Career transition is something that will happen to every athlete – no-one’s sporting career can go on forever – and nearly all of you will need to find another job after you ‘retire’.

While elite athletes have unique backgrounds and experiences – with vastly different educational and vocational journeys to non-athletes – by demonstrating you have what it takes to compete at the highest level in your sport, you already have valuable skills and experiences that could benefit any workplace. Yet many still struggle with this transition.

So how can you use the skills you’ve gained from sport to help transition smoothly into a new career? Why should you prepare for that transition while you’re still competing? And what can you learn from other athletes who have already made the transition?

These are just some of the questions we aim to answer in this white paper, which will explore the importance of preparing for life after sport.

By drawing on evidence-based research and expert insights, we will try to detail why you should, and how you can, prepare for your career transition, while our case studies from other athletes will offer relatable stories and practical advice. Among the experts to provide their insights are:

David Lavallee Professor of Duty of Care in Sport in the School of Applied Sciences at Abertay University, Dundee
Paul Wylleman Professor of Sport Psychology at Vrije Universiteit Brussel, and Performance Manager in Performance Behaviour for the Netherlands Olympic Team
Mayi Cruz Blanco Managing Director, LHH Sports & Athlete Solutions
Rick Echevarria Intel Vice-President and General Manager of Intel’s Olympic Programme
At a glance
1 Why you need to prepare for life after sport: This section will look at the reasons why you should plan ahead for your career transition by outlining some of the challenges you may face and the benefits you can gain from being prepared.
2 How you can prepare for life after sport: This section will focus on how you can experience positive and healthy career transitions when you are prepared and supported before, during and after your athletic retirement.
3 Why you will make a great employee: This section will look at the transferable skills that athletes are able to bring to the workplace, and how research shows that successfully recognising and utilising these skills can be key to a smooth career transition.
Why you need to prepare for life after sport

Facing the end of your sporting career can be tough, but knowing what to expect and preparing for that time can make the transition easier. Here, we highlight some of the challenges that you may face when you finish competing.

All athletes have to face the reality that one day your sporting career will end, and you will need to begin a new chapter in your life. Some may reach this transition sooner than others – after all, New Zealand’s Julie Brougham was still competing in dressage at the Olympic Games Rio 2016 at the age of 62 – but eventually every athlete will move on to a new career, vocation or stage of life.

This can be an extremely daunting prospect, especially as many athletes will have little to no experience of a full-time job, and some of you may have missed out on college or university due to your sporting commitments.

But while the transition into a post-sport life isn’t always easy, you can make sure you’re prepared for the transition by learning about some of the challenges you may face.

Unique situation

When your sporting career ends, you may find yourself in a unique position. The physical nature of sport means that an athlete’s retirement tends to occur at a relatively early age. According to some studies, it is very rare that an elite sports career would last more than 10 years, with athletes generally retiring around the age of 34 1 1. , although this can be much younger in sports such as gymnastics. Athletes therefore have many working years left before reaching a traditional retirement age, and subsequently need to transition into a new career.

Yet with research in 2012 revealing that the average elite athlete will train for six hours a day, six days a week, 12 months a year 2 2. , that leaves little time for work experience, studying or career planning. As a result, most athletes need to put their studies or alternative career on hold in order to pursue their sporting career.

And by the time they reach retirement at 34, these athletes would therefore find themselves at least 10 years behind in the vocational development of an average non-athlete. 3 3.

Preparing for the unexpected

Career transitions can be classified either as those that are planned (normative), such as when an athlete decides themselves that it is time to move on, or those that are unplanned and sudden (non-normative), such as when an injury or deselection from a team occurs. 4 4.

Studies have shown that those athletes who planned their retirement in advance had higher cognitive, emotional and behavioural readiness for their career transition, compared with those who had unplanned or forced retirements. 5 5.

Athlete experience: Yuri Maier

Yuri Maier, Wrestling, Argentina

Argentine wrestler Yuri Maier had committed his life to making it to the Olympic Games, but injuries meant his sporting career came to a premature end. By seeking training and support through Athlete365 Career+, he was able to successfully transition into a new role working for United World Wrestling (UWW), and now helps deliver Athlete365 Career+ Outreach workshops to other athletes.

