

[00:07:08] Jody Avirgan:

[00:07:09: Carli Lloyd:
But everything else was, um, was picture perfect, and I was able to take everything in. I was able to, to listen to the crowd, to look at all the posters around and the people cheering and, and be in that present moment.

[00:07:24] Jody Avirgan:
When Carli came off the field, she hugged her teammates, took off her cleats, and looked into the stands for her husband, Brian Hollins, her high school sweetheart. She had a surprise for him.

[00:07:35] Carli Lloyd:
Probably my, my most favorite part of that moment was being able to take my jersey off and show my husband the Hollins jersey that I had on, on, on, uh, my back because without his support, I, I wouldn't have been able to do all that I did.

[00:07:59] Jody Avirgan:
And now, about a year since her last game, Carli has found her answer to that big question of what comes next.

[00:08:07] Carli Lloyd:
I'm a normal, everyday human now. I, I weed. Uh, I just pulled some weeds, right before this.

[00:08:13] Jody Avirgan:
Oh, come on. That's what comes after a Hall of Fame career? Weeding? But really, Carli says that since she walked off the field, her days have been filled with lots of things that give her meaning. Some new business ventures, a little media work, and time with her husband who's a professional golfer.

[00:08:30] Carli Lloyd:
There's no uber-competitive drive there. I just, I, I'm picking up a sport because it's something that him and I can play together and it's good exercise and you can play it for a really long time and, and it's fun and it's challenging.

[00:08:45] Jody Avirgan:
As zen as Carli is about her next phase, I did ask her about one thing I've struggled with, something I suspect she struggled with too: motivation for working out. For athletes, workouts are absolutely critical. It's a cliche, but what separates the best athletes is how hard they train. The training gives you purpose, confidence, steady improvement. But you're always training for something—a big game, the next tournament.

But now, if you're no longer playing a sport, it's like you're supposed to just work out to work out? To me, that feels really unsatisfying.

[00:09:19] Carli Lloyd:
Before I was retired, I, I thought about this and, and I remember having conversations with, you know, people about it, and I'm like, “It's gonna be easy.” You know, I'm, I'm conditioned to run and work out. I've always dedicated myself to that and, and I've become kind of addicted to it. Well, as soon as I ended in November of ’21, um, I had nothing left in my tank. I was completely dead.

[00:09:46] Jody Avirgan:
But, that competitive drive, it never really goes away, does it? Soon after her retirement, a chance to be on a reality TV show came along for Carli. The premise of the show is that it drops celebrities into the middle of the desert then tests their ability and endurance as they try and make it out. I'd watch that show, by the way. Anyway, the instant this offer came along, Carli's workouts changed.

[00:10:10] Carli Lloyd:
It was amazing how my runs, my, my mileage pace went from, like, eight and a half, nine-minute mile pace. Start training for the show, I’m down at 7, 7:30 mile pace. You know, it's just, it's crazy that your brain, or at least my brain, when there's a goal and there's, you know, something in play that it just triggers your mind to, to just dig deeper. I spent a good month and a half, you know, really training for it. And, uh, it was nice to have a goal again.

[00:10:47] Jody Avirgan:
It was nice to have a goal again. Interesting. What Carli is describing here isn't unique. A lot of people, they need something to work for. I actually think this is one of the reasons that we've seen the rise of things like CrossFit. You're not working out to prepare for competition, the workout is the competition.

I flirted with CrossFit for this very reason. I got injured, of course. I've tried swimming and rowing and freaking Peloton. Anything to try and give myself something to train for. I'll tell you what though. I'm not gonna play golf. Oh, God. Should I run a marathon? Please don't let that be the answer. Like, you just go out there and run?

Sure, for Carli, it helps to have something like the special forces show to light a fire under her workouts, but it's also clear that she's in a different phase. A phase focused on outcome more than process, on the joy of learning a new skill, on pushing her body and mind in new ways. Beat by beat.

[00:11:50] Carli Lloyd:
Now, I would say that in my younger years of my playing days, it was hard to enjoy the process. You're always kind of looking to the future. You're always wanting that goal of yours to, to happen. But as my career went on and the older I got and the more experience I, I had, um, I started to kind of embrace the process a little bit more, enjoy the journey a little bit more and, and really try to immerse myself in that present moment.

