AFTER THE GAME - Bridging the gap from winning athlete to thriving entrepreneur | by Jay Dixon

black_yellowdot_transparentbg (1)

Introduction: The Common Traits Between Athletes and Business Leaders

Both athletes and business leaders embody a unique set of characteristics that contribute to their success. These shared traits form the foundation for athletes transitioning into roles within the business world effortlessly.

Discipline and Commitment

Athletes exhibit rigorous discipline in their training regimens. They adhere to strict schedules, prioritize physical fitness, and maintain a strong work ethic. Similarly, business leaders demonstrate discipline through strategic planning, consistent goal-setting, and dedication to their company’s mission. Both require an unwavering commitment to personal and organizational growth.

Teamwork and Collaboration

In sports, success often hinges on teamwork. Athletes must collaborate effectively with teammates, coaches, and support staff to achieve shared objectives. Business leaders also thrive on collaboration, fostering a cooperative environment where employees work together to drive the company’s success. Both roles require strong communication skills and the ability to build and maintain positive relationships.

Resilience and Adaptability

Athletes encounter challenges such as injuries, losses, and intense competition. They develop resilience by overcoming these adversities and continuously adapting their strategies. Business leaders face market fluctuations, competition, and organizational setbacks. Their ability to remain resilient and adaptable under pressure is crucial for maintaining a competitive edge.

Strategic Thinking and Problem-Solving

Athletes regularly develop game plans and adapt in real-time during competitions, honing their strategic thinking abilities. Business leaders must also think strategically, devising plans to navigate complex business landscapes and solve problems effectively. Both fields emphasize the importance of quick decision-making and tactical adjustments.

Leadership and Vision

Athletes often step into leadership roles within their teams, guiding and motivating others towards a common goal. Business leaders require a similar vision, inspiring and leading their organizations towards success. Both roles involve setting a clear direction, creating a cohesive vision, and motivating others to achieve excellence.

Goal Orientation and Achievement

Setting and achieving goals are central to both athletes and business leaders. Athletes set performance targets, aiming to break personal records or win titles. Business leaders establish organizational goals, driving towards increased market share, revenue growth, and innovation. This goal-oriented mindset ensures continuous progress and success in both arenas.

These common traits form the building blocks for athletes aspiring to transition from the field to the boardroom, leveraging their strengths to excel in business careers.

Identifying Transferable Skills: From Teamwork to Leadership

Athletes possess a plethora of transferable skills that are highly valuable in the business world. Identifying these skills is crucial for a successful transition from the field to the boardroom.


Athletes are accustomed to working in teams, understanding roles, and collaborating to achieve a common goal. This ability to function effectively within a group translates seamlessly into the corporate environment, where teamwork is essential for project success. Key aspects include:

  • Role Clarity: Knowing individual strengths and how they contribute to team dynamics.
  • Communication: Clear and consistent messaging among team members.
  • Cooperation: Willingness to support and assist colleagues to achieve objectives.


Athletes often emerge as leaders, whether formally as team captains or informally through actions. Leadership skills honed on the field include:

  1. Motivation: Encouraging and inspiring teammates to perform their best.
  2. Decision-Making: Quick and strategic thinking in high-pressure situations.
  3. Responsibility: Owning outcomes and guiding others.

Discipline and Work Ethic

The rigorous training regimens of athletes develop a strong sense of discipline and an enduring work ethic, pivotal for business professionals. Components include:

  • Consistency: Committing to regular, productive routines.
  • Resilience: Bouncing back from setbacks and persisting with determination.
  • Time Management: Prioritizing tasks and managing time effectively.


Athletes frequently adapt to changing conditions and unexpected challenges. This adaptability is beneficial in a dynamic business landscape where flexibility is key. Elements include:

  • Problem-Solving: Finding solutions under pressure.
  • Innovation: Thinking creatively to overcome obstacles.
  • Versatility: Wearing multiple hats and adjusting roles as needed.

Goal-Oriented Mindset

Goal-setting is a core component of athletic success and is equally important in business contexts. Attributes include:

  • Strategic Planning: Setting clear, attainable objectives.
  • Focus: Maintaining concentration on long-term aspirations.
  • Achievement Tracking: Measuring progress and adjusting strategies accordingly.


