All good things must come to an end.
That’s all the more true in the world of athletics, where careers are most often measured in years, not decades, and every body has its limits.
The longevity of your career will turn on too many factors to name, not least your chosen sport: the average NFL career declined from about five years to about three years over the past decade, and continues to shorten, while the average MLB career runs nearly six years. If they stay healthy, pro golfers can make it well into their 40s.
Though former collegiate and pro athletes’ post-playing careers are as diverse as the workforce writ large, many follow well-worn paths, with these five careers among the most common. Which can you see yourself pursuing after you hang up your cleats?
1. Athletic Trainer.
What better way to spend your post-playing days than helping those who’ve followed in your footsteps? According to the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, athletic trainer salaries have been on a tear lately — rising about 15% in the decade beginning in 2005. And, as competitive programs proliferate at every level — high school, collegiate, semi-pro, pro — there’s plenty of opportunity to get into the field.
Talk about a natural progression. Most athletic directors and front-office honchos prize prior playing experience; your name needn’t have appeared in lights to warrant consideration. Indeed, some of the professional sports world’s best-regarded coaches were little more than roleplayers during their playing careers.
3. Teaching Professional.
Let’s address the elephant in the room: teachers make far less than they should.
On the other hand, their work’s importance is second to none. If you’re passionate about giving the next generation the same opportunities that got you where you are today, it’s hard to imagine a better line of work.
Franchise ownership is a surprisingly common — and potentially very lucrative — post-playing endeavor. CNBC’s list of 10 well-known celebrity-franchisees includes a number of household sports names: Peyton Manning, Magic Johnson, Shaq. Though franchise ownership is plug-and-play, it’s not quite a money mint: you’ll need to work every bit as hard as you did on the field.
5. Executive Recruiter.
Even if your name carries little cachet in the real world, you can no doubt trade on the connections you made as a player to launch a thriving executive recruiting career. Few shared experiences bind members of a network like competitive athletics — even if those members would have been mortal enemies in years past.
For Athletes, There’s Life After Retirement.
It bears repeating: for former collegiate and pro athletes, there’s always life after retirement. Even if you’re fortunate enough to earn more than enough to sustain your family for years to come, staring down the barrel of a decades-long life of leisure is few competitors’ idea of a reward.
Athletes do best in post-athletic life when they choose careers that reflect their passions — that keep them jumping out of bed in the morning, ready to make their mark. Keep this in mind when making your choice, and remember that the path of least resistance is rarely the most satisfying.