[00:12:21] Jody Avirgan:
It's only later in your career where you enjoy the process, you feel like you figured some things out. Obviously you're, you're still learning. I mean, I feel like that’s also applies to across the board. Like, you learn how to train better, you become more efficient. You just sort of are like… Well, I mean, guess what I'm saying is youth is wasted on the young, but it's kinda like, oh, that, that comes at the end.

[00:12:43] Carli Lloyd:
Yeah, I, I know what you're saying. It's almost like even in the, in the soccer and the football world, if you could play till you were, you know, 40, 50, you know, we'd be incredible players because you've, you've learned the game so much and you're so much smarter, but obviously the body, body plays a role in that.

[00:13:00] Jody Avirgan:
It all comes back to that stupid body. I'm very, very frustrated. Youth really is wasted on the young, or good knees are wasted on the young. Alright, we gotta snap out of it because there is a healthier approach out there. Starting with this: athletes are reframing how we think about retiring. Carli's doing it, and so is Serena Williams. When she talked about the end of her tennis career, she didn't even use the word retirement. She called it evolution.

[00:13:31] Carli Lloyd:
Yeah. I mean, I like, I like the term she used. I think that it is an evolving next chapter. You know, it's, it, it is, it's a, it's a weird odd thing as a professional athlete to, to reti-retire. You know, I retired the same year that my parents retired in.

Like it's just, it, it's odd to me, and I'm not really retired because I'm still working and, and doing other things, and I need to grow. I need to evolve. I need to keep getting better and, and keep putting myself into uncomfortable positions because that's exactly what I did as a player.

[00:14:10] Jody Avirgan:
All these things that make an athlete great—continually learning lessons, constant refinement, pushing yourself—maybe they're the answer to the “what next” question. It's hard to overstate how much the whole retiring on your own terms thing is really important. Carli got to do that, and it has helped her transition. She's also got a healthy mindset, as you've learned.

But for other athletes, as you're probably noticing, for me, it can be much more abrupt if injury forces you to grapple with what comes next before you're really ready to. It can feel more like a void, not a transition.

When I've thought about the void left by the end of playing high-level sports, I've often thought, “Well, maybe I can just fill it with some other sport, some other athletic activity.” Like, sports is all I know. I have to find some way to keep playing, but maybe one answer is to jump into another lane entirely. Take that drive and love of competition to a whole new pursuit, something like cooking.

[00:15:11] Dawn Burrell:
If you walk into my kitchen, you will smell bread baking. You will smell a lovely, uh, aromatics, uh, just caramelizing. That's one of my two favorite smells. Um, butter. You’ll smell butter. These are the things that I love the most.

[00:15:29] Jody Avirgan:
This is Dawn Burrell.

[00:15:32] Dawn Burrell:
I am chef-partner of late August here in Houston.

[00:15:34] Jody Avirgan:
Wait a minute. You're more than just a chef. You're a former Olympic athlete!

[00:15:39] Dawn Burrell:
Well, I'm, well, I'm an Olympian and you know, okay. So I'm Dawn Burrell, Olympian and a former world champion of, uh, the long jump in 2001.

[00:15:50] Jody Avirgan:
And it's nice to have more, uh, accolades than you know how to squeeze into an intro. Huh?

[00:15:56] Dawn Burrell:
You know, I'm focusing on what I'm doing now so, but it, but it all, but I should honor it because it's made me who I am today.

[00:16:03] Jody Avirgan:
When Dawn's long jump career ended, it was brutal. She didn't get to end on her own terms. She tore her ACL. She tried to recover. She tried to keep competing, but she just couldn't get back to the same level.

[00:16:15] Dawn Burrell:
I decided if I did not make that Olympic team, then I would, I would have to, um, find something else that I really love to do. It was time to stop.

[00:16:21] Jody Avirgan:
What was that like when you start… When, when you, when you were sort of laser-focused on athletics, and then all of a sudden you started to shift your gaze a little bit?

[00:16:28] Dawn Burrell:
Really it was like, “Oh my gosh, I'm in survival mode. What can I do?” You know, because I suffered the death of my, my athletic career.