“The decision to retire was a very difficult one. It was my dream all my life to wrestle at the Olympic Games and to compete on the greatest stage. But I had too many serious injuries, and my body has been punished. The time had come for me to do something different with my life and to put the physical pain I was suffering behind me.

After I wrestled for the last time, I took a job as UWW’s development officer for the Pan American region. My work with Olympic athletes in Argentina and then the IOC followed from that. I had training from the IOC to help with my presentation skills before I was able to give my first Athlete365 Career+ session, but I wasn’t nervous because I was talking about topics that were natural to me.

Being part of Athlete365 Career+ has been like therapy for me. To still be around other athletes has helped me come to terms with retirement and it has given me a new way to channel my energy and enthusiasm.
Yuri Maier, Wrestling, Argentina

For many years I had to fight as a wrestler and now I am fighting for something else: to help educate others.

Most athletes are the same – you are thinking about the next match, the next tournament, the next session in the gym. The furthest ahead you tend to think is maybe a few years but that is only because that is when the next important championships are. This is why Athlete365 Career+ exists. Sport will not last forever, and it is healthy to think about the future. We stress that because you have been successful in sport so you can be successful in making the transition and doing a different job. The programme is important because I am the proof that a career can come to an end very suddenly. Of course, it is sad, but you cannot feel sorry for yourself forever; you have to use the spirit that made you a good athlete for other things.”

Loss of identity

The high level of focus and dedication that you devote to your sporting career often means you have fewer opportunities to explore other activities or discover different aspects of your personality and identity. This is known as athletic identity and can be defined as “the degree to which an individual identifies with the athlete role” 6 6. , and can lead to identity foreclosure – where one aspect of a person’s personality or identity takes over without allowing other identities to be developed and explored.

This sense of identity can have a significant impact on the way you experience your career transition and can lead to potential issues when you stop being an ‘athlete’ and need to become ‘something else’.

Several studies have examined the impact of athletic identity on career transition. These suggest that an athlete’s degree of athletic identity may be a risk factor for the emergence of psychiatric distress following their retirement from sport 7 7. , and the higher the level of athlete identity at the time of retirement the more emotional adjustment is required. 8 8. In addition, they have found that athletes with a high athlete identity have found it harder to adjust to life after sport, had a lack of retirement plan and had more frequent and severe psychological difficulties compared with those who identified in other ways. 9 9. It can therefore be shown that your sense of identity can strongly influence your experience of transitioning to life after sport.

Expert view: Three factors in a successful transition

David Lavallee, Professor of Duty of Care in Sport in the School of Applied Sciences at Abertay University, Dundee

“I’ve been doing research in this area for over 20 years now, and I’ve got a database of almost 18,000 retired athletes. There are three key factors that seem to be important for them to be able to either manage the transition well or not.

The first one is around the reason why they might make the transition and how much control they have over that. There are those who are suddenly dropped from their team, and that’s it, compared with others who might plan very effectively and are able to control when they transition. The research tends to show that if you are able to make your own decision, then it’s going to be better.

The second one is to do with coping resources. A lot of research has looked at comparing an athlete’s pre-transition and post-transition environments, and it shows that those with more resources cope better – whether it’s finances, psychological support or social support.

The third one is focused on identity. I think sometimes people in sports see their careers as a Faustian bargain, where they have to sacrifice everything to be able to achieve their goals.

Athletes that have a very focused and exclusive identity in sport tend to perform better, but they risk making a transition into something else a lot more difficult.
David Lavallee, Professor of Duty of Care in Sport in the School of Applied Sciences at Abertay University, Dundee

So, the risk is definitely much more significant when people have a very strong and exclusive identity linked to their sport.”

Mental health issues

Due to the commitment that you must make to your sporting career, elite athletes can often find the transition into ‘normal life’ overwhelming. While some athletes do experience a positive and healthy career transition, others may find the process more challenging, potentially triggering pre-existing or previously unrecognised mental health symptoms and disorders. 10 10.

Studies show that the prevalence of poor mental health symptoms and disorders among both current and former elite athletes seems substantial and similar to the prevalence in the general population. 11 11.

