When the race is over: What do athletes do once they retire?

They've raced their final race, so how do these committed, ambitious, high achievers spend their time once they’ve retired from their beloved sports? And with a recent American study reporting that between 60% – 80% of all professional athletes find themselves in financial difficulty five years from retirement, it is important for athletes to have a solid post-retirement career plan. Here Banzai take a look at some of the post-retirement careers for professional athletes.

Coaching

Coaching is a logical new step for recently retired athlete. Having been through the highs and lows of their own training they are well placed to know how to train and motivate others. Australia’s most famous marathon runner, Robert de Castella, is still actively coaching people, including the recent group of Indigenous Australians who completed the NY marathon. Fellow marathon runner, Steve Monaghetti, also coaches and was recently the Chef-de-Mission for the entire Australian team at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi.

Media

Johanna Griggs has combined sports commentating with lifestyle show hosting. Photo by Getty Images
Johanna Griggs has combined sports commentating with lifestyle show hosting. Photo by Getty Images

Another obvious career choice is to move into the media. Today’s athletes have been through rigorous media training to learn how to cope with the current media landscape, so those who enjoy the media spotlight are well placed to move into a presenting role. Often this will be in the form of sports commentating, like former Commonwealth Games swimmer, Johanna Griggs who has enjoyed a long career in front of the camera, reporting on the Olympics as well as moving across into lifestyle show hosting.

Another swimming champ, Hayley Lewis, also found a new career on TV; she was this year’s host of ‘The Biggest Loser’ and has been an ambassador for Jenny Craig. Surfing great, Mark Occhilupo, found success presenting on adventure channel, Fuel TV.

The motivational speaking circuit is a lucrative post-retirement career. Stephen Bradbury, Australia’s first Winter Olympic Gold medal winner for speed skating – also known as ‘The Last Man Standing’ – has been very active on the speaking circuit since his miraculous win. A fellow winter Olympian, Jacqui Cooper, may not be a household name, however she is an aerial skiier and the first Australian to represent Australia in five winter Olympics. She is very active on the speaking circuit.

Business Empires

Greg Norman has converted his fame into fortune with a plethora of business ventures. Photo by Getty Images
Greg Norman has converted his fame into fortune with a plethora of business ventures. Photo by Getty Images

Those who have built a name synonymous with excellence and achievement may find themselves in the enviable position whereby just attaching their name to a product can lead to a lucrative income stream. Greg Norman is definitely one person who took advantage of their fame and success. Under the header of ‘Great White Shark Enterprises’ Norman has more pies than fingers to put in them.

His business investments run from Golf Course Design, restaurants, a turf company, real estate development and a wine estate. His recent run-in with the Australian tax department aside, he has very successfully capitalised on his name and reputation.

Aussie Ironman, Guy Leech, has invested in the Australian Ironman series in an attempt to bring the sport back to its former glory. He also has his own range of treadmills, runs his own fitness sessions and writes about nutrition and keeping fit. Leech has chosen to revolve his business interests around his field of expertise which has no doubt added to his success.

Other athletes have been known to take a different approach. Ian Thorpe has his own jewelry and underwear line, George Foreman has his eponymous grill and Serena and Venus Williams put their name to a short-lived oxygen enriched water called ‘SerVen Rich’

Charity

Layne Beachley at the press launch of the Beachley Classic earlier this year. Photo by Getty Images
Layne Beachley at the press launch of the Beachley Classic earlier this year. Photo by Getty Images

Sports personalities have long used their fame to highlight causes that are close to their hearts. In most cases they will become an ambassador for a charity, lending their fame and credibility to the cause. However, on some occasions celebrities will set up their own charities, such as 10 times World Champion surfer, Kelly Slater, whose foundation aims to raise awareness for social and environmentally aware charities. Australian surfing great, Layne Beachley, has her own ‘Aim for the Stars” charity which aims to “inspire girls and women across Australia to dream and achieve”. Banzai Expert Blogger, Caroline Buchanan, received one of the 2010 grants from Beachley’s charity, which she plans to use to help fund her travel to international MTB and BMX events.

Who do you think has had the most successful career transformation after retiring as a professional athlete?

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