[00:16:37] Jody Avirgan:
The death of her athletic career, Dawn's whole world and identity was gone. But as she was grieving that loss, she also knew she had to figure out what to do next and quickly because she'd also lost her main source of income.

[00:16:52] Dawn Burrell:
My thoughts landed on going to culinary school. I didn't have the easiest start ‘cause I, I started cooking when I was 34 years old, which is very late. And, um, I just needed to figure out how I can, um, grow quickly into who I needed, um, to be to, to cover the expenses that I accrued as an adult. I was in culinary school with teenagers who were just starting their, you know, out in their careers, and I just could not afford to slow down. I had to find really good kitchens. I had to cater, you know, I had to do things that would make me money so that I could survive.

[00:17:31] Jody Avirgan:
Dawn found that what she learned in her athletic career really helped her in the kitchen. She had to problem-solve, react on the fly, bounce back from a mistake. There are parallels between being a chef and an athlete. There's a lot of technique. Plus, being a chef is really physical. Kitchens are hot. You're always on your feet.

Dawn was building her new career, but like Carli Lloyd, she couldn't completely shake that competitive spirit. And. like Carli Lloyd, she turned to reality TV. After years of applying, Dawn ended up on Top Chef.

Tell me more about that. I mean, you could have just been a chef right in the back room somewhere.

[00:18:08] Dawn Burrell:
Right. Right.

[00:18:09] Jody Avirgan:
But you went back to competition.

[00:18:11] Dawn Burrell:
I did go back to competition, and I think that the competition is always within self to challenge myself and to push myself in, in, in ways that, like, real life does not bring.

It's not real life to be a long jumper. It is something that you seek out to do. Just as you know, being on Top Chef is something that's sought after and in that arena, so when I challenge myself to be the best I possibly can be, unlike any other place.

[00:18:37] Jody Avirgan:
On the show, Dawn was known for being fiercely passionate and competitive, and sometimes setting the bar a little too high for herself, which Top Chef fans will remember meant that she didn't always get the plates out on time.

She'd make this complex, amazing dish and then just not have enough time left to get the sauce on the plate for that one judge. She competed on the show the way she competed in the Olympics: going for it. And she did. She made it all the way to the finals.

To me, this all seems like what Serena called an evolution, always pushing for more: a new record, a new personal best. And if she can get on a reality TV show, I guess that helps too. And now, after Top Chef, Dawn is still setting the bar high, really high.

[00:19:23] Dawn Burrell:
Um, for this next con-concept, I would love to win the James Beard Award. And I want to, I mean, I wouldn't be mad if I was on the Mi-Michelin spectrum, you know? Um, that, I can't say that that's necessarily been my goal, but it would be nice.

[00:19:42] Jody Avirgan:
Over the course of a decade, since she retired from long jump, Dawn strikes me as someone who has finally figured out this thing that I've been grappling with. Though, I will say it's kind of comforting that she didn't immediately feel okay about her long jump career ending. She did mourn it. She struggled.

One more lesson from Dawn. I asked her if when she first retired, she'd considered doing what some athletes do. If you can't compete at the highest level, you compete at a different level. In her case, that would mean the Masters circuit. Long jump, but you know, for old-timers. That was not for her.

[00:20:19] Dawn Burrell:
That was not for me. I mean, there would have to be that, um, complete transference into something else because I, my mindset then was that there was no way that I would be interested in competing in Masters because it would no longer be my job. It would then be a hobby.

[00:20:34] Jody Avirgan:
But, now that Dawn has satisfied that need for competition with her cooking career, it's actually put long jump back in perspective.

[00:20:44] Dawn Burrell:
Now I would like to compete, you know? But that's a, you know, um, I have kind of recovered from the, the death of my, my career as an athlete. Um, but, but I still have athletic drive, and so I'm, I, I look at the seniors, and like, “Oh, I would like to do that one day.” Maybe when I'm 60 or 65, I'll get back out there. Yeah.

[00:21:05] Jody Avirgan:
What are the things about that that you, that you most miss with a little bit of distance?

[00:21:09] Dawn Burrell:
You know, propelling my body into a, a pit of sand. I love that. It feels like flying. You know, there's something about that velocity that I just love so much and I miss it.

