Life after sports can be hard for some retired athletes – especially those that weren’t making millions every year. Superstars are usually set for life, so long as they don’t blow their money on useless things, but a strong majority of retired athletes have to consider other career options.
For example, more than 60% of former NBA players end up spending their career earnings within five years of retiring – and the numbers aren’t that different in other sports. Considering most athletes retire before the age of 30, it makes sense why so many must return to work.
The main problem is most retired athletes gave up their entire life to perfect their sport – whether it be soccer, baseball, basketball, hockey, football, or any other sport. Although they can do whatever they put their mind to, most of these retired athletes are starting from scratch.
Most Popular Jobs for Retired Athletes
While some retired athletes might struggle in their post-playing days, others will figure it out and even thrive in their new career. Just look at Randy Johnson, a Hall of Fame pitcher who spent 22 years in the MLB. He retired after the 2009 season and is now a professional photographer.
Shandon Anderson spent 10 seasons in the NBA, but retired in 2006 and became a chef for a vegetarian restaurant. Bryant Reeves spent six years in the NBA, but retired in 2001 to become a cattle rancher. Myron Rolle left the NFL after just two seasons to become a neurosurgeon.
Of course, athletes are always going to have a unique path once they retire – Vin Baker worked at Starbucks after blowing $100 million throughout his 13-year career in the NBA. For all the retired athletes out there looking for a job, let’s take a look at some of the most popular!
20. Sports Marketing Manager
In order to be successful, athletes must know how to market themselves – it helps during the draft process, free agency, and in the endorsement game. It’s this type of experience that makes athletes the perfect fit as a sports marketing manager – they’re essentially built for it.
Social media managers utilize a number of avenues – including television, radio, magazines, and social media – to bring more attention and traffic to a sports franchise. Many athletes like this because it keeps them close to the game, but in a much more behind-the-scenes fashion.
19. Financial Advisor
With big contracts and millions of dollars comes great responsibility. Some athletes take that responsibility seriously, while others don’t. For those that are careful and smart with their money, it wouldn’t be crazy to see them pursue a career as a financial advisor in their post-playing days.
Some retired athletes who found a second calling as a financial advisor include former NFL players Wayne Chrebet, Brad Daluiso, Jim Everett, Cade McNown, and Patrick Kerney, former NHL players Clark Gillies and Brian Bellows, and former NBA player Chris Dudley.
18. Athletic Director
For retired athletes that want to remain close to the game and perhaps have an impact on younger athletes, becoming an athletic director can be a rewarding experience. Whether it’s at a high school or university, they’re responsible for overseeing the entire school’s athletic program.
One great example of a retired athlete becoming an athletic director is Tom Holmoe. He spent seven seasons in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers, catching seven interceptions and returning two of them for touchdowns. He has been the athletic director at BYU since 2005.
17. Sales Executive
For athletes that love the thrill and adrenaline rush that sports provide, it wouldn’t be out of pocket to pursue a career in sales. In fact, it’s a reality that many athletes face after retirement. Athletes already hold all the traits needed to succeed in sales, they just need to stay dedicated.
Some of the reasons why retired athletes make such great sales representatives and sales executives is because they’re competitive, team-focused, driven, motivated, mentally-tough, coachable, passionate, adaptable, outgoing, and understand the value behind commitment.
16. Public Speaker
Another great career path that many retired athletes follow is public speaking. This is true for many celebrities, but athletes are known for coming from a variety of backgrounds and each have a unique set of life experiences that they can use to inspire and teach others about life.
Some of the most popular retired athletes who are frequent public speakers include Tim Tebow, Magic Johnson, Drew Brees, Emmitt Smith, Laila Ali, Michael Strahan, Shannon Miller, Gabby Douglas, Jim Morris, Nancy Kerrigan, Scott Hamilton, Hines Ward, and much more.
Before most retired athletes followed a path into sports, they had dreams or hobbies in other areas. Unfortunately, making it to the professional level takes an extreme amount of dedication, meaning a lot of those retired athletes had to put all those other hobbies and dreams on hold.
Once they retire and have a good amount of money saved up, they can start to follow through with all those dreams and hobbies. For some retired athletes, this opens the door to a world of opportunities as an entrepreneur. In fact, retired athletes are starting new businesses every day.
14. Venture Capitalist
Although not all retired athletes are interested in starting a business from scratch, many have the funds to invest in other businesses as a venture capitalist. It’s a great way to stay close to some of the businesses you believe in, while also earning some good income in the process.
We saw this with Serena Williams, who recently announced her retirement from the game of tennis. Although she’s retiring, she has vowed to stay heavily involved in her venture capitalist firm, Serena Ventures. Kevin Durant also has a venture capitalist firm, Thirty Five Ventures.
13. Real Estate Agent or Investor
For retired athletes that want to continue earning a good income while doing minimal work, real estate is always a quality option. You can become a real estate agent and sell homes, you can purchase homes and rent them, or you can flip homes for a profit – opportunities are endless!
Many retired athletes have made the jump into real estate after their playing days. For example, Roger Staubach, Emmitt Smith, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, David Robinson, Alex Rodriguez, and Hakeem Olajuwon have all built successful real estate empires in retirement.
Can you imagine walking into your first day of school, entering your homeroom or first period class, and realizing that your teacher is a retired professional athlete? That would be pretty cool, wouldn’t it? Well, that’s the case for many students in schools and colleges across the country.
A good example of this is former WWE superstar Tito Santana. After retiring, he embarked on a career as a physical education teacher and most recently as a Spanish teacher. We should also note that Shaquille O’Neal has a doctorate in education, though he’s technically not a teacher.
11. Sports Psychologist
Athletes that are mentally tough gain an edge over their competitors. They’re not only more prepared when it matters most, but they’re able to live in the moment and not get too ahead of themselves – which bodes well for them during a game. Unfortunately, mental toughness is rare.
