Money Smart Athlete Blog

Retirement from sports: Trying something new

Nov 16, 2022 | Mature Athletes

By Stefanos Gregoriou, The Sports Financial Literacy Academy    

The end of any playing career is a bittersweet and emotional moment, as players must leave behind an important part of their lives, which they had cherished for years; training routines, travelling abroad, performing for their fans and celebrating their achievements. The prospect of letting go all of these and transitioning to a completely new way of life may be intimidating and stressful due to the uncertainty it comes with. Being emotionally and financially prepared is critical for a smooth transition to life after sports.

The transition to a post-sports career is typically tough, since most athletes have no prior work experience in a full-time job and may have lost out on schooling due to their sporting commitments. Some players prefer to stay in the sports sector, but there are many other alternatives as well.

We have seen today, that a successful transition from sports to something completely different, outside of this field, first requires determining who you truly are and who you want to be off the field. Most people have gone through this process by the age of 16 or later; determining their passions, identifying what they want to pursue outside of sports, researching what abilities are necessary for it, and focusing on working on these skills.

Throughout their athletic career, athletes have already developed a variety of transferable skills that can be applied to various aspects of their life, especially their post-sport profession in a new field. In order to have a successful career transition into something completely different, they need to build on these transferable skills, work on their personal resilience, obtain formal education and training, and create a professional network which may help them obtain a job or start their own business.

Another factor athletes should consider when deciding on their new career, is how independent they want to be in their future role. Many athletes become business owners once they retire. For example, Vinnie Johnson, the beloved player of Detroit Pistons, funded an automotive company called Piston Automotive after retiring in 1992. Junior Bridgeman, a former professional basketball player for the Milwaukee Bucks, also became a business owner after his retirement. After retiring from the NBA, he invested in Wendy’s and Chili’s franchises and eventually owned over 100 different restaurants, before selling them in 2016. Becoming a business owner allows you to be your own boss, having freedom and autonomy, but at the same time taking on major responsibilities.

On the other hand, athletes have the option to work as employees, having a steady salary and much less stress than owning a business. There are many examples of former athletes who turned their careers away from sports, to work for someone else. For example, NBA star Adrian Dantley, now works as a crossing guard for kids. Myroll Rolle, a former NFL safety, decided to study neurology after leaving the NFL. Rolle is now a Global Neurosurgery Fellow at Harvard Medical School.

In any case, athletes should focus on choosing a career path which will make them feel happy and fulfilled; matching their career and life objectives, goals, skills and personal values. As sporting success is based on careful planning and significant preparation, athletes can use that same mentality to start preparing for sports retirement and trying something new, whilst maintaining a comfortable life.

The Money Smart Athlete® Blog is established and run by the Sports Financial Literacy Academy® (SFLA).  Through its education programs, the SFLA has the vision to financially educate and empower athletes of all ages to become better people, not just better athletes.  For more information on our courses, our SFLA Approved Trainer Program®, and how they can benefit you and your clients, please get in touch with us at [email protected].