[00:21:22] Jody Avirgan:
If Carli's advice can be summed up as “Enjoy the process, take it one day at a time”, then Dawn's is “You might have to try something totally new and it might take time to be okay.” Evolution isn't an immediate thing. But here's where I'm still stuck: as wonderful as these perspectives are, the fact is when you end one chapter and you move on to another—sorry, let me rephrase.

When you evolve from one chapter to another, you're still losing something you loved, right? As you continue to get older, you still have to say goodbye to more and more, and that, at some level, still makes me sad. Mad, even. And folks, I'm talking about more than just sports here. It's aging in general. I don't think I've evolved to where Carli and Dawn have. After the break, I get some professional help sorting through these very grouchy feelings about aging.


[00:22:40] Jody Avirgan:
Right off the bat, let me play you something that blew my mind. This is a piece of insight that changed how I think about getting older.

[00:22:47] Tracey Gendron:
Aging is so individual, and actually the truth is the older we get, the more unique we become, the less like other people we become.

[00:22:56] Jody Avirgan:
I’ve never really heard it phrased that way.

[00:22:57] Tracey Gendron:

[00:22:57] Jody Avrigan:

[00:22:58] Tracey Gendron:
Yeah. It's, and it's cool to, to kind of realize that nobody can have the life that you've had with all of the nuances and all of the, you know, specific events and things that you've experienced.

[00:23:11] Jody Avirgan:
This is Tracey Gendron. She's a gerontologist and the director of the Virginia Center on Aging. She hates the way that our society talks about aging, all that “you're only as old as you feel” or “you look great for your age”-type stuff.

[00:23:23] Tracey Gendron:
I'll tell you, my personal hell is actually the birthday card aisle anywhere. That is some of the most ageist bullshit that exists.

[00:23:30] Jody Avirgan:
I laid out my story to Dr. Gendron about how I devoted my twenties and thirties to Ultimate, and now I'm hitting my forties and I can't play the same way anymore. How I feel washed up and I'm facing the void, and a lot of it just really bums me out. You know, the kind of stuff you lay on someone when you meet them for the first time.

And so I wonder if any of what I just said, you know, resonates in whatever way to the work that you do?

[00:23:55] Tracey Gendron:
Absolutely it does, and I, I think there are a couple aspects to it. We, we tend to think of aging really as a process of decline, and we tend to really focus on the losses that we experience as we age.

But the truth about aging is that while loss is one component, and the way that we age in our bodies is one component, aging itself is about simultaneous loss and growth. Aging is not just biological. It's psychological. It's emotional, it's social, it's spiritual. So we could just as much say, you know, “Yes, now you're in your forties and you can't do or perform the way that you could perform before.” But I could also ask you a question like, “Well, Jody, what are some things that you really like about yourself better now than you did 10 years ago? or 20 years ago, how have you grown? What have you learned? How are you more comfortable?

[00:24:47] Jody Avirgan:
Turns out as we were doing the interview, I kept being reminded about something that I do now that I didn't do 10 years ago: parenting.

Sorry, one second. Oh shoot. My daughter now has come in with an iPad. Oh boy. One second. Nola, you gotta have the headphones on. Remember?

My five-year-old daughter kept interrupting our interview and yeah, she's wonderful. I love her to death. And yeah, children, they keep us young, yada yada, yada. But a child can't heal my hamstring or make me dunk again. But I will say: this idea of loss and growth balancing each other out, it really is the key.

[00:25:26] Tracey Gendron:
And then we're not so caught up in, well, aging is just all of the losses I’ve had.

[00:25:30] Jody Avirgan:
Um, I appreciate that answer, and I think I've been asking myself some of those questions and certainly I, I think I've grown in, in some ways.

Um, and I don't wanna just be the, you know, super driven, uh, myopic, uh, probably not best friend and boyfriend, uh, you know, that I was in my twenties.

[00:25:49] Tracey Gendron:

[00:25:49] Jody Avirgan:
But I will say, like, to be a little grumpy in response to your, to your very nuanced point. All of the things you've said, which is, “Okay, yes, you're losing something, but look at all the other things you've gained.” That's still at some level, to me, strikes me as concession. And so I wonder how you talk to someone who's as stubborn as me about being upset about getting old.”

[00:26:15] Tracey Gendron:
No, I think it’s… I think it's a great point and a great question, but I guess my, my challenge would be but we experience that at all different stages of our life, anytime we transition.