A 2015 study in Australia found that 46.4% of athletes experience mental health issues, including depression (27.2%), eating disorder (22.8%), general psychological distress (16.5%), social anxiety (14.7%), generalised anxiety disorder (7.1%), and panic disorder (4.5%). 12 12.

Meanwhile, a review of existing research in 2019 found that poor mental health symptoms and disorders among former elite athletes ranged from 16% for distress to 26% for anxiety/depression. 13 13.


Impact on performance

While you may feel that spending time planning for your career transition may have a negative impact on your ability to focus on training or competition, research has shown that this may not be the case.

A 2019 study found that athletes who plan their retirement well in advance are more likely to enjoy success in their sporting careers. 14 14.

The study, which analysed 632 players in the Australian National Rugby League across three seasons (over 28,000 games in total), found that higher levels of engagement in pre-retirement planning were linked to improved levels of performance on the field, and length of playing career.

While previous research has shown many athletes resist engaging in pre-retirement programmes, possibly due to the perception that such engagement could be a distraction from their sporting performance, this study demonstrates the value athletes placed on pre-retirement planning to be greater than the pressures to focus exclusively on sport performance.

Get started

  • Sign up for 12 months’ free access to our Athlete Career Portal, which provides career
    development content, courses and job opportunities
  • Take our free career transition course on Athlete365 Learning
  • Have a think about what makes up your identity, beyond your sporting achievements
  • Explore Athlete365’s #MentallyFit resources for mental health support
Athlete experience: Mobolaji Akiode

Mobolaji Akiode, Basketball, Nigeria

Mobolaji Akiode played basketball for Nigeria at the Olympic Games Athens 2004. While playing, she also studied accounting at Fordham University in New York (USA), and after retiring found work for broadcaster ESPN. Realising it was not the career path she wanted to follow, she established Hope 4 Girls Africa – a not-for-profit organisation that provides sports camps, education workshops and empowerment programmes for young girls in Africa.

“I didn’t want to wait until I was done playing to start thinking about life after basketball. You never know when your career may be over, so I was always ready for ‘Plan B’.

Whenever I went back to Nigeria, I realised that there’s so much that needs to be done, so many people need help, and so many opportunities need to be provided.

I knew that I wanted to give something back, but I’d never thought about how to do it. I was working for ESPN at the time, and they were always talking about how sport is so much more than what’s being played on the field. That really inspired me, and I began thinking about using sport as a platform for changing people’s lives.

I went back to visit my parents one weekend and I was looking at all my basketball photos. Under a school portrait I noticed a quote: ‘There’s never a wrong time to do the right thing’. Seeing that was a huge realisation for me and that’s when I started working on Hope 4 Girls Africa.

Quitting my job didn’t feel like a risk. I had a dream, and I had a passion, so I was going to pursue it – just like I did with basketball.
Mobolaji Akiode, Basketball, Nigeria

I got that confidence from failing and succeeding time and again in sport. Those are the character lessons that you learn from being an athlete. If it doesn’t work, you just get back up. What’s the worst that could happen?”

How you can prepare for life after sport

With the right preparation and support, athletes are able to experience positive and healthy career transitions. Here, we highlight some of the research that has looked at how you can best prepare for your life after sport.

While athletes face many challenges during their career transitions, those who are prepared and supported are more likely to cope with these challenges and experience a far smoother transition.

Studies show that the combination of preparation and the right support allow athletes to develop coping strategies to deal with their transition. 15 15.

Strong support

Although athletes can find it hard to ask for support 16 16. , research has shown the benefits of developing a far-reaching support network outside of sport. Family, friends, and wider society, in general, all have a major role to play when it comes to athletes successfully adjusting to life after sport, with studies showing that positive relationships can greatly impact the adjustment period and life of the athlete and even help with transitioning into a new career. 17 17.

Alongside interpersonal support, institutional assistance is also key. Frameworks such as the Five-Step Career Planning Strategy (see panel below) have been developed to help you learn the skills and strategies needed for a smooth transition, and bespoke programmes aimed at facilitating the process – such as Athlete365 Career+ and the Athlete Career Portal, free to access for elite athletes, Olympians and Paralympians – have also proved to be valuable tools.

