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3 Non-Athletic Sports Careers for Former Athletes

When professional athletes decide to retire, they can translate the skills they learned in competition into a wide range of different career paths. Many former athletes use their determination and perseverance to launch new careers that are radically different from their past professional lives. However, professional athletes with a passion for sports may want to stay in that industry when they decide not to compete any longer. Luckily, a number of non-athletic careers exist in the sports sector, including the following:

Physical Therapist

physical therapy

Physical Therapy Class – Image courtesy Rose PT Group on Flickr

A physical therapist helps people recover from physical injury, surgery, or sickness by guiding their rehabilitation. Many physical therapists work exclusively with athletes who have experienced injuries while playing their respective sports. Former athletes are in a unique position to become physical therapists because they understand the drive of a player to recover and get back on the field, as well as the actions that could exacerbate the injuries.

Physical therapists play a role in diagnosing injuries and then creating and implementing a personalized treatment plan that takes into account a person’s health history and future goals. Ultimately, the physical therapist guides the recovery of the body to a pre-injury or pre-illness functionality, or as close as possible to that point. Typically, physical therapists are team players who work with a staff of other medical professionals, such as nurses, to implement care plans.

To become a physical therapist, one needs to complete a post-graduate professional degree in physical therapy and become board-certified to administer care. Residencies are available for people who want to specialize in a niche area of care. With the demand for physical therapists expected to increase by nearly 40 percent by 2020, this career path is a great option for former professional athletes.

Sports Psychologist

Throughout their careers, professional athletes likely have had encounters with several different sports psychologists and have a deep understand of their role. Former athletes can capitalize on their experience to build deeper connections with their clients and effect better outcomes. Ultimately, sports psychologists work to maximize the wellbeing of athletes. Sports psychologists emphasize the importance of a healthy mind-body relationship and help athletes develop a better sense of self.

Sports psychologists often help individuals set realistic and achievable goals to increase their personal performance. By setting smaller, more realistic goals, individuals receive positive feedback from themselves for meeting these milestones rather than chastising themselves for failing to meet unrealistic expectations. These mental health professionals retrieve training to handle disorders from depression to bulimia. In addition, they receive specialized training in dealing with sports-related issues like self-esteem, performance anxiety, and burnout.

Because former athletes have likely struggled with or encountered these issues, they have unique insight on the problems faced by today’s players. Classroom training involves clinical psychology or counseling studies, as well as coursework in physiology, kinesiology, and sports medicine. Sports psychologists have master’s or doctoral degrees. The need for sports psychologists is projected to increase by more than 20 percent in the coming five years, thus making the profession a great choice for former athletes.

Recreation Worker

This career path is ideal for former athletes who want to give back to their communities by organizing various sporting and leisure activities for people of all ages. Some recreation workers enjoy creating opportunities for children learn about sports and gain skills at an early age, while others have forged programs aimed at stress relief among full-time workers. Another option is to institute various programs aimed at getting at-risk youth off the streets.

Professional athletes necessarily have a passion for sports, and this sort of fiery zeal is often contagious, which makes them ideal for leading such groups. Recreation workers can find employment with camps, parks, senior centers, gyms, or local YMCAs. These partner organizations help people who do not have community organizing experience get their ideas off the ground. Over time, individuals gain the experience they need to launch their own, independent initiatives.

Recreation workers must be patient teachers and emphasize the finer aspects of sportsmanship. While coaches try to develop physical skills, recreation workers ensure that everyone can participate and have fun. Typically, recreation workers need a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts, education, or a related field.  Degrees in recreation or management can open doors to administrative positions. Individuals can also seek certification through the National Recreation and Park Association.

Former athletes may be drawn to this career path not only for its emphasis on community building, but also for its flexibility. In the same day, individuals can provide a positive, therapeutic experience for both at-risk children and senior citizens.

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