10 reasons why businesses should hire former athletes

Determined to make a memorable return to the tennis court at the next Necker Cup, I have enlisted the help of former top doubles player James Cluskey. We have been hitting it out at 6am each morning to strengthen the areas of my game that need work. I have been really enjoying our sessions together. I’m not just improving; we’ve also been having some great chats about business and sports.

Having recently retired, James is in the process of starting his own business – however it hasn’t been easy. Like many other retired athletes, he has experienced some testing emotions and challenges.

Boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard was famously quoted to say, “Nothing could satisfy me outside the ring… there is nothing in life that can compare to becoming a world champion, having your hand raised in that moment of glory, with thousands, millions of people cheering you on.” James explained to me that this feeling isn’t uncommon, and sadly many ex-athletes develop a loss of identity and tunnel vision, which often leads to depression.

But this is something that could be combatted if these athletes were given a sense of purpose outside of sport – and I, like James, think that the perfect place to find this purpose is in business. I believe that athletes often make great business people; which is good because in elite-level sport, the time period for success is short, and retirement is long.

Here are 10 reasons why I think athletes make great business people, and why companies should employ them…


1)            are goal driven and achievement orientated

2)            learn from failure, quickly

3)            are always developing new skills

4)            take direction well

5)            work well with partners

6)            are resilient

7)            are strong communicators

8)            manage their time well

9)            have grit

10)          know what it’s like to be part of a team

Richard Branson and the Virgin Sport team in New York

Life after sport can be a challenging time, but it needn’t be. It’s a wonderful opportunity for reinvention. The discipline and determination it takes to compete as a professional sportsperson is not unlike what it takes to be an entrepreneur. A lot of things learned through sport are transferable into other aspects of life. I certainly found that the skills I’ve acquired playing tennis, kitesurfing and other sports have been beneficial to my business career. It’s no surprise Virgin has created so many sporting businesses too, from Virgin Active to Virgin Sport.

I believe that athletes have a wonderful advantage to succeed in the professional world after retirement, so long as they treat business like sport – follow their passions, keep an open mind to new opportunities, and refuse to take no for an answer. I was interested to hear of a new online community called LAPS set up to help sportspersons build careers after their first career ends.

If you’re an athlete wondering what move you should make next, you may just find a business opportunity is just as rewarding as your sporting career.

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