Specific programmes are available to elite athletes, with different options depending on your context; whether that be planning for retirement, already retired or looking to establish a secondary career alongside your sporting one, utilising the wealth of support on offer can make a huge difference when it comes to life after sport.

Five-Step Career Planning Strategy

This framework was developed by Natalia Stambulova of Halmstad University, Sweden, to help athletes with career transitions. The first four steps deal with mapping out your past experiences, current situation, and perceived future. The final step focuses on integrating their past, present, and projected future into a career and life strategy.

Step 1: Create a framework. Draw a timeline of your life, divided into past, present and future.
Step 2:
Structure your past. Describe the most important events in your life, both sporting and
Step 3:
Structure your present. Assess your current life and identify the most important aspects.

Step 4:
Structure your future. Consider what important events you expect to occur in your life over
the next one, three, five and 10 years, identifying future priorities and clear goals.
Step 5:
Bridge the past, present and future. Focus on the key lessons you’ve learned and the skills
you’ve developed, create goals and strategies, and potential barriers, and then plan how you can balance current and future priorities.

Athlete experience: Fabíola Molina

Fabíola Molina, Swimming, Brazil

Brazilian swimmer Fabíola Molina competed in three editions of the Olympic Games before retiring in 2013. Before she stepped away from the pool, a strong support network helped her launch her own swimwear brand to fund her career and prepare for life after sport.

“I first thought about retiring in 2003 and that’s when I started the business, so I could have a different income from swimming. I had a lot of help from my mother. She was responsible for the daily routine of the business and I was responsible for the creative part of the collections we launched, so I had the freedom to create even when I was travelling. If I had to do it all by myself it would have been very hard. When you are training at a high level, you need somebody you trust to be in the business with you; that’s the only way I could do it.

We didn’t know much about business in general, so we looked for people to help us to create a strong team, and I had career coaching sessions for one year with Antonio Carlos Moreno, a former volleyball champion and coach, as part of the Brazilian Olympic Committee’s career transition programme, and that was very helpful.
Fabíola Molina, Swimming, Brazil

Many things are similar between being an athlete and an entrepreneur. We need a lot of preparation, then a lot of hard work and a lot of persistence. We need to look for excellence like we do in sports, to give 100 per cent every day. We also need teamwork and that’s the only way to be successful; to have a strong team, where each person plays an important role.”

Preparing properly

A 2020 study led by Paul Wylleman at Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Belgium) presents the preparation process in three different phases that ensure effective preparation of the retirement process. 18 18. In the first phase or stage, the facilitators towards effective preparation include the athlete understanding the significance of different focuses, providing sufficient self-management, building a professional network, and new plans and goals. Particularly, the athlete learning more about decision making, in this case, can help boost their chances of success. It also helps them set up goals to help them towards an effective retirement process, such as arranging an internship or even a new job. Some of the support services that can help in this preparation include building opportunities, reaching out, and multiple information sessions. Additionally, some resources that can be utilised within this context include personal development plans, development of competencies, career coaching, and e-learning resources.

The second phase in the preparation process is during the retirement process itself. Some of the key facilitators that can aid in effective preparation include creating and using the professional network, maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle, sharing experiences, and exploring and researching existing literature or other information. The major support services within this phase will entail individualised transition support, exit trajectory, sharing experiences, and physical support. Financial support is also important within this stage as it helps the athlete to remain afloat. Similarly, this stage also requires some resources such as networking, job search, and facilitation of contact with employers, among others.

The final step is the after-retirement stage, where the facilitators are the transferability of competencies. The athlete should continue with the preparation after retirement as life keeps on moving. They have to continue networking, planning, and disciplining themselves to the new way of life. With online platforms and support from family and friends, the post-retirement phase can be smooth and help them fit into society.