Athletes build extensive networks through competitions and events. This networking skill translates into business by:

  • Relationship Building: Creating and maintaining professional connections.
  • Influence: Leveraging relationships for business growth and opportunities.
  • Collaboration: Working with diverse stakeholders and clients.

Athletes transitioning to business careers will find that recognizing and articulating these skills can significantly bolster their professional journey. The innate qualities developed through sports form a robust foundation for thriving in the competitive business world.

Educational Pathways: Leveraging Athletic Scholarships and Business Degrees

Athletes can strategically use athletic scholarships to pave their way into business careers. These scholarships offer financial aid, easing the burden of educational expenses and enabling athletes to focus on acquiring essential business knowledge.

Athletic scholarships, often granted based on a student’s prowess in sports, allow athletes to attend esteemed institutions that might have otherwise been financially inaccessible. Doing so provides access to robust business programs, which are key to developing crucial skills for future career transitions. Athletes, in particular, should consider the following steps:

  1. Selecting the Right Institution:

    • Choose universities or colleges renowned for both their athletic programs and business schools.
    • Research the availability of resources, including career services, business clubs, and internship opportunities.
  2. Maximizing Scholarship Benefits:

    • Utilize scholarship funds to undertake business-related courses alongside athletic commitments.
    • Engage with faculty and peers in the business department to build a strong professional network early on.
  3. Internships and Real-world Experience:

    • Seek internships during off-seasons to gain practical experience in the business world.
    • Participate in job shadowing or mentoring programs offered by business school alumni networks.
  4. Balancing Athletics and Academics:

    • Develop time management skills to balance the demands of sports and rigorous business coursework.
    • Prioritize academic pursuits by leveraging the discipline and focus gained from sports training.
  5. Leveraging Athletic Experience in Business:

    • Highlight transferable skills such as teamwork, leadership, and strategic thinking during job interviews and on resumes.
    • Tap into alumni networks of former athletes who have transitioned into business roles.

By strategically leveraging the opportunities provided through athletic scholarships and robust business programs, athletes can effectively prepare for successful careers in the business world. Taking these steps ensures they are well-equipped with both the academic foundation and practical experience necessary to excel in their post-athletic endeavors.

Networking: Utilizing Sports Connections in the Business World

Athletes naturally cultivate a vast network throughout their careers. Leveraging these connections can be pivotal for their transition into the business world. Here are several strategies to effectively utilize sports connections:

  1. Leverage Existing Relationships:

    • Interact with former coaches, teammates, and competitors who have transitioned to business roles.
    • Seek mentorship from those who have made successful transitions.
  2. Join Professional Associations:

    • Membership in organizations such as the National Association of Professional Athletes (NAPA) can provide invaluable networking opportunities.
    • Utilize industry-specific associations to expand business-related connections.
  3. Attend Networking Events:

    • Participate in industry conferences, seminars, and workshops.
    • Engage in local business meetups that align with your career interests.
  4. Social Media Engagement:

    • Use platforms like LinkedIn for professional networking.
    • Connect with business professionals and join relevant groups for insights and opportunities.
  5. Host or Attend Charity Events:

    • Engage in charity work and fundraising events to meet influential figures in the business community.
    • Use these events to showcase leadership skills and commitment to social responsibility.
  6. Collaborate on Projects:

    • Partner with former athletes on business ventures or community projects.
    • Collaborate with connections on ventures aligning with mutual interests and strengths.
  7. Utilize University Alumni Networks:

    • Stay involved with alma mater to reconnect with former classmates, many of whom may hold influential business positions.
    • Participate in alumni association events and leverage university resources for career advancement.
  8. Seek Advisory Roles:

    • Offer sports expertise to business leaders interested in understanding athletic principles, such as team dynamics and leadership.
    • Use advisory positions to build credibility and expand networks.
  9. Engage in Public Speaking:

    • Share experiences at business schools, seminars, and corporate events.
    • Develop a reputation as a thought leader to attract business opportunities.
  10. Mentoring:

    • Mentor younger athletes, fostering relationships that can lead to future business collaborations.
    • Volunteer for mentoring programs through sports organizations or non-profits.

The key to progressing from sports to business lies in the strategic exploitation of the connections athletes have nurtured. Each contact holds potential as a bridge to fruitful business opportunities.

