HOUSTON The transition from the pro-sports world to the real world can by rocky for some athletes especially when they ve done nothing but train and compete for most of their lives.

It is a difficult transition. Sometimes you lose your identity to really know where to go and what to do, said Brandy Johnson, a member of the 1998 USA Olympic team. Johnson retired and hung up her leotard at age 17.

The reality of retirement can come quickly. The average career for a professional athlete lasts between three and five years.

Dr. Dot Richardson, two-time Olympic gold medalist in softball, was the oldest softball player in 1996 and at the Sydney Games in 2000.

I took it as long as I could, said Dr. Richardson. I mean 39 years of age. Then I realized it s time to get into my career and get married.

Dr. Richardson believes it s key to develop a passion while playing.

I was playing while I was doing a thesis paper and got no sleep, which prepared me obviously for medical school, Richardson said. Don t wait until you graduate.

After TV and movie stints, Johnson landed the perfect gig as a gymnastics coach, trainer and judge. It allows her to balance career and family. Her daughter s name is Sydney, named after the Sydney Olympics.

I never strayed too far from what I loved, Johnson said.

Richardson found success in a few other areas, too, proving there can be success after the hits, flips and fame have faded.

So my advice would be to find what you love and stick with it, Dr. Richardson said. I ve learned she who fails to prepare, prepares to fail.

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