For retired athletes that made a living with their mental toughness, they could apply what they’ve learned in a career as a sports psychologist. It would require going back to school for most athletes, but it can be a rewarding experience and they’ll get to work directly with athletes.
10. Social Media Influencer
Two decades ago, this wouldn’t even be a thing, but we live in 2022 now and social media has become an enormous part of everyone’s life – so much that millions of people around the world are making a career out of it as an influencer. If you have the following, you can make money.
Since retired athletes already have a following, all they need is a way to make money off of it. This usually involves partnerships, sponsorships, and endorsements with other companies, which many athletes already have. This is an easy way to earn an income for retired athletes.
9. Dietician or Nutritionist
In order to be a successful athlete at the professional level, you have to learn how to take care of your body. While that means spending a good amount of time in the gym – perfecting your craft – it also means supplying your body with the right diet and nutrients on a daily basis.
Many retired athletes already have the mindset when it comes to dieting, they just need to learn how to help others achieve that same mindset. Luckily, they can get certified and trained as a dietician or nutritionist in months and be well on their way to making a career out of it in no time.
8. Personal Trainer
Maybe you’re not interested in helping athletes improve their mental toughness or diet, but retired athletes can still pursue a career as a personal trainer. This means they’ll be in the gym often, helping other athletes improve their physical appearance, as well as their performance.
Much like a nutritionist or dietician, personal trainers can become certified within months and it usually costs less than $1,000 to take the course. Once you’re certified, you can start taking on clients and setting your own prices. It’s the easiest way to start a personal training business.
7. Physical Therapist
Alright, so you weren’t quite interested in becoming a psychologist, nutritionist, or personal trainer – yet you still want to work closely with athletes. Maybe you should consider becoming a physical therapist – it’ll take a little more training and education, but it’s extremely rewarding.
As a physical therapist, you’ll be working with a lot of injured athletes – both active and retired. You’ll not only help them heal their injury and return to competition as soon as possible, but you’ll be responsible for helping them prevent future injuries so they can remain in competition.
This is a career path that many athletes start during their playing career, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be pursued once an athlete retires. In fact, many athletes – think back to Jim Brown – retire while in their prime, just to give them more time to commit to their role as an actor.
Some of the most famous retired athletes to have success as an actor or actress include Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, John Cena, Terry Crews, Kevin Garnett, Dave Bautista, Shaquille O’Neal, Carl Weathers, Ronda Rousey, Esther Williams, and Michael Jordan.
5. Sports Referee
While some retired athletes can’t wait to hang their cleats up and pursue a life away from the court (or field, rink, track, etc.), others find it difficult to leave. If you’re one of those retired athletes that can’t leave, you can have the best of both worlds by becoming a sports referee.
You’ll have to start at the bottom ranks and work your way up, especially if you want to be a referee at the professional level, but it’s a career that’ll keep you close to the game and it’s a career you can continue for a long time – as long as you can run up and down the court or field.
4. Sports Analyst
One of the most popular jobs for retired athletes, especially in the world we live in today, is sports analyst. Whether you sign with ESPN, FOX Sports, CBS Sports, TNT, Sky Sports, or any other network, retired athletes can spread their knowledge of the game and their experience.
Some of the most popular retired athletes to become a sports analyst are Richard Jefferson, JJ Reddick, Shaquille O’Neal, Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley, Michael Strahan, Jay Bilas, Terry Bradshaw, Doris Burke, Mary Carillo, Chris Evert, John McEnroe, and David Ortiz.
3. Sports Broadcaster
For retired athletes that want to be in front of the camera, but closer to the action, becoming a sports broadcaster could be the perfect retirement plan. Play-by-play announcers are essential to the viewing experience at home and former athletes are usually the best candidates for it.
Just look at Tony Romo and how he’s able to take his knowledge of the game and predict how a game is going to play out. It’s something we’re sure to see out of Tom Brady once he retires – don’t forget, he signed a 10-year, $375 million deal to become a broadcaster for FOX Sports.
2. Front Office Executive
Some retired athletes know the game better than anyone. If they have the skills to build a team or simply oversee certain areas of the team, then they should consider working towards a front office position. They might not get a job with a pro team right away, but it can happen eventually.
For example, some of the most popular retired athletes to become front office executives – owner, GM, etc. – include John Lynch, Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, Magic Johnson, Danny Ainge, Nolan Ryan, Larry Bird, Steve Yzerman, Ozzie Newsome, and Joe Dumars.
1. Head Coach
If the front office isn’t your thing, then you can always consider becoming a coach – especially if you’re more of a hands-on type of person. This allows you to get on the field and up close with the players, helping them become the best athlete possible – there’s nothing more rewarding.
Some of the best players-turned-coaches in sports history include Bill Russell, Pat Riley, Kenny Dalglish, Joe Torre, Mike Ditka, Lenny Wilkens, Phil Jackson, Joe Girardi, Steve Kerr, Jimmy Connors, Dick LeBeau, Forrest Gregg, Sammy Baugh, Tom Flores, and more.
Retired Athletes Have So Much Left to Give
Leaving a sport is difficult for retired athletes who have dedicated their entire life to perfecting their craft. Whether you’ve been a professional athlete for one year, five years, a decade, or several decades, know that there’s so much more to life – you just have to make the most of it.
As you can see above, there are so many unique career paths you can choose, but those are just 20 of the thousands of options available today. They often say you can make money doing anything, the real question is what do YOU want to do and how can you get started right away?
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Of course, retired athletes are some of the most experienced and resilient people out there. They’ve endured a lot through their career and if there’s anyone who can figure it out – it’s them. For all the retired athletes out there working hard, we appreciate you and wish you the best.
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