By Aaron Tyson
The transition from an elite athletic figure to one's life beyond sports can present its challenges.
Many are welcomed into professional athletics with open arms and a traveling fan base that can be traced back as far as sixth-grade. The drafted players are instantly identified as icons and hometown heroes — or better yet celebrities in today’s digital world. Even those who are undrafted are celebrated, having reached a level of playing competition that only a small percentage of collegiate athletes are able to achieve.
According to the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association), out of the 480,000 participating collegiate athletes, only a select few have the opportunity to play professionally:
● Men’s Basketball- 1.1%
● Women’s Basketball- 0.9%
● Football- 1.5%
● Men’s Ice Hockey- 5.6%
● Men’s Soccer- 1.4%
Although the transition from college to the pros is seemingly different (athletes are paid), they also share common themes.
Beyond the Sport
There is a firm need for guidance and effective educational resources to prepare athletes for life after sports. Those who are aware of the potential struggles, whether it is a collegiate or professional athlete, usually have the ability to adapt and have a smoother transition away from the game. For many, sports has served as a career for the majority of their lives, not leaving much allotted time for a ‘real job’ to build a professional resume.
The onerous commitment student-athletes make to their respected programs is essentially a full-time job within itself. The rigorous schedule of a Division 1 basketball program looks something like this during the week:
6am - 7am- Workout/treatment
7:15am- 8am - Eat (some go back to sleep before class)
8am - 11am- Classes
11:15am - 2pm- Lunch, individual film sessions
2:30pm - 4:30pm- Practice
4:45pm - 5:45pm- Dinner
6pm- Team Meeting/Team Film
7pm- Study hall
Schedules vary depending on the program, but this is a general structure of what the average day is like for a Division 1 athlete.
As you can see, there is very little, if any, room to focus on building their resume to prepare for life after sports—especially for those who aren’t called to compete professionally. The NCAA has rules in place to govern outside employment and internships for athletes, prohibiting any potential career building opportunities during the season. However, athletes are allowed to work in the summer, but must get permission from the school and the NCAA first. Once approved, the student-athlete and their employer are required to fill out paperwork verifying that the student-athlete is actually working.
Although, most collegiate athletic departments have Life Skills Departments in place to provide resources to prepare student-athletes for post-graduation, very few are unable to take full advantage of the resources and opportunities it provides due to their demanding schedules.
This is where the post-career athlete employment gap begins.
Professional athletes, as stated before, are viewed as icons and celebrities to their fans. Financially rewarded with enough cash where life after sports isn’t even contemplated. The underlying reality is how long will all this last?
On average, the National Football League loses about 450 players each year, due to injury, waived, cut, released, retirement, etc. On top of that, the average lifespan for an NFL player is 3-4 years.
Many of those athletes stem from those large Division 1 football factories that produce NFL talent; under the same rigorous schedule that left little to know time for professional development. When careers are ended sooner than expected, those young men, who entered the NFL, are now grown men with families and children to provide for. Professional work experience is at a minimum and ‘Professional Athlete’ on their resume is only going to get them but so far with human resources without any relative skills to the position they are applying for.
The NFL offers resources such as the Rookie Transition Program that introduces rookies to the NFL and the available resources to prepare for life after sports. Each club has a Player Engagement Director that is responsible for guiding current and former players through their off the field involvement and setting them up for post-career opportunities.
Transitioning away from sports can present struggles, but it can be rewarding when properly guided and educated on how to prepare for a successful career away from the game.
To be continued….
About Aaron Tyson
Aaron Tyson is the founder of VCG Sports. Prior to VCG Sports, he accumulated a diverse background in the sports industry having worked with organizations such as the NFL League Office, New York Giants, Philadlephia Phillies, MEAC Conference Office, and the Philadelphia Soul. He also received an Executive Certification in Sports Philanthropy from George Washington University.
About VCG Sports
VCG Sports focuses on providing high-quality career and business development services for athletes on the collegiate and professional level, as well as highligting their achievements and involvement outside of their playing careers. We value the importance of personal interaction and take pride in building long-term relationships with the athletes we serve. Our services are cultivated around creating value and preparing athletes for life after sports.
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