This Is How to Transition from a Sports Career to a Successful Post-Athletic Life

Jason Hanold
4 min readApr 28, 2022


The transition from a successful athletic career to the next step in life can be a very difficult one. When the glories of the playing field and the camaraderie of the locker room are over, many athletes feel lost and confused about what to do next.

If life after sport isn’t to become a problem for athletes, they need to prepare for the challenges they will face. Those who are best able to do this will find their post-athletic careers as rewarding as their time on the field of play.

Challenges Faced by Transitioning Athletes

Many competitive athletes spend the majority of their time between the ages of 18 and 30 (or even older in some cases) involved in their athletic pursuits. By the time they retire and look for a new career, one thing becomes apparent — they have little to no non-sports work experience.

This is a serious problem when looking for work, as many jobs either require or prefer relevant experience. To suddenly enter the job market in your early 30s without a strong resume can be a real challenge for anyone and may lead to frustration.

In addition to lack of work experience, athletes may find themselves lacking critical skills that employers are looking for. Effective communication skills are highly valued by employers, but many athletes may not have developed them in the necessary contexts to transition into the business world. Written communication skills, for example, are mostly non-existent in a sports environment, but they are necessary in many jobs in business.

Another major issue former athletes deal with is a lack of identity outside of sports. Sports provide people with an identity that is intimately linked to their athletic prowess. Athletes spend their careers either competing or training to compete. This links them so closely to their sport that they tend to view themselves in terms of the sport, feeling like they are a football player, or baseball player, etc. When their sports career is over, the lack of any other identity can quickly lead to a loss of self-esteem and even depression.

During their career, an athlete’s support system is strong. Teammates, trainers, coaches, etc. are all there to give advice and encouragement to the athlete. They are all committed to making sure the athlete succeeds and performs as well as they possibly can. This structure disappears when an athlete retires.

In business situations, there are very few cheerleaders rooting people on. In fact, the opposite is often true as everyone looks after their own interests, many times at the expense of others. This can be quite a shock to a former athlete. Suddenly finding themselves on their own can be disconcerting.

What Athletes Can Do to Prepare for Life after Sports

One of the keys to having success in a post-sports career is to begin to prepare for the future while still playing. Because of the nature of high-level sports, athletes tend to be almost exclusively focused on their training and performance. Outside interests take a backseat and often an athlete ends their career without really having any other passions than their chosen sport.

This can make it difficult to decide on what sort of post-athletic career to pursue. Athletes should begin to pursue other interests while still playing. They will feel more well-rounded when they retire, and they might discover a different passion that could lead to a new career path. This will also help in providing activities to replace the constant training and preparation that will no longer be necessary after retirement.

While some of the physical skills developed during a sports career have no real applicability to other careers, there are many exceptions. Some skills are transferable to the general job market including organization, the ability to perform at a high level under pressure, and strong self-motivation. These skills can be highlighted on résumés and brought out in job interviews.

People who play sports tend to have tangible goals in that context: winning a championship or achieving a record, for instance. Life outside sports can seem to lack these obvious goals, but that is far from the truth. Setting realistic goals in post-athletic life can allow former athletes to strive for achievement in a way that mirrors their sports experiences.

Goalsetting provides structure as well, as athletes take definable steps to reach their goals. This approach makes sure that the transition to post-athletic life is not such a culture shock. Sports are a very structured environment. Transitioning out of such a system is difficult unless you have a new system with which to replace it. With proper structure in their post-athletic lives, former athletes stand a much better chance of success.



Jason Hanold

Executive Recruiter, clients NFL, Google, Patagonia, Under Armour, Gucci, Nike, Northwestern, eBay, UFC, Vail, REI, Electronic Arts, Live Nation, #HR #Recruiter