Many professional athletes initially feel disoriented when they transition to a second career. To find their niche in the business realm, they should work closely with a recruiter who can identify options that align with their interests and abilities. This conversation often reveals a number of career paths that they did not previously consider.
While some of these career paths relate directly to their experience as an athlete, other paths capitalize on the skill sets that successful athletes have. Athletes are necessarily great team players and hard workers, and they typically have strong leadership skills. In addition, athletes usually have proven communication skills and incredible resiliency. These traits are the same ones necessary to be successful as a business leader.
Examples of former athletes abound in the media. Tiki Barber, a former NFL running back and television personality, launched his own company, Thuzio.com, in 2012. Through Thuzio.com, people can book former and current professional athletes, including Gary Payton, R.A. Dickey, and Fred McGriff, for personal events. Drew Bledsoe, formerly of the New England Patriots, retired in Washington State and purchased a vineyard that he rebranded as Doubleback Vineyards. Wine Spectator named its wines among the top 100 in the world. Two other examples are George Foreman, who revolutionized cooking with his Lean, Mean, Fat Reducing, Grilling Machine, and Jesse Ventura, who served as governor of Minnesota.
The following list is far from comprehensive, but it provides a few great ideas for careers after retiring as a professional athlete:
- Executive Recruiter—Athletes spend a great deal of time scouting the competition before they face them one-on-one, which develops their ability to judge the strengths and weaknesses of another person very quickly. Executive recruiters seek out candidates to fill positions at top companies. The confidence and speed of athletes in making judgment calls can lead to high levels of success as a recruiter.
- Physical Therapist—A career as a physical therapist allows athletes to capitalize on their knowledge of the body and how to train it properly. Physical therapists help individuals recover from various injuries, many of which athletes have either personally experienced or dealt with second-hand over the course of their careers. Often, physical therapists work directly with professional athletes who were injured while playing.
- Financial Advisor—In this role, individuals must have thick skin, passion, and conviction to develop a strong client base. Financial advisors help people manage both assets and investments, something that many athletes gain experience with over the course of their careers. Asset management becomes even more critical after retirement, making this a perfect career path for athletes with the determination to learn how to handle their finances most effectively. These skills are easily transferable to a client’s situation.
- Supply Chain Manager—The leadership and teamwork skills gained as an athlete make former athletes especially adept in supply chain management, a career that requires the coordination of equipment, materials, and logistics. These types of managers must have excellent communication skills and understand how to motivate their team. In addition, great supply chain managers must keep track of productivity over the course of the day to ensure that goals are met. The scorekeeping instinct developed by athletes makes this a natural and easy task.
- Teacher—Professional athletes have experience with a wide range of different coaches over the course of their careers. These experiences often give them a great sense of what does and does not work in terms of education and creates a solid foundation for teaching at all educational levels. Athletes can also use the skills developed in preparation for a big game to create engaging lesson plans for students.
- Project Manager—This is another position that makes use of the leadership skills possessed by athletes. A project manager must work between several different teams at a given company to ensure that the teams meet all goals. This person also motivates teams to work harder if they have gotten off track. In addition, the project manager ensures that all teams and their individual members are on the same page in terms of the final product. This is very similar to how sports teams work together to execute a play.
- Franchise Owner—Former athletes often have great success with entrepreneurship, and franchises make opening a new business easier. With a franchise, individuals must maintain the company’s brand while driving profitability. Franchises provide concise directions and guidance about how to set up the new location and grow the business. In many ways, this task resembles listening to and executing a coach’s strategy.
These jobs are only a handful of career opportunities for former athletes. Individuals interested in other opportunities, such as founding their own companies or pursuing executive-level work can partner with knowledgeable professionals to create a sound plan for achieving these goals.