Tim Howard: Quitting Isn't Easy

Why It Matters:
  • Retirement may feel intimidating, but don’t get bogged down by uncertainty.
  • To me, retirement isn’t a destination — it’s the start of a new journey.
  • Put some thought into writing your next chapter.

Tim Howard tkc.profilePicture Written by: Tim Howard | Transamerica
Dec. 09, 2019

5 Min readClock Icon

When faced with a challenge, there’s always the easy way out: quitting. This is true in sports as well as in the game of life. Quitting is easy, except when it comes to doing what you love. I was lucky and fortunate to play professional soccer for 21 years, and even luckier to make a consistent living off it to support my family. After a long time deliberating, I finally decided this season would be my last. And let me tell you: Quitting was hard.

Retirement is different for everyone. Whether you make a living on the field, from your 9–5, or working from home, we all eventually face our final season, our last week, our last day. As a professional athlete, everything comes to a grinding halt. And unless you won it all, it’s easy to dwell on what you may have lost. Not just the legacy of your career, but what could have been. “Just one more season” — a gnawing obsession that haunts the best of athletes. It’s the reason Brett Favre came out of retirement three times. It’s why Kazuyoshi Miura is still playing professional soccer at age 52. But all good things must come to an end.

As they say, when one door closes another one opens. And while it may not always be right in front of you, trust me, it’s there. The way I see it, retirement isn’t a destination — it’s the start of a new journey. It provides us opportunities to give back, rediscover neglected passions, and truly pursue what you love.

Starting a new game

My obsession with soccer led me to my current role now, executive co-owner of Memphis 901 FC, a Tennessee-based USL soccer team founded just last year. We have a lot of work to do, but I’m glad to get involved this early. My colleagues often joke that I still have the brain of a player, because before my first day I completed the 12-week preseason training cycle I’ve always done as a goalie. Some habits die hard, I guess.

It’s only November and we’re already building for next season. That means scouting, tons of technical calls, relationship building, and helping build our team culture every day. It’s go, go, go, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. With how my mind works — I was diagnosed with OCD and Tourette Syndrome as a child — I’ve never been able sit still. This is perfect for me. This is my transition. I know you can find yours.

“As I venture into retirement, I don’t want to be looked at as a former player, but as a top executive. This is me now.”

A work in progress

The transition to retirement is unique to everyone. Given my upbringing and background as a soccer player, mine was pretty straightforward. Yours may be career-related too, or it could be something completely new altogether. The important thing is to not dwell on uncertainty and feel overwhelmed. We’re all a work in progress.

In my opinion, having a grind mentality is not only good for progression throughout your career, but carrying on that attitude into retirement has benefits as well. Here’s the thing: No matter your goals or mission, no matter what you’re ultimately reaching toward, we never know if we’re actually going to get there.

If you’ve been grinding for 10 years and still haven’t seen the fruits of your labor, yes, you could give up, but if you stop you’ll never see it. The next big break is always around the corner, whether you see it or not. I think optimism is important in anyone’s career path.

The next chapter

“To whom much is given, much is required.”

I scribbled these words down before my first game with Manchester United. I was 23 years old and clueless of what was ahead of me. I only knew that I was fortunate, that I had a limited amount of time to make the most of my strengths and my youth. What I didn’t realize was that this quote would still apply after retirement.

Today it serves as a steady guidepost in my mentoring efforts. When a player gets hungry and wants that pot of gold, but shies away from the challenge, or gets defensive, stubborn, or excuse-laden, that’s the moment I share it. If you want to be a leader, if you want to achieve success, much is required.

When you make the decision to retire, you don’t retire from life. You have lessons to share, and you’re certainly not done growing yourself. I plan on continuing my work with the New Jersey Center for Tourette Syndrome and helping kids afflicted with TS build self-leadership and resilience. I may be a retired soccer player, but I’m still a young man.

I look forward to the things that most parents often take for granted, like carpooling my kids and their friends everywhere, chaperoning field trips, attending every single one of their games, trick-or-treating on Halloween, and just having the luxury to hang out, to be a Dad.

What does retirement look like to you?


Things to Consider:

  • Retirement is whatever you make it, so put some honest thought into planning.
  • If continuing to work in another capacity keeps you fulfilled, go for it.
  • Talk to your financial professional for more ideas on preparing for the future.

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