Are you an athlete? Are you training towards making your sport a full-time occupation, or even a job? Have you succeeded in doing so? If so, I am pretty sure somewhere along the way, someone has asked you: “But what are you going to do if you break your leg, and are never able to compete in [insert your sport here] again?” Of course this is quite a dramatic scenario that I’d prefer people not mention, but the point is a legit one: What if, for whatever reason (aging, losing the joy of competing, not achieving financial viability with your sport or even a severe injury) athletic competition is no longer your main occupation? What do you do? More importantly, how do you prepare for this inevitable event? When should you start preparing?
The answers to these questions will be different for everybody, but it’s important to consider them.
It makes sense to prepare for retirement. People spend a considerable chunk of the working lives saving money and daydreaming about what they can do with all that free time; retirement is truly a moment to look forward to. Athletes get to retire twice in their lifetime. Usually they do not look forward to their first retirement; the one from sports. Another difference is that (except for the lucky few) athletes will have to earn money to sustain themselves after sports, and that means getting a job. Starting a meaningful career, one that is just as fulfilling as the first one, is where some planning and preparation is essential. Here are some tips and suggestions:
- Find out what you like. Easier said than done, but you’ll have to make this a priority. Go out and talk to people. Is there a company you like? Go out and talk to people who work there, and ask them about what they do every day. You’d be surprised how willing people will be to discuss this with you, and how interesting they’ll be in your athletic background. Don’t like what you hear? Hey, that’s valuable too! So basically, talking to people is always useful, but you have to go out and do it.
- Equip yourself with knowledge. As I mentioned, people will love to hear about your athletic background. They’ll be really impressed when you’re able to talk about more than just sports. It can be as simple as reading the paper every day. But also, read the books that interest you. Educate yourself by any means that fit your schedule. Nowadays, the internet offers countless Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) on any subject. These may not directly lead to an official degree, but they sure are educational, and being able to mention that you have finished a number of these will always work in your favor. And did you know the Cruyff Institute offers great educational opportunities for athletes?
- Work on presenting yourself correctly. Do you want to make a lasting impression on people? Print business cards that say “Future former athlete”, with your contact information and hand them out. It’ll show people that you are seriously thinking about life beyond sports. You’ll be surprised how willing people will be to give you advice, or help you out in other ways. Take advantage of this.
No successful athlete would want to start a race or game unprepared, so why would anyone approach life after sports any differently? If you have any other advice or tips, feel free to share!