It happened about a week ago. I was walking to the subway after work when I spotted a former co-worker coming toward me on the sidewalk. I was friendly with this person when we worked together. We went out for drinks a couple of times. We liked/hated the same people around the office. We shared common stories about our past. We got along well. So, of course, upon seeing this person walking in my general direction, I crossed the street at the first opportunity presented to me in order to avoid any and all contact.
Of all the luxuries afforded professional athletes, the time-honored tradition of dodging former co-workers is rendered almost impossible by the close-knit world of highly competitive sports. Pro sports leagues are small ponds full of the most elite fish in the world, most of whom have grown up together from the time that they were guppies, participating in the same activities designed for elite performers. By the time they reach their peak, their pool has been decided with only the smallest portion of annual restocking and retirement.
Athletes are bound to come across former teammates from time to time and be expected to compete against them. This, much like our own exchanges with those to whom we were once forced to associate, can be difficult. Unfortunately for professional athletes, there aren’t any streets to cross or stores to duck into as a means of avoiding a former colleague on their respective fields of play. Instead, awkward confrontations are inevitable.
Here are a number of simple steps athletes can take to keep awkwardness at a minimum, and spin a potentially negative situation into a positive outcome.