Personal Branding: Building a Marketable Image Off the Field

When transitioning from the field to the boardroom, athletes must harness their personal branding to create a marketable image that resonates with the business community. Personal branding distills an individual’s identity, aligning it with audience perceptions and expectations. For athletes, this means leveraging their experiences, values, and unique narratives effectively.

Define the Brand

Athletes should clearly define their brand by:

  • Understanding their strengths, passions, and values.
  • Identifying their target audience in the business world.
  • Crafting a mission statement that encapsulates their brand essence.

Leveraging Digital Platforms

Digital presence plays a critical role in personal branding. Athletes must:

  • Maintain an active presence on social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.
  • Share content that highlights their transition journey, industry insights, and personal milestones.
  • Engage with followers authentically, building a loyal community.

Networking and Public Speaking

Networking enhances visibility and establishes authority. Effective strategies include:

  • Attending industry conferences, seminars, and networking events.
  • Connecting with influential business leaders and mentors.
  • Participating in speaking engagements, podcasts, and panel discussions.

Showcasing Transferable Skills

Athletes possess a wealth of transferable skills valuable to business, such as:

  • Leadership and teamwork honed on the field.
  • Discipline and time management.
  • Resilience and adaptability.

Media Training

Media training is essential to ensure athletes communicate their brand effectively. This includes:

  • Mastering public speaking and interview techniques.
  • Crafting compelling narratives for media appearances.
  • Handling challenging questions with poise.

Consistency and Authenticity

Consistency reinforces credibility while authenticity builds trust. Athletes must:

  • Ensure their messaging aligns across all platforms and interactions.
  • Be genuine and personable, sharing both successes and challenges.
  • Regularly evaluate and refine their branding strategies.

Monitoring and Evaluation

Ongoing monitoring and evaluation help athletes measure their brand’s impact. This involves:

  • Using analytics tools to track engagement and reach.
  • Soliciting feedback from peers and mentors.
  • Adjusting strategies based on insights gained.

By thoughtfully developing their personal brand, athletes can create a marketable image that not only facilitates their business endeavors but also resonates with their audience long after their athletic careers end.

Mentorship and Coaching: Seeking Guidance for Business Success

The transition from sports to business requires adaptability, resilience, and the acquisition of new skills. Mentorship and coaching play a crucial role in this process, providing former athletes with the guidance needed to navigate the complexities of the corporate world.

The Value of Mentorship

Successful business professionals often emphasize the importance of mentorship in their careers. For athletes, mentorship offers several benefits:

  • Personalized Guidance: Mentors provide tailored advice and share their experiences, helping former athletes understand industry-specific challenges.
  • Network Expansion: Mentors can introduce athletes to key industry contacts, broadening their professional network and opening doors to new opportunities.
  • Objective Feedback: Constructive criticism from a mentor enables athletes to identify and address business weaknesses, fostering continuous improvement.

The Role of Coaching

While mentorship is invaluable, professional coaching offers a structured approach to skill development. Coaches help athletes translate their sports mindset into business acumen by focusing on:

  • Goal Setting: Coaches assist in establishing clear, achievable business goals, mirroring the goal-setting strategies used in sports.
  • Skill Development: Emphasis on improving leadership, communication, and strategic thinking to succeed in business.
  • Performance Monitoring: Regular assessments and adjustments to ensure progress aligns with business objectives.

Finding the Right Mentor or Coach

Selecting the right mentor or coach is pivotal. Several factors should be considered:

  1. Experience: Look for mentors or coaches with a proven track record in the desired business field.
  2. Compatibility: Ensure a good personal fit to foster a trusting, productive relationship.
  3. Availability: Assess their commitment and willingness to allocate sufficient time and resources.

Leveraging Industry Resources

Athletes can leverage several resources to connect with potential mentors or coaches:

  • Professional Organizations: Industry-specific associations often offer mentorship programs and networking events.
  • Educational Institutions: Business schools and executive education programs frequently provide access to seasoned mentors and coaches.
  • Online Platforms: Use LinkedIn and other professional networks to identify and reach out to experienced professionals.

Making the Most of Mentorship and Coaching

To maximize the benefits of mentorship and coaching, athletes should:

  • Prepare thoroughly for each interaction.
  • Be receptive to feedback and ready to implement suggestions.
  • Regularly review and adjust goals based on mentor or coach input.