Three stages of effective preparation – Paul Wylleman at Vrije Universiteit Brussel (2020)

Get started

  • Try the five-step career planning strategy tool outlined above
  • If you’re an Olympian, apply for the post-nominal OLY letters with the World Olympians Association to give your personal brand a boost
  • Discover networking best practices on the ‘Prepare’ section of the Athlete Career Portal
Expert view: ‘Preparing for your next career is like preparing for the Olympic Games’

Paul Wylleman, Professor of Sport Psychology at Vrije Universiteit Brussel, and Performance Manager in Performance Behaviour for the Netherlands Olympic Team

“When looking at your career transition, there are many things that we need to plan. Obviously, some of you may be forced out of sports – due to injury or other factors – while others will be able to choose when you finish. And that’s why it is important to have a plan in place and to be prepared.






You never know what might happen, so if you have 10 or 12 years of preparing for it, it actually makes you strong enough to take the ending of your career into your own hands.
Paul Wylleman, Professor of Sport Psychology at Vrije Universiteit Brussel, and Performance Manager in Performance Behaviour for the Netherlands Olympic Team

So, what should you look at? Preparing for your next career is really just like preparing for the Olympic Games. You need to look at the holistic perspective. From an athletic level, there is de-training, for example, because the body is like a diesel engine. It doesn’t just stop straight away. It keeps on running.

Secondly, do you have the feeling that you actually achieved what you wanted to achieve or hoped to achieve? This is something which I think should be talked about. It’s not always easy to leave your sport behind. Even if you end up with a medal or even two medals, you still think, ‘Well, you never know; there could be another medal at the next Games.’

From the athletic level we move to the psychosocial level: the athletes and the people around you. Whether it’s balancing a relationship with a partner or a young family, or even if you are single, there’s still a social network. The factors determining whether or not to end a career may come from that social or psychosocial network.

Going one step further, the vocational planning is another level. The vocational planning is what I think most elite sport countries actually focus on, with the aim of preparing athletes for a subsequent career, giving them all the possibilities to prepare with regards to academia, study planning and so on. I think a key part of that has to be recognising that an elite sports career is actually also a full-time, vocational occupation and not just something that stands beside social life or society. And that’s where we need to say goodbye to the notion of ‘retirement’ and focus on this being a transition from one career into another. And then it makes sense that you prepare.

There are also financial and legal aspects that need to be considered; things you can’t just decide to do on the day you actually end your career, because by then you’re too late.”

Practical suggestions for sports organisations 19 19.
  • Educate athletes and make them aware of the potential challenges that may occur during their transition into retirement
  • Encourage the development of strategies that enable athletes to self-manage their previous injuries and lifestyle when they are outside the high-performance system
  • Aim to increase the understanding of these issues amongst the high-performance team, and encourage open discussion, which in turn will benefit the athletes
  • Raise awareness of this issue among governing bodies to help improve the post-retirement support they offer to athletes
  • Encourage athletes to use their downtime effectively during their careers; optimising the development of a broader range of social identities outside sport, thus providing a stronger social support network before, during and after retirement
  • Encourage athletes to develop life and lifestyle management skills in sports organisations throughout their athletic career
  • Find ways to keep previously and/or soon-to-be retired athletes in the sports system. Coaching and ad-hoc mentoring programmes are viable options that sports organisations could fund
Why you will make a great employee

Transitioning into a new career after retiring from competitive sport doesn’t have to be a daunting prospect. Here, we highlight the unique skills that athletes are able to bring to the workplace, and how research shows that successfully recognising and utilising these skills can be key to a smooth career transition.

For many elite athletes, your sport may be the only profession you have ever known. Having spent your whole life focused on training and competition, taking your first steps into a new career can be very daunting.

You will often have little to no experience in a traditional workplace and may find it difficult to determine exactly what career path you want to pursue. But there are many transferable skills that you will have acquired during your sporting career that can prove to be invaluable in a professional capacity, making you a highly desirable employee.

Transferrable skills

Research has proven that elite athletes have many skills and attributes that can be successfully transferred into the workplace. A recent report by global recruiting firm The Adecco Group, for instance, highlighted eight key attributes common in athletes that would be valuable to potential employers. The research suggested athletes are often:

Analysts – due to your ability to analyse and critique your performances.
Resilient – due to your experience of overcoming obstacles, defeats and setbacks.
Passionate ambassadors – due to the drive and energy you show in your sport.
Positive disruptors – due to your willingness to try new techniques and methods in training.
Creative thinkers – due to your ability to use lateral thinking to find new ways to improve.
Persuasive communicators – due to your experience of networking to support your career.
Business-minded – due to you learning how to support yourself as you compete.
Natural publicists – due to your efforts to attract sponsorships and build personal brands.

