From the outside looking in, it may seem as if professional athletes have it easy, especially after they’ve retired and their sporting days are done. However, former athletes not only have to worry about leaving behind a job they love—they must also grapple with financial concerns, loss of identity, and severed ties from teammates and coaches. Amid all these concerns, former players have to decide how they will spend the rest of their working life, and in many cases, how they will be able to maintain the standard of living they’ve become accustomed to.
Research indicates that retirement is a significant source of stress for athletes. Players of most professional sports retire in their mid- to late-30s, and this can present unique challenges because the athlete is still young. When pro athletes fail to adequately plan for retirement, the results can be disastrous. From bankruptcy to foreclosure, there is no shortage of stories of former athletes going broke after leaving sports. Here, we’ll discuss some of the best careers for former athletes and how they can avoid the aforementioned pitfalls.
Sticking with Sports
If you tune on any sports channel, you are likely to see the familiar faces of former athletes who now work as sports commentators. For many retired athletes, continuing their involvement in the sporting world comes naturally. They know the game firsthand from their years of playing, and they understand the challenges faced by both players and coaches.
Former athletes can bring valuable insights, deep knowledge, and colorful anecdotes to sports commentary, but many go on to coach professional teams instead. An amazing athlete doesn’t necessarily make a fantastic coach, but former athletes have an advantage in that they truly understand what players are experiencing and what types of motivation tend to work best. Coaching also allows former athletes to stay right in the center of the sport they love.
A Career in Politics
Although it might not be the first career to come to mind when you think of ex-athletes, politics can be a natural transition from sports. Since athletes are used to being in the public eye and have an established fan base, they often come into politics with a well-established reputation.
One success story is that of Jesse Ventura, who retired from his career as a professional wrestler and dabbled in acting before going into politics. He began his political career as the mayor of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, and eventually was elected governor of Minnesota in 1998. Though not technically an athlete, former professional bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger become well known for his movie roles before delving into politics. He went on to serve as the 38th governor of California from 2003 to 2011. One former University of Michigan football player even went on to become President of the United States: Gerald Ford.
For athletes who have no interest in the so-called typical retired athlete careers, starting a business might be the best option. Many professional athletes have commented that they don’t necessarily enjoy the spotlight, so adopting a lower profile in retirement becomes more of a priority.
One such example of this path is former NFL quarterback Drew Bledsoe. He owns a winery in Washington named Doubleback. He and his childhood friend started the business back in 2007, and Bledsoe is reportedly happy with his life after sports.
NBA superstar Kobe Bryant retired in 2016 and has since invested in 15 different companies with his business partner. In addition, Bryant recently invested $100 million in a venture capital fund that will support new data, media, and technology companies.
Unconventional Post-Athlete Careers
Though politics, sports-related jobs, and business ventures are common among former athletes, there are others who decide to pursue rather unconventional careers. From infomercial stars to movie producers, many retired athletes find themselves chasing dreams they’ve always had.
Former boxing champ George Foreman decided he would attach his name to a product that would take the nation by storm. In 1994, the George Foreman Grill was introduced. Since that time, more than 100 million grills have been sold. Foreman even inked a deal with manufacturer Salton, Inc., in 1999 that paid him more than $130 million for permission to use his likeness. It’s safe to say George Foreman made a great career move after retirement.
Retired athletes often recommend doing something you’ve always loved after a career in sports, and former NFL player Nnamdi Asomugha suggests that athletes start thinking early about how they will handle retirement. In his case, he explored a few different career paths before finally settling on acting and producing. After playing for 11 seasons in the NFL, Asomugha went on to executive produce Beasts of No Nation, which was screened at the Venice International Film Festival and subsequently released worldwide on Netflix. Three other films that he produced were selected to appear at the Sundance Film Festival as well.