What is Your Plan for a Career After Sports?

Athletes must have a plan in place to soften the blow of a difficult transition. So, ask yourself … What is my plan for a career after sports?

If you are an athlete, here are a few realities to consider …

  • Your athletic career will end and probably sooner than you think.
  • The average athletic career (in pro sports) is less than five years – very few elite athletes will compete past 30-years old.
  • There are few guarantees in sports – sudden injury ends many careers and younger, stronger, motivated athletes are constantly trying to take your job.
  • The vast majority of athletes will not be financially secure when they retire from sport.

It is funny how most athletes, and other high performers, prepare themselves incredibly well for competition. Athletes know that the more quality and precise the preparation – the better chance there is to maximize abilities in competition.

I am often asked what is the No. 1 thing to know when leaving sport, whether professional or Olympian, and moving on to a new passion.

By far the most important consideration is to do your work well in advance of leaving sport – always working toward your next challenge – preparation is key!

It is my experience that most professional athletes and Olympians do not have the same mindset for their careers beyond sport. Everything is up in the air.

We all know the average career length in professional sports – the information is widely available … but let’s take a look at those numbers again.

  • NFL player average career is 3.5 years
  • MLB player average career is 5.6 years
  • NBA player average career is 4.8 years
  • NHL player average career is 5.5 years

Even if you play beyond these averages, chances are that your career in professional sports or as an Olympian will end some time before age 30. You are in a significant minority if you last to age 35.

Assuming the average athlete competes until 30, that leaves about 35-plus years to be passionate and challenged in other areas, or another career.

Do not wait until you retire to start thinking – “What’s next?”

That is the question that must be answered during your athletic career – early preparation for your next step is critical. Contrary to what you might think, athletes who consider and prepare for their lives after sport also tend to be more successful in their sport career.

Working with hundreds of athletes who are both playing and retiring, I can submit to you that preparing for your time out of a sport, and using your spare time efficiently while playing, will help your performance in the competitive arena. An organized, diligent athlete outside of the competitive arena is a more focused, diligent one inside of it.

The average athlete has a significant amount of free time during their playing career. This time is often wasted because of a lack of organization and a lack of focus on any number of activities outside of competing in the sport. I have seen this often, as we put emphasis on detailed athlete plans, creating a new level of focus for the athlete to be more productive and organized.

Start getting organized … today!

So, begin thinking now about what your next steps might be following your sport career. Your career will end (often sooner than you’d like), so it is critical to be prepared to move forward to your next challenge.

Here are a few, simple ideas for you to get started …

  1. Begin actively working on your personal brand and building it for beyond the game. Start with creating a personal website where people can find you and learn about you.
  2. Education is now very convenient and affordable – enroll. There is so much offered online – great opportunities for you to upgrade your education in areas of interest.
  3. Use social media in a positive way. Show your personality, expand your following and bring people into your world.
  4. Build and use your network, talk to people and learn what opportunities are available following your career. Athletes meet so many influential people who could provide opportunities following a sport career.

Remember, while “athlete” is one of your identities, you will have many through your life – so start preparing for them!

**Editor’s Note**

John Haime is President of New Edge Performance. A former professional athlete and current bestselling author of, “You are a Contender! Build Emotional Muscle to Perform Better and Achieve more … in business, sports and life”, John understands how athletes think and feel … he’s been there – under the most intense pressures of amateur and professional sports. As a world-class coach in the area of performance and one of the world’s leading authorities in Emotional Intelligence, as it relates to performance in sport, John coaches and mentors athletes in all sports executives and artists in a variety of performance areas. He is trusted by some of the world’s leading athletes – professional and elite amateur.

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