The report suggests that elite athletes could apply these skills to help plug a global talent shortage that is estimated to potentially cost firms nearly USD 8.5 trillion in lost revenue by 2030, with 77% of CEOs believing the unavailability of key skills is the biggest threat to business growth.

Making the most of these key transferable skills lies at the heart of many of the career-focused programmes available to elite athletes. Anecdotal feedback from Athlete365’s Intel Mentoring Program for example, where athletes were paired with an experienced Intel employee mentor, suggests that the skillsets of elite sportspeople are uniquely valuable in corporate and organisational settings. You can put yourself in an excellent position to achieve a successful career transition by utilising the opportunities offered by these types of programmes, stepping up to plug the talent gap in the corporate world. 

Athlete experience: Abhinav Bindra

Abhinav Bindra, Shooting, India

IOC Athletes’ Commission member and rifle shooter Abhinav Bindra was India’s first individual Olympic champion. He is now working to bring science and technology into the sport and healthcare sectors, drawing on his degree in business administration from the University of Colorado.

“I think the key is to be prepared and engaged in something, to find another passion. As an Olympic athlete, you’re very passionate about what you do. It’s sometimes hard to find another passion that you’re so strongly passionate about. You probably won’t, but it’s important to find something that interests you and that you feel strongly about from deep within. If you’re able to do that, then it’s alright.

Education was important. Athletes can be extremely successful in whatever they do, but when your new period of life starts you start from zero again. Then you need to have certain skills which will help you climb the ladder in that field of life. There are no free lunches.

Your success in your sports career remains there, but you can’t just expect that success to take you forward in your next period of life. You have to start a new journey and work hard.
Abhinav Bindra, Shooting, India

I think patience, perseverance, and hard work, are things you take forward. My sport required a lot of patience, and being in business also requires a lot of patience and perseverance because success is not immediate. It’s a process, and you have to have the skills to work with people as you do in sport.

Even in an individual sport, I had people around me. There was a team associated with me. You have to have the ability to work with people. These are skills which are important in life outside of sport, that are transferrable from a sports career.”

Athlete employability

The transitioning of athletes to employees is a growing field that has attracted numerous studies. While you may feel that your lack of work experience may be detrimental to your career prospects, one 2018 study found that athletic participation was perceived as at least equally favourable to direct internship experience. 20 20. The research paints a clear picture of the role that you can play when advancing your career post-sport. The findings concluded that the more you participate in areas other than the field of play, the more you have employability skills.

In this case, to understand fully how you may stand as a better employee after retirement, you have to look at the characteristics of an athlete as a whole. To begin with, most sports teams are made up of teams that require working together to meet certain goals. Within organisations, teamwork is a key strategy that offers a strategic advantage to the organisation. Teamwork allows for sharing resources, effective distribution of work, and saving time through greater efficiency. Introducing a retired athlete within any organisation provides the organisation with a strategic advantage to operate more efficiently.

Additionally, a 2014 study also looked at the employability of elite athletes who have made the transition from their sport into work, with the results demonstrating that engagement in sport elevates evaluations of potential job candidates. 21 21.

The research also compared elite athletes who had made the transition from their sport into employment with matched employees who had not participated in sport. These results showed that being an elite athlete significantly impacts employability potential by being more confident in your abilities to carry out broader roles in the workplace through, for example, being more open to organisational changes.

Furthermore, athletes reported higher levels of identifying opportunities, taking action, and persevering until they brought about meaningful change. Athletes also reported higher levels of taking personal initiative to have an impact on the world around you and being more able to make changes regarding job demands and job resources.

Finally, athletes were reported by their supervisors to have superior job performance in their roles compared to the matched, control participants.

Overall, findings from the research showed that engaging in elite sport elevates employer evaluations of potential job candidates; elite athletes making the transition into work possess essential employability skills; and that employers should view elite athletes in transition as valuable resources and capitalise on their unique skills.