Mentorship and coaching are instrumental in helping athletes successfully navigate their transition to business careers, providing essential tools and support for ongoing growth and success.

Overcoming Challenges: Addressing Common Obstacles in Transition

Transitioning from a career in athletics to one in the business world is fraught with unique challenges. Athletes must navigate these obstacles to achieve success. Identifying these common hurdles and implementing strategies to address them is crucial.

Identity and Purpose

Athletes often struggle with a loss of identity upon retiring from sports. The intense focus on their athletic career can make them question their purpose outside the field. Tools to address this include:

  • Self-reflection: Encouraging athletes to explore their interests and passions beyond sports.
  • Career counseling: Professional advice can help identify transferable skills and potential career paths.
  • Mentorship: Connecting with former athletes who have successfully transitioned can provide guidance and support.

Skill Translation

Understanding how athletic skills translate to business is another major challenge. Athletes possess many valuable skills, such as:

  • Teamwork: The ability to work effectively within a team.
  • Discipline: Consistent dedication to goals.
  • Resilience: Overcoming setbacks and adversity.

Providing targeted training can help athletes articulate these skills in a business context.

Education and Experience Gaps

Many athletes may lack formal education or work experience outside of their sports career. Solutions to mitigate this include:

  • Continued education: Encouraging enrollment in business courses or certification programs.
  • Internships: Offering opportunities to gain real-world business experience.
  • Networking: Building robust networks within the business community to open doors for opportunities.

Financial Management

Managing finances post-retirement is critical, as many athletes face financial instability due to poor money management skills. Strategies to counter this are:

  • Financial literacy programs: Education on budgeting, investing, and saving.
  • Professional financial advice: Access to advisors who specialize in managing the transition from an athletic salary to a typical income.

Emotional and Mental Health

The psychological impact of transitioning can be overwhelming. Employing measures to support emotional well-being is essential:

  • Counseling services: Providing access to mental health professionals.
  • Support groups: Creating communities where athletes can share experiences and coping strategies.
  • Stress management: Teaching techniques such as mindfulness and meditation to handle stress effectively.

By acknowledging and proactively addressing these common obstacles, athletes can emerge as successful business professionals, leveraging their unique attributes for sustained success.

Financial Management: From Athlete Earnings to Business Investments

Athletes often accumulate substantial earnings over the course of their careers, but ensuring long-term financial stability requires more than just high income. Effective financial management is crucial to transitioning from athletic success to successful business ventures. Several key principles should be considered.

Diversification of Investments

Athletes must avoid putting all their earnings into a single investment. Diversifying investments can spread risk and increase the potential for steady returns.

  • Stocks: Investing in both blue-chip and growth stocks can provide both stability and potential for high returns.
  • Real Estate: Maintaining a portfolio of properties can offer a mix of income through rentals and value appreciation.
  • Start-ups: Engaging in equity investments in new, innovative companies can yield significant returns if these businesses succeed.

Financial Education and Advisors

Understanding financial markets and business intricacies is vital. Seeking guidance from seasoned financial advisors can provide athletes with tailored strategies.

“An informed decision makes a wealth of difference,” as financial guru Warren Buffett emphasizes.

  • Workshops and Courses: Attending seminars and taking courses on financial literacy can empower athletes to make informed investment choices.
  • Financial Advisors: Hiring advisors with expertise in wealth management can help athletes navigate complex investment landscapes.

Creating a Financial Plan

A comprehensive financial plan, complete with short-term and long-term goals, allows athletes to direct their earnings effectively.

  • Budgeting: Establishing a clear budget helps athletes avoid unnecessary expenditures and save for future investments.
  • Emergency Fund: Setting aside funds for emergencies ensures that unforeseen events do not derail financial stability.
  • Retirement Planning: Investing in retirement accounts and pensions provides long-term security.

Philanthropy and Giving Back

Engaging in philanthropic activities not only benefits the community but also can offer tax benefits and public relations advantages.

  • Charitable Donations: Regular donations to trustworthy charities can yield tax deductions, impacting the overall financial plan positively.
  • Foundations: Creating personal foundations allows athletes to support causes meaningful to them while managing their public image thoughtfully.

Leveraging Personal Brand

Athletes can capitalize on their brand to forge lucrative business investments.

  • Endorsements: Utilizing their public profile to secure endorsement deals can create additional revenue streams.
  • Public Speaking: Speaking engagements and appearances can provide both income and networking opportunities.

