Michael Vaughan on life after retirement

By Michael VaughanFormer England captain & Test Match Special pundit
Watch "Sporting Heroes: After the Final Whistle" again on BBC iPlayer (available until 2334 BST on Wednesday, 16 May)

When is the right time to retire from the sport you love? When do you make that decision, how do you plan for it, how do you prepare?

It's a fascinating subject and I was fortunate to be able to meet some of my sporting heroes to find out how they dealt with facing the end of their sporting lives for a BBC documentary.

I retired in 2009 and never really struggled because, like George Foreman said to me, you have to use your sport to help your life afterwards.

I did that during my last year at Yorkshire, planning for my next life by having meetings about starting a business and media career.

But I still felt weird in those first nine months after finishing, not turning up at the ground and performing, not having the crowd applaud a good shot.

During the documentary I spoke to a variety of people who have experienced lots of different feelings after retirement. Those included former Arsenal and England captain Tony Adams,external-link tennis player John McEnroeexternal-link and boxer George Foremanexternal-link to badminton's Gail Emms,external-link golfer Darren Clarke,external-link rugby player Matt Hampsonexternal-link and ex-England bowler Matthew Hoggard.external-link

But one of the big things that comes across in the documentary is that we all get addicted to the sport we play and there's not many who can do without it. I certainly couldn't do without the cricket.

Former Arsenal and England captain Tony Adams calls football a "drug", Open champion Darren Clarke says the same about golf and that's exactly what it is: a drug. It's what we do, what we know everything about and what, probably aside from our families, we wake up in the morning still thinking about.

The ones who do well after their playing days are the ones that are prepared and accept that their lives will change. They feel they've fulfilled their careers and that they got every ounce out of their ability. But no matter how well prepared they are, they all go through this period of mourning once it's over, as I did.

Those who have struggled are the ones who think they can replace that same level of excitement, that thrill of the crowd-jumping and celebrating a goal, a wicket or a try.

Even since I filmed the documentary there has been a flurry of people retiring, people who will all have had to make the hard decision to call it a day: Stephen Hendry,Sol Campbell and Amy Williams.

But we can't feel sorry for ourselves as sports people because we are very fortunate to do what we do. We travel the world doing the sports we did as kids as hobbies. We get paid well and we get looked after.

The decision of when we retire from sport got put into perspective for me on the programme when I went to spend time with Matt Hampson, the former rugby player who was paralysed from the neck down when a scrum collapsed.

I've been fortune to meet a lot inspiring people in sport but the day that I spent with him will last in my memory for a long time.

He didn't choose to retire, he was forced to and I can only imagine what he goes through. It takes him four hours to get ready each morning.

Yet his positive outlook on life is phenomenal. He says he feels lucky to be alive and that he's a better person now.

You see so many negative things that happen in sport. People should really take a look at Matt and get a reality check.

I hope the programme will raise the awareness of the issue and show that people do need looking after and that they must prepare for retirement. I know in cricket there is a lot more being done now and we reflect that during the documentary.

Boxers, in particular, really struggle and that's one sport that really needs to be looked at. Frank Bruno went through issues,external-linkHerol 'Bomber' Graham,external-link who I spoke to for the programme, went through major issues and we have to make sure we look after those kind of guys.

Herol could so easily be dead, he tried to kill himself because he couldn't cope and he felt worthless.external-link He had no money and six kids to deal with. He was going through a divorce and he felt his life wasn't worth living because he couldn't feed his family.

Fortunately his attempt didn't work. His girlfriend of 25 years, Karen, called the police and then set him on the right path, having him sectioned and looked after. Thankfully he's still with us and fighting hard.

I hope the programme is well received. I'm happy with the show that has been put together and I hope people realise that sports people, as much as they are fortunate, do have a very tough decision to make about the end of their sporting lives.

Michael Vaughan was talking to BBC Sport's Marc Vesty.

Watch "Sporting Heroes: After the Final Whistle" again on BBC iPlayer (available until 2334 BST on Wednesday, 16 May)