5 Careers That Are Perfect for an Ex-Athlete

Athletes strive to get to the top of their game, dedicating themselves to their sport and making painful sacrifices to fulfill their lifelong dreams. However, a career in professional sports is notoriously short-lived, with performance typically starting to ebb as the athlete reaches their 30s or 40s, the age at which most people are just starting to take off in their career.

After years of channeling their energies into their sport, and indeed, building their whole lives around it, retirement can be extremely unsettling for any athlete, leaving them lacking a sense of purpose and isolating them from their peers in the sports community.

Thankfully, there are thousands of extremely rewarding jobs out there. Successful athletes boast a myriad of aptitudes, including dedication, self-confidence, motivation, a desire to succeed, leadership and communication skills, a positive attitude, resourcefulness, self-discipline, and a strong sense of focus, all of which are highly desired in the world outside sports—and shared by top performers in all industries. Here we look at five highly relevant careers for former athletes.

1.   Coaching

Arguably the most obvious choice and one that many former athletes naturally gravitate to, coaching enables athletes to stay within their field, passing their knowledge and experience on to the next generation.

The best coaches not only understand the game, but they empathize with the athlete, connecting with them on a deeper level and building a sense of trust. It is a natural progression for skilled competitors to become high-level coaches. In the process, they often learn new skills themselves, such as meticulous planning and decision-making.

2.   Sports Broadcasting

With a wealth of knowledge and inside understanding of their sport, broadcasting is a popular career choice for many former athletes. Sports analysis comes as second nature, with the former athlete able to clue audiences in on what goes on inside a player’s mind like no one else.

For example, golfer Judy Rankin joined the LPGA Tour at just 17 and went on to win 26 LPGA events. Forced to retire in the early 1980s due to ongoing back issues, Rankin started commentating for ABC and ESPN. After years of dedication to sports broadcasting, Rankin was appointed lead analyst for the Golf Channel. She is also an advisor for several golf publications, including Golf for Women and Golf Digest.

3.   Entertainment

Athletes and actors share a common goal: to entertain the masses. To some extent, sportsmanship is about putting on a show and entertaining the audience, which is probably why so many people in the entertainment business started out in professional sports.

Prior to his acting career, Arnold Schwarzenegger earned an international reputation as one of the greatest bodybuilders of all time. He amassed numerous prestigious titles, including Mr. Universe, which he won at just 20. Schwarzenegger also won several Mr. Olympia titles before landing leading parts in blockbusters like Predator, Total Recall, and The Terminator.

Arnold Schwarzenegger later transitioned from a second career in acting to a third in politics, running for—and being elected—the governor of California.

4.   Sales and Marketing

To succeed in sales, an individual needs to be driven, great at building relationships, and highly competitive. Possessing these attributes in bucketloads, former athletes are poised for success in numerous aspects of business, particularly sales and marketing.

Like sales, marketing is something that athletes have subconsciously been doing all their lives. To progress in their sporting career, an athlete must get themselves noticed by the right people. Essentially, successful athletes know how to market and sell themselves.

Former athletes make great marketers because they not only have the confidence to put themselves out there and tell a compelling story, but they know how to connect with their audience emotionally.

5.   Entrepreneurship

According to a LinkedIn study, the top second career choice for former NFL players is entrepreneurship. While recently retired individuals typically transition to coaching or reporting roles within their field, former athletes who have been retired for a decade or two are likely to become involved in entrepreneurship.

The great thing about entrepreneurship is that it gives a former athlete a real sense of purpose, enabling them to channel their passion and energy into building an enduring business legacy that could make a real difference in the world.

After retiring from sports, NBA legend Magic Johnson founded Magic Johnson Enterprises, a company that specializes in delivering high-quality services and products focused on ethnic diversity and underserved urban communities, creating strategic alliances, investments, and endorsements. The holding company has numerous high-ranking subsidiaries, including Canyon-Johnson, a real estate fund valued at $1 billion, and Yucaipa Johnson, a $500 million private equity fund. Today, Magic Johnson is not only a two-time NBA Hall of Famer, but he is a Major League Baseball team owner, a motivational speaker, a philanthropist, an esteemed entrepreneur, and one of the most successful Black American business leaders in the world.