I mean, if you think about even just graduating high school and moving on to what's next. Graduating high school is a loss. It's a loss of some structure. It's a loss of friends that you had and a certain way of life that you had, but we don't talk about it that way. Yet, it’s just as relevant that we had to adapt.

We hit all of these transition points at multiple ages in our life, but it's not until we get older that we really start to mourn it in a different way. And it just becomes all about “No, aging just sucks”. And yes, be sad about what you've lost, but turn it into, “Well, what now?” Continue to ask yourself kind of future-oriented questions and to see that your aging in and of itself isn’t, you know, the problem can be really constructive.

[00:27:15] Jody Avirgan:
Yeah. Can you, can you talk a little bit more about that asking future-oriented questions? Because I do think there's more of this sense of like, “let me look back at all the things that I still wanna hold onto and find another thing that will check all those boxes.” You know, let me do a census of the past. Um, but you're saying it's more about looking forward.

[00:27:35] Tracey Gendron:
Definitely. Who are you right now and who are you continuing to become? Part of what I would suggest athletes should do who are really focused is just to probably think early about what comes next for them. And I mean, just like a reflection in kind of the back of your head. What are my interests outside of this? Or how can I adapt to still participate in this sport, but maybe in a different way?

You know, maybe move to either not so competitive but more rec-based, or maybe move to coaching or whatever it may be. But thinking that, you know, we're gonna have the expectation that this is not where I'm going to stay forever, um, and planting the seeds in my own mind of what might come next.

[00:28:19] Jody Avirgan:
Some athletes approach what comes next a little differently. Instead of not competing anymore at all, they do it at a different level with a different bar for success. There are long-distance runners like Olympic medalist Deena Kastor, who still get out there and race, even though they know they're not gonna win a medal anymore, but why not run anyway?

There are 90-year-olds who run triathlons and 70-year-olds who compete in ultramarathons. It seems like there's two paths: you find an entirely new pursuit, or you get comfortable with shifting your expectations.

Is it kind of like find a new bar or lower, you know, or change the bar that you're looking at? Um, do you have thoughts on either of those?

[00:28:59] Tracey Gendron:
I bet you can guess my answer. It depends on the person. It really does. I don't think either one of those, um, is right or wrong, and I think both of those could actually be a really healthy way to adapt.

[00:29:11] Jody Avirgan:
And I mean, I've certainly been… Like the one I've been hardest, that, that I've had the hardest time grappling with has been the lowering of the bar. Just like, gosh, how depressing would that be to just be doing the same thing, but just not doing it at the level that I know in my head? A new bar.

[00:29:27] Tracey Gendron:
And that could be totally healthy. It could also be worth it for you to examine, you know, why is that depressing for you? Um…

[00:29:33] Jody Avirgan:
Oh, I'm doing a whole podcast on this. Oh, I’m examining.

[00:29:38] Tracey Gendron:
Start to challenge the internal dialogue that you're having and how you define success.

[00:29:44] Jody Avirgan:
Start to challenge the internal dialogue and redefine success. Dr. Gendron is talking about aging here, but that's advice that could apply to any athlete. The best athletes are continually challenging their internal dialogue.

They work on self-talk. They work on staying in the moment, and they're continually redefining success. It's not just about wins and losses. But it's how you go about practice, training, your diet, the mental game. Sports gives us a framework in which to do all these other things that are probably good for us anyway, that will make us healthier and more well-rounded people.

And the flip side—not controlling your emotions, not staying in the moment, not being purposeful about the process—it can be really bad, on the field and as you walk away from sports.

[00:30:30] Tracey Gendron:
There's been research for decades as to why this matters. There's this amazing study that shows that people who embrace their own aging live seven and a half years longer than people that fear their aging.

Seven and a half years is a really long time. In that particular study, it was a longitudinal study, which means they followed people over a couple of decades and they asked them questions, not only about how they felt about their own aging, but about their health, about their lifestyle, about all kinds of things.

[00:31:01] Jody Avirgan:
The researchers found that how people felt about their aging had more of an effect on longevity than things like wealth or loneliness or functional health.

[00:31:11] Tracey Gendron:
So the seven and a half years was an effect that was above and beyond some of those things. That's what makes it so powerful.

