The world of sport is a multi billion pound business and the conveyor belt of players, coaches, managers and trainers is never ending. However, being a professional sports person is a relatively short career choice, with many retiring from their associated sports in their mid to late thirties. Compare this to a ‘normal’ nine to five job and it equates to near half the time a mere mortal is likely to spend in the work place. So, the question is, after they have retired, what do they do exactly?
An obvious choice for most is to stay connected with their sport and occupy a role in either coaching or management. Over the years each respected sports person will of built up a wealth of knowledge in their discipline and it’s this knowledge that they feel can be passed down to the next generation of athletes.
One of, if not the, most successful football managers of all time, Sir Alex Ferguson, followed up his professional playing career with a management role at East Stirlingshire in Scotland. Following this he took up the reins at St Miren before hitting the headlines at Aberdeen by winning the European Cup. This remarkable feat saw a switch to Manchester United for Ferguson who has been there for the past 25 years winning every cup possible in his time at Old Trafford.
It’s likely if you looked through the coaches and management staff of most of the major sporting clubs and governing bodies across the UK, that most (if not all) will have played or been involved with a professional outfit during the peak of their career. The seamless changeover to pass on a wealth of knowledge is an obvious choice for most.
However, coaching or management isn’t always the preferred choice for ex professional athletes.
A slightly more relaxed role can come from that of working in the media after a sports persons playing career. Taking the media route gives players the freedom to enjoy life, whilst also keeping a keen interest in their chose sports.
Many punditry benches on our television sets are packed with former professionals from the sport offering their views and opinions to the public. Organisations such as ITV, BBC and BSkyB have seen fit to make sure that some of the best ex-professionals are associated with their brand, while paying big money to do so.
You’ll be hard pushed to watch a cricket match, listen to a football game or view any sport for that matter without their being a professional of yester year casting their ever trained eye over proceedings whilst offering up opinions and criticism that they maybe couldn’t have gotten away with as a player.
Robbie Savage has had an illustrious career as a footballer playing over 600 league games for various clubs, he took the decision to retire in the summer of 2011. He’s taken it upon himself to enter the next stage of his life to work with the media and recently won the Sony Rising Star Award for his popular work on BBC’s Radio 5 Live show, 606.
For past players who have excelled for many years in their respected sports, a route they may choose is to become an ambassador of that sport. The role requires only the highest profile sports men and women as they showcase their sport to the world.
One of the biggest names in sport today is that of Lord Coe who became the figure head of the London 2012 Olympic bid. Lord Coe and his team did a remarkable job to bring the games to London alongside a host of other high profile ambassadors of their sport including David Beckham (football), Dame Kelly Holmes (athletics) and Sir Steve Redgrave (athletics).
Whilst an ambassador won’t be on your TV every other weekend presenting and wont constantly be on your favourite radio station talking about sport, they will often make the high profile appearances and be the face behind their respected sport.
With the ever rising popularity of sport on television these days, the need for high class punditry and commentary is there for all to see. The in depth knowledge and expertise that an ex professional sports man or woman would offer to the average Joe public is simply priceless for any broadcasting corporation.
The scale of past players taking up the commentary reigns vastly differs from sport to sport. Sky Sports’ cricket commentary team is made up almost entirely of past players, all of which have some of the highest pedigrees in the game. The likes of Michael Atherton, Nasser Hussain, Bob Willis and Geoffrey Boycott have all played cricket at the highest level and their insight into the game is simply astounding.
However, cricket is out there on its own when it comes to the amount of ex players in their commentary booth. Whilst past players do commentate on other sports, it’s likely that there is at least one ‘anchor’ who has not been a part of that sport in a professional role.
Whilst all of the above career directions are dream jobs for most, including that of players past and present, for some it’s simply either not offered or not wanted. Players who have been unable to make it to the very top of their sport and missed out on the ‘big money’ may be forced into going back to (or start) full time employment.
The short lifespan of a sportsman’s playing days, as we have mentioned, mean that careers can be short lived. Even with the amount of money players can earn from the game at a mediocre level, might not be enough to see some people through the rest of their life.
A shining example of this comes in the form of ex Blackburn and Middlesbrough midfielder, Stuart Ripley. Ripley enjoyed a good career which included a league winner’s medal with Blackburn rovers in the Premier League. However, after he retired (whilst studying at the end of his playing career) Ripley decided to enter into the world of Soliciting and currently works for a small firm in Middlesbrough.
For anyone who has played at a professional standard in their respected sport, it’s clear that the door, even after they retire, is wide open to the prospects of the ‘real world’. They are part of the lucky few who possess a great talent and are duly rewarded with an often long and illustrious ‘retirement’ as a result.