Who hasn't envied the professional athlete? And what sports fan hasn't fantasized about rounding third base, heading for home to win the World Series, or sinking the tournament-winning putt? For must of us, those dreams remain just that, and we end up in more prosaic jobs, with retirement coming after perhaps 40 years of work.
For those with the talent, dedication, and luck to make that dream a reality, the life of a professional athlete can be on par with that of a rock star or Hollywood heavyweight. But even the most successful athlete has to face the reality of retirement—and much sooner than someone in a less glamorous field.
After all, their careers move at a much quicker pace, and a 20-year stint is considered a long one in most sports. Throw in the uncertainty of retaining a roster spot and the chance of serious injury, and you've got a recipe for job insecurity. So what happens when there are no games left to be played or matches to win?
From Playing Field to Other Pursuits
Of course, there are some professional athletes who, after enjoying careers of unparalleled brightness, never have to worry about money or status again. Their money-making ability is linked to their name—not their continued athletic prowess. Think Michael Jordan or Wayne Gretzky. And it's unlikely a star of Tiger Woods's caliber will have to worry about an income stream should he ever retire from playing professional golf.
For some, the high-profile world of sports serves as a steppingstone to another high-profile gig. Arnold Schwarzenegger parlayed his fame as a world-champion bodybuilder into a career as a movie star, which in turn paved the way for the Terminator to become the Governator.
International cricket star Imran Khan, after retiring as captain of Pakistan's national team, turned to philanthropy and then politics. Just-retired National Football League running back Tiki Barber is rumored to be looking at a job in television.
Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong used his sports success to pursue his other passion while he was still actively racing. A cancer survivor, Armstrong used his celebrity to raise awareness—and funds—for cancer research. His bright yellow LIVESTRONG wristbands became as much a fashion statement as a sign of support, and helped spawn a whole industry of cause-related, colored wristlets while raising some $60 million.
Helping Athletes Make the Transition
But not all athletes are that lucky. Take Adrian McBride. He played college football at the University of Tennessee in 1981 and the University of Missouri from 1982-85. After college, he spent two years in the NFL, playing sparingly for the Cleveland Browns in 1986 and the St. Louis Cardinals in 1987.
With his future clearly not in professional athletics, McBride decided to become a career counselor and founded Life After Sports with his wife, Julie Dorn-McBride, a former All-American gymnast at the University of Missouri. Together they use their practical knowledge from the world of big-time athletics to help current and former athletes navigate the potentially bumpy path from the college and professional ranks to the real world.
Not every retired professional athlete chooses a second career out of necessity, or mourns the passing of their playing days, even though the countless hours on the road can leave little time for a life beyond sports. Retirement gave former Cy Young Award-winning pitcher Jack McDowell the chance to explore music. Between 1995 and 2003, his rock band, Stickfigure, released four albums.
While there are numerous former athletes who have remained close to their professions, either as coaches, broadcasters, or agents, many have branched out and tried their hand at something new. Take a look at what some former athletes are doing for their second careers.
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