In sum, transitioning from athlete earnings to business investments requires strategic planning, informed decision-making, and a dynamic financial approach. By diversifying investments, consulting advisors, and leveraging their brands, athletes can ensure sustained financial success and stability.

Entrepreneurial Ventures: Case Studies of Athletes Turned Business Owners

Transitioning from sports to business is no small feat. Several athletes have not only embraced this challenge but also thrived in their entrepreneurial ventures. This section explores notable case studies of athletes who built successful businesses.

Michael Jordan: Air Jordan Brand

Michael Jordan redefined sports-market synergy by collaborating with Nike to create the Air Jordan brand. Instead of merely endorsing a product, he co-launched a whole segment within an existing enterprise. This partnership has generated billions, showcasing how personal branding can turn into a lucrative business.

Magic Johnson: Magic Johnson Enterprises

Magic Johnson’s vision extended beyond basketball when he established Magic Johnson Enterprises. Initially investing in movie theaters and cafes in underserved areas, he focused on rejuvenating urban communities. Through strategic expansions, his company has grown impressively, encompassing various sectors, including real estate.

Serena Williams: Serena Ventures

Serena Williams channeled her excellence from the tennis court to the venture capital world with Serena Ventures. The firm focuses on investing in companies that embrace diverse leadership. By 2019, it had already invested in over 30 businesses, particularly tech startups, amplifying her influence beyond sports.

Shaquille O’Neal: Big Chicken and More

Shaquille O’Neal diversified his endeavors by opening Big Chicken, a fast-food chain capitalizing on his branded persona. Additionally, he made strategic investments in various franchises, including Papa John’s. His business acumen spans multiple markets, demonstrating adaptability and foresight.

David Beckham: DB Ventures

David Beckham’s transition from soccer star to savvy entrepreneur involved the formation of DB Ventures. Initially focused on endorsements and licensing, the company has evolved, branching into new business avenues. Beckham has notably invested in the MLS with Inter Miami CF, showcasing his strategic foresight.

These case studies not only highlight individual successes but also illustrate the diverse routes available for athletes transitioning to the business world. They serve as valuable blueprints for leveraging one’s unique platform for entrepreneurial success.

Conclusion: Actionable Steps for Athletes to Start Their Business Careers

Athletes stepping into business careers must adopt a strategic approach. The transition demands clear, focused actions to harness their unique skills and experiences. Here, actionable steps are outlined to guide athletes through this significant career shift.

  1. Identify Transferable Skills:

    • Recognize leadership, teamwork, and discipline as key strengths.
    • Highlight problem-solving abilities gained from competition.
  2. Education and Training:

    • Enroll in business courses or earn a degree in business management.
    • Participate in workshops, seminars, and online courses to build business acumen.
  3. Network Building:

    • Leverage existing sports connections to enter the business world.
    • Attend industry conferences and join business groups for networking opportunities.
  4. Seek Mentorship:

    • Find mentors with business experience to provide guidance and support.
    • Join athlete entrepreneurship programs facilitated by sports organizations.
  5. Develop a Business Plan:

    • Conduct market research to identify viable business opportunities.
    • Outline a comprehensive business plan covering goals, strategies, and financial projections.
  6. Gain Practical Experience:

    • Intern or volunteer with businesses to gain hands-on experience.
    • Work in various roles to understand different aspects of business operations.
  7. Financial Management:

    • Engage financial advisors for budgeting, investment, and growth strategies.
    • Understand the basics of accounting, financial statements, and investment options.
  8. Brand Building:

    • Use personal branding techniques to establish credibility in the business market.
    • Leverage social media to expand reach and promote business ventures.
  9. Adaptability and Resilience:

    • Embrace the challenges and uncertainties inherent in business.
    • Apply the resilience from sports to overcome business obstacles.
  10. Legal and Compliance Knowledge:

    • Familiarize with legal requirements and compliance issues affecting businesses.
    • Consult with legal experts to ensure all business activities meet regulatory standards.
  11. Continuous Learning:

    • Stay updated with industry trends and emerging technologies.
    • Pursue ongoing education to keep skills relevant and competitive.

By systematically applying these steps, athletes can effectively bridge the gap between their sports careers and the business world, ensuring a successful transition to the boardroom.