Why does entrepreneurship education matter for professional athletes?

Mehra Lester

Posted on February 6, 2024

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It is sad, but it is true that a professional sports career, unfortunately, doesn’t last forever. For some reason or another, the day comes when players have to “hang up their boots”, so to speak, and move on. But to what? Some stay in the sports industry as player managers, coaches, or become broadcast announcers or commentators, or even product ambassadors leveraging their brand and name recognition. However, for many, there is the question of what they should do. This is where entrepreneurship comes in. Considering that many professional athletes retire at a young age and still have a long life ahead of them, entrepreneurship education could be the answer to help professional athletes transition to a fulfilling and rewarding life after sport. We explore more in this article.

Research finds entrepreneurs and athletes share similar traits

Athletes and successful entrepreneurs are essentially high achievers and often share similar traits such as discipline, self-motivation, dedication, resilience, courage, focus, mental strength, and so on.

A study at the University of New Hampshire found that certain personality traits such as high levels of openness to new experience, willingness to reveal one’s true self and need for achievement are consistent to athlete’s and entrepreneur’s successes that could be linked as the driving forces behind their achievement both in sport and business. Athletes are more likely to succeed when starting their own business compared with many other groups. This research highlights the importance of bringing entrepreneurship education to the forefront a lot earlier on in a professional athlete’s career so that they can prepare adequately for an exciting business life afterwards that provides meaning and purpose.

Entrepreneurship provides purpose outside sports for athletes

Most dedicated professional athletes who follow their passion for sports find their lives challenging after their sporting careers. Research shows that up to 20% of retiring athletes continue to experience crisis transitions characterised by a lack of adjustment, ongoing psychological distress and depression.

They often find themselves lost after saying goodbye to their sporting career, don’t know themselves anymore, struggle with identity, and feel highly distressed about sustaining their lifestyle post-retirement. Some might invest wisely during their active sporting career. However, some others unfortunately don’t. There was the recently widely publicised example of Lucas Neil, who went from driving a Ferrari to not being able to afford a phone in a short period of time.

With this in mind, it is crucial to provide purpose outside of sports and equip players for a fulfilling future career.

Examples of athletes who have done it well:

Greg Norman

Greg Norman has won 91 professional golfing events around the world and was considered the world’s number one for 305 weeks. He has clearly seen success on the golf course – but his achievements barely begin here. Since starting one of his first business ventures in 1987 (Greg Norman Golf Course Design), he has created many businesses. From real estate and a debt-lending fund to eyewear and even beef products, Norman has over 10 successful businesses.

Michael Klim

Michael Klim is an Australian swimmer turned CEO. His achievements in the pool include Olympic gold medalist, world champion, and former world record holder. While he has since retired (once in 2007, and again in 2012), he has shifted his focus to his business, Milk and Co.

As founder and CEO, Klim won a $2 million business deal just four years after the company was first founded in Melbourne in 2008. Originally focusing on skincare products for men, the company has expanded its product range and targeting towards women and baby skincare as well.

Kimberly Wan

Former national ice hockey player, Kimberly Wan, who was selected in the national women’s team, representing her country in the WCCOA in Taiwan, Thailand, and Malaysia, co-founded a software-as-a-service business in 2016, which is thriving today under her leadership.

Robbie Gaspar, former professional athlete, describes why entrepreneurship education matters

Robbie Gaspar, an Australian former footballer and successful entrepreneur, sat with us recently to share his views on entrepreneurship and sport. Post-sport, Robbie successfully transitioned to business and has advocated for entrepreneurship education for his fellow professional athletes. He testified that he joined the YoungGems® team as a mentor to help athletes transition smoothly after their sporting careers.

In his interview, Robbie highlighted the importance of entrepreneurship education for professional athletes explaining that entrepreneurship offers athletes an easier transition post-sport career. According to Robbie, athletes possess a unique set of skills and attributes that naturally align with those of successful entrepreneurs. Traits such as discipline, focus, self-motivation, dedication and resilience are instrumental in sports and the entrepreneurial space.

By engaging in a real-world entrepreneurship program like the YoungGems®, which equips athletes with the right tools and coaching throughout their entrepreneurial journey, athletes can harness their skills early on and smoothly transition to the business world. Find out more about how YoungGems® can empower you or your community.

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