Money Smart Athlete Blog

The Life after Sports Dilemma of an Elite Professional Athlete

By Lazaros Ioannou, APC Sports Consulting Limited

Professional athletes, whether competing within a team or performing at an individual level, have to deal with the life-after-sports dilemma at the later stages of their sports career.  When it’s time for athletes to retire they find it difficult to decide what to do next in their life after sports in terms of their employment. In your post sports career, you will have to decide between two main options:  Becoming an employee or an entrepreneur.  There are two main ways of making money; employment and entrepreneurship, working for yourself or working for someone else. You should focus on choosing which of the two options will make you happier and aligns with your dreams and goals

No one but your self can tell you which one is the best option for you, but you can definitely find out which of the two best fits you. Write down your dreams and goals and assess which route will help you the most in achieving them; Entrepreneurship or employment?  There is no black or white answer to which option fits you, as it depends on many factors and nothing will ever guarantee success in either of the two options.

Some people might be more talented in being entrepreneurs, but no one is born one. People can become entrepreneurs at any point in their lives, no matter what they are currently doing, how old they are, and their level of experience. Being a professional athlete for most of your life is something that has given you great experiences that may be a huge asset for you in your future business endeavors. Especially, being an individual sports athlete has many similarities with being an entrepreneur. At both cases you are the lone rider who has to work hard in order to pave yours own way to success.

If you want to live a comfortable life, you need stability and peace, you hate risk, value your free time and need time to relax, you better choose the employment path.  If you are able to take some risks, you love to work, you want to keep growing, you are ambitious, and you can handle uncomfortable situations then you might as well follow the entrepreneurship path.  Both paths are very different but can be enjoyable depending on your personal characteristics. 

Any way you choose to proceed, you will need first to discover who you are outside of sport; and who you are outside of sport will be a determining factor in your future employment/business endeavors.

To identify what you want to be doing in the future you should answer the following questions:

> What are your interests?

> What are your greatest skills?

> What would you like to do other than sports?

> How much money do you need to earn?

Once you identify what you are passionate about, you should check what skills are needed in pursuing your passion and you should focus on building relevant skills. One way to move forward is to check out your area of interest by doing some volunteer work. This way you will be exposed to the daily life of your intended occupation which will help you decide if this is what you want to be doing for a great part of your life.

It is important to start working towards determining your interests and expanding your social network, long before the end of your playing career. In addition, throughout your sports career, you should be building skills which will help you in the transition from professional sports to the regular workforce or entrepreneurship. Remember that gaining experience and making contacts will definitely be useful in the future, therefore you should seek, develop and nurture relationships both in the sports and other industries.

There are multiple examples of careers that athletes have pursued after the end of their sports career:

  • A number of former pro athletes such as John McEnroe, Charles Barkley, Annabel Kroft, Gary Neville and Michael Johnson have all transitioned successfully into the world of broadcasting.
  • Former wrestler Jesse Ventura, basketballer Bill Bradley and boxer Vitali Klitschko have transitioned from sports into the world of politics.
  • Former Sweden and Sheffield Wednesday midfielder Klas Ingesson fulfilled his “dream” of being a lumberjack after he retired from football.

LinkedIn recently analyzed data on over 3,000 former NFL players to find out where they transitioned after their professional athletic careers. The results which are shown below may give you ideas as to possible second careers for yourself!

  • 20% small business / entrepreneur
  • 18% sales
  • 9% coaching / fitness professional
  • 8% finance/insurance/banking
  • 5% campus and professional athletics
  • 3% media and sports broadcasting
  • 3% education
  • 2% non-profit/board member
  • 23% other

It is very important that your post sports career is an interesting one and at the same time earns you enough money to support your desired lifestyle. Your goal is to have a career that pays you enough to live well and that matches your current and future interests. If you need any help in getting ready for your life after sport you can get in touch with us at [email protected]