Get started

  • Try our bespoke athletes attributes tool on the Athlete Career Portal to better understand your skillset
  • Develop professionally via LinkedIn Learning and General Assembly classes or workshops, available on our Athlete Career Portal
  • Get ready for entry-level and mid-level job applications with our OLY CV template tool, also available via the Portal
Expert view: What athletes can offer employers

Rick Echevarria, Intel’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing, and General Manager of the Intel Olympic Programme

“As an athlete, you’re disciplined. You understand how to perform under pressure. And you have to learn and adjust – to competitions, to venues, and potentially to new techniques and technology.

If you look at those three attributes, and if you’ve been in the high-tech industry as long as I have, you want people who are disciplined, you want people who perform under pressure, and you want people who understand how to learn.

I don’t want people to think that the only way they can get into Intel is if they are a ‘techie’. We need all sorts of skills in the company – from human resources and marketing to business development, sustainability and supply chain expertise. But most importantly, we need talented people.

When we hired [USA’s two-time Olympic decathlon champion] Ashton Eaton, he brought so much energy, which was highly motivating for us. And I think that’s what we see in athletes: you’re going to come into that role with all the energy of having competed, and bringing all that intensity is going to help accelerate the transformation of many of the companies that are fortunate enough to hire you.

We see that athletes can do amazing things for the culture of an organisation.
Rick Echevarria, Intel’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing, and General Manager of the Intel Olympic Programme

We are, in a way, a different type of athlete. You have to deal with day-to-day challenges when you’re working at a company like Intel, where you’re at the epicentre of technology. You almost have to prove yourself every single day. So if you think that you won’t have an opportunity to get those competitive juices flowing post-Games, you’re wrong.

You’re going to compete at a different level [in the corporate world], but being mentally fit and physically fit is really something you want to carry along, because careers are like marathons. You’re going to be in the workplace for a long time, and you want to make sure you don’t forget what got you to be a high-performing individual. It’s going to carry you through your whole career.”

What next?

For many years, the narrative we heard around athlete career transition tended to focus on the negatives – the ‘Olympic blues’, the post-sport ‘void’ – and this can be daunting as you approach the end of your sports career.

But the research outlined here, as well as the testimonials we’ve heard from athletes and experts, should leave you encouraged and excited when looking ahead to the next stage of your life.

As an elite athlete, your experiences training at a high level, competing under pressure, working as part of a team towards a common goal, and publicising yourself to attract sponsorship, are highly appealing to many companies across a range of industries. The skills are transferable and can compensate for a lack of experience in traditional workplace environments.

The key is to supplement those attributes with new skills that are relevant for areas of interest to you, and nowadays there more tools and resources than ever at your disposal to help you with this. Whether you’re still competing and starting to think about your future, or recently retired, Athlete365 is here to support you every step of the way, bridging the gap between the competition field and the job market.

The Athlete Career Portal, delivered by Athlete365 Career+ in partnership with The Adecco Group, contains a range of interactive tools designed to help you with your personal brand, networking, interviews, job searches and applications. Sign up for 12 months’ free access today, explore the range of online courses and assessment tools there, and upload your resume using our CV template tool. We’ll not only connect you with a talent acquisition team, but to a list of recommended internships and job opportunities.

The next stage of your journey starts here. We’re excited, and you should be too.


Wylleman, P. and Reints, A. (2010). ‘A lifespan perspective on the career of talented and elite athletes: Perspectives on high-intensity sports’. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports



Suutarinen, E. (2014). Employment of the professional athletes after retirement


Levy, M., Gordon, L., Wilson, R. and Barrett, C. (2005). ‘Career transitions’, in Taylor, J. and Wilson, G. E. Applying sport psychology: four perspectives


Knights, S. (2015). Investigating elite end-of-athletic-career transition: a systematic reviewJournal of Applied Sports Psychology 


Brewer, B. W., Van Raalte, J. L. and Linder, D. E. (1993). ‘Athletic identity: Hercules’ muscles or Achilles heel?’. International Journal of Sport Psychology


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