[00:31:19] Jody Avirgan:
In your best guess, what is the, the thing that is so powerful inside of that kind of thinking?

[00:31:24] Tracey Gendron:
So, you know, I think what ends up happening when we carry stress around, and this could either be emotional or physical stress, uh, it takes a toll on our body. Um, and I think that when we walk around with anxiety and stress about something, we’re more likely to actually manifest the very things that we fear. So if we think that aging is all about decline, if we think it's about memory loss, if we think it's about loss, um, we're gonna feel the physical effects of that in our bodies.

Plus, we're then kind of putting ourselves more at risk for the development of those things like depression, like memory loss. The mind-body connection is very, very powerful. So, it's like a self-fulfilling prophecy that we can actually manifest these things just through our attitude about it.

[00:32:11] Jody Avirgan:
This all does make sense to me. Like, if Carli was so bummed about turning 40 that she decided not to try anything new, she wouldn't be out there working on her golf swing or weeding or training for a TV show. She's pushing herself. And clearly, Dawn Burrell is too, and so am I.

If I'm being honest, this show is a little bit of that for me. I’ve never really written or spoken about myself in my work before. I'm trying to open up, trying something new. Thanks for coming along for the ride.

And, I am changing. I see that for a while I was so worried that I'd be stuck in time, my personality and worldview trapped in the amber of the last day I played sports at the highest level, but of course, I'm different now than I was a month, a year ago, a decade ago.

Since we talked, I've been thinking a lot about what Dr. Gendron told me, about how we become more and more ourselves as we get older. Actually, I'd been thinking about it so much that I brought it up with Carli Lloyd.

And then she was like, “Listen, every day of your life you become more unique from everyone else.”

I was like, “What?” She's like, “Yeah, you are accumulating every single day. The older you are, the more unique you are from every other person.”

[00:33:36] Carli Lloyd:
That's amazing.

[00:33:34] Jody Avirgan:
Oh my god.

[00:33:36] Carli Lloyd:
I love that.

[00:33:37] Jody Avirgan:
Yeah, it was great.

[00:33:38] Carli Lloyd:
That’s a great perspective. And for the 34 years that I played soccer, my entire life, I just grew so much as a person and I'm, I'm forever grateful for this sport and, and to have been able to play for so long because there was no greater teacher than being immersed in all that I was immersed in.

[00:33:59] Jody Avirgan:
And that's really the heart of it. No greater teacher. If my love of sports, the whole purpose of this show is based upon the idea that sports has a lot to teach us about the real world, well, here's the real world. Time to take what sports taught you and put it to work. Experiment. Start a new chapter. Focus on process more than the goal. Learn from your losses and don't forget to stretch. Definitely stretch.

Good Sport is brought to you by the TED Audio Collective. It's hosted by me, Jody Avirgan. This show is produced by TED. This episode was written and produced by Camille Petersen. Our team includes Isabel Carter, Poncie Rutsch, Sarah Nics, Jimmy Gutierrez, Michelle Quint, BanBan Cheng, and Roxanne Hai Lash. Jake Gorski is our sound designer and mix engineer.

Fact-checking by Hana Matsudaira. An extra special thanks this season to Colin Helms. Thank you for all your support. Since this is our last episode of the season, we also want to thank some of the people who helped make this show happen. They include Daniella Balarezo, Valentina Bonjanini, Jeff Dale, Nicole Edine, Mike Femia, Jimmy Gutierrez, Will Hennessy, Nancy Hu, Marie Kim, Antonia Le, Jen Michalski, Annie O’Dell, Diana Pietrzak, Anna Phelan, Julia Ross, Casey Walter, and Peter Zweifel.

And yeah, this is the final episode. So I just wanna say thank you to everyone who took a chance on this show. All those people who took a chance on making it, but especially you. Thank you for listening. Thank you for spreading the word about the show. Thank you to all of you who've reached out with feedback or ideas. If you have any thoughts about this season or maybe stuff that you'd like us to explore in the future, or you just want to get in touch and say hello, please do. Our email is

You can also find me on social media. I have a newsletter, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. You'll, you'll track me down. I'd love to hear from you. Okay. That's it for this season of Good Sport. My name is Jody Avirgan, and we'll see you soon.