Money Smart Athlete Blog

Entrepreneurial Athletes: Think Outside the Box

By Andreas Themistocleous, APC Sports Consulting Ltd

I usually take pride in calling myself an athlete. As I have exhaustively reiterated to my family and friends, “we are a different breed, we are a rare breed”. It might sound arrogant or ill intended, but I usually do it to prove a certain point. As athletes, we learn to work hard and wait for our hard work to manifest into rewards; we are goal oriented, focused and ethical; we know how to persevere and put the team above everything else; we know how to manage time, how to handle failure and criticism; if nothing else, we have tasted success and are always thirsty for more. These are transferable skills, attributes that have a carry-over effect and usually last a lifetime. No wonder, studies indicate that we, athletes, make great employees and excellent leaders in the workplace and in the community. It’s yet undetermined how good of entrepreneurs athletes make, but then again, who would be willing to bet against us?  

Unfortunately, we haven’t yet quite managed to beat “Time”, who is our biggest enemy; we all willy-nilly come to a point where the body can no longer catch up with the spirit and the dreaded retirement becomes a reality. We always say that athletes should be prepared for that time, should have already made plans for life after a sports career, or have put financial education and proper planning to work, benefiting from all those hard years of hard work on the playing field. When the question becomes “What’s Next”, do remember to fall back on your sport attributes and think outside the box.

Not all athletes can make good coaches; the market is anyway already saturated, especially if we are talking about team sports. Not all athletes can make good sport executives, front office managers or directors of sports operations. At the same time, a nine-to-five desk job will never be a top priority for a typical sport character, not by a long shot. When planning your post career development, remember your enthusiasm in striving for perfection, and your fearless head-on approach at difficult sporting situations that has made you used to being out of your comfort zone and thus more resourceful and creative.

What is it that made you stand out as an athlete? What qualities and capabilities carried you as a sport personality? What did you learn while in sports? Combine these thoughts with reflection about today’s society; think of the needs of any industry in which you see yourself contributing, or reflect on the needs of your community. When it’s time to move on from a sports-playing career, think outside the box.

At the end of the day, if entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity beyond resources controlled, or the commencement of a business endeavor with a risk of losing in order to profit, then athletes would be, yet again, expected to excel. After all, who would be better in pursuing an opportunity beyond resources controlled?

Athletes are highly sought out investors. This is because many athletes have worked hard enough to capitalize on their talent and are in a financial position to invest considerable funds; at the same time, athletes can add value and validity to any company they get behind, being highly credible as influencers, due to their strong ties with communities and their ability to introduce products to the public in a unique way. If you find yourself in a similar position, then think outside the box.

Thinking outside the box, means finding something with which you would be proud to associate your name. Search for the things that can make a difference, either in people’s lives or in the sport which you have loved and served your entire life. Consider your legacy, as a person first and foremost and decide how you wish to be remembered in your life away from sports. Making a valuable and useful contribution to an industry of your choice is the exact same thing as winning the MVP trophy. Not everyone wins that trophy and of course not everyone works towards winning that trophy. The few that do though, understand what it’s like, what it takes and of course the benefits that are associated with such an honor.

If you had asked me to describe the term “think outside the box”, in assisting athletes consider their path in entrepreneurship, I would definitely respond with the following key words: a) environment, b) development, c) peace, d) community, e) social responsibility. Being an athlete, I would of course tie everything around the sport industry and I would say that sport entrepreneurship is, within the realm of thinking outside the box, related to:

  • Sport for the environment
  • Sport for development
  • Sport for peace
  • Sport for the community
  • Sport for social responsibility

Don’t be in a rush to jump in the deep end of the pool. But if these key words or phrases somehow give you that feeling of walking through the tunnel onto the playing field, in anticipation of the big game, then trust your athletic predisposition, your instincts and your sport personality and go for it….  and do remember me, somewhere in the credit lines.