Seemingly ageless professional athletes like Seattle Mariners legend Ichiro Suzuki (whose 27-season playing career probably came to an end in 2018) are the exception to the rule. The average NFL career lasts just three or four years, depending on the metrics you’re using. The average MLB and NBA careers don’t endure much longer.
If you’re an aspiring athlete, you know in your heart of hearts that you won’t play the game you love forever. You’ll hang up your cleats, or sneakers, or clubs well before you’re ready to shuffle off this mortal coil.
You could be disappointed by the inevitability of your “early” retirement. Or you could see it as the blessing that it is. Athletes are among the only workers who are virtually guaranteed to get a real shot at a productive second career — a career that, in many cases, eclipses their playing days.
These post-competition careers are particularly attractive to former athletes looking for the next adventure. Which interests you the most?
Financial planners are “people people” — much of their time is devoted to direct interfacing with clients.
They’re also rigorously trained. Becoming a financial planner takes years, and while there’s no “required” undergraduate major, it certainly helps to specialize in a field like economics or business as an undergrad. In any event, you’ll need to take a series of difficult exams and complete thousands of hours of practical training to earn your certification. The payoff: generous compensation and the opportunity to earn your own practice.
Many entrepreneurs are “people people” too, and all must embrace the value of teamwork. More than anything else, that’s what makes former athletes so good for what’s otherwise a famously demanding job. New York-based entrepreneur Ryan Nivakoff credits his time on the field at Columbia University for his success as a Manhattan-based entrepreneur.
Figures, right? If you don’t want your athletic career to end when your playing days are over, coaching is a natural next step. Not everyone is cut out for the job — you’ll need an analytic mindset and ample reserves of patience. But the player/assistant/head coach path is nothing if not well-worn.
What comes after coaching? Often, it’s AD work. Sure, you’ll have to get used to spending most of your time in an actual office, but those truly dedicated to athletics know that the only thing more satisfying than helping a single team succeed is helping an entire school’s athletics program succeed.
Start Planning Your Second Act Today
It’s never too early to start planning your second act. The end of your playing days will arrive, perhaps sooner than later. When it does, you want to be ready to transition seamlessly into what’s next — whether it’s a gig with your current team’s front office, as in Ichiro’s case, or something that couldn’t be farther removed from the playing field.
Whatever your second act entails, make sure it’s something that you can see yourself doing for years or decades to come. After all, in the span of a lifetime, a professional athletic career is just a warmup.