As an athlete, much of your energy is spent on performing and fitness, making sure you’re at the top of your game. Making sure you hit every rep, meet beep-test timelines, and execute your plan on the field, pitch, or court. Even through all of your hard work, discipline, and sacrifice, there is a daunting, underlying fear that remains: one day, this will all be over.
While athletes have spent hundreds, even thousands of hours perfecting their craft, many feel like once it’s all over, they’re unprepared for the “real world,” and panic when it comes to their next professional opportunity. Due to their anxiety and/or fear, many don’t capitalize on the many opportunities that can help you build skills, and make money to help set yourself up for future success.
At Uru Sports, we see that happen with many of our athletes – whether you’re finishing a college athletic career, aiming to continue playing post-collegiately, or even if you are currently playing overseas. There’s a global feeling of under-preparedness for what’s next. In this article, we aim to unpack some of those emotions, and provide avenues to help you make some moo-lah while playing the sport you love, and prepare you for life after athletics.
Inside the World of Hockey
How many years have you played hockey? Have that number in mind? Now think about when you first started playing, how much you did NOT know, and what you wish you could have known. BOOM. Right there, you have enough value and skills to be a wonderful coach. Many club programs are looking for older players to coach the younger teams, and share their knowledge and experience. As an experienced player, and especially from coming from abroad, you can provide a lot of value to other teams, while making money doing so.
Along with coaching, there are often umpiring options to look into to make extra money as well. Ultimately, coaching and umpiring are great ways to give back to your club, while also providing additional sources of income, on something you already love to do.
There are many opportunities to get involved with your club, even beyond the coaching and umpiring capacity. Many programs need assistance on the business and administration side, or have contacts to other corporations and would gladly connect one of their members to opportunities. In Holland, HC Bloemendaal even has a group called “The Angels,” that helps players find job opportunities in their local area. In the hockey world, people want to see you succeed, and are willing to help. Don’t be afraid to ask what opportunities may be available to you.
Lastly, if you’re looking to branch out of the club scene, but want to stay in the sports realm, think about sports brands you like, or even who you may be sponsored by. Retail brands, especially ones you know, may bring you on board to be a paid brand ambassador, regional distributor, or find another corporate position for you. They frequently look for people with experience in the product line, and your sports network is very valuable to them. Companies like Gryphon, Osaka, Adidas, and TK Hockey have all hired current and former athletes.
Outside of the World of Hockey
While the top tiered athletes may have the opportunity to earn a living wage, there are many players who want to continue playing for the love of the game, but also make money doing so. To those people: IT IS POSSIBLE. Outside of the sports realm, there are also MANY steps you can take to set yourself up for success, and to make money. We’ve divided up potential options into categories that may be interesting to you: Continued Education, Marketing, Digital, Side-Hustles, Entrepreneurship, and Network/Volunteering.
If you have recently received an undergraduate degree, or masters degree, this may not pertain to you. Still, if you’re interested in continued education and learning new skills in industries/categories you want to know more about, here are a few resources for you:
- Skillshare: Learn specific tools to add to your repertoire. It has anything from how to “brew an amazing cup of coffee” to graphic illustration courses (think Photoshop and Illustrator), photography, and even building ecommerce websites.
- edX: Universities worldwide have courses posted online in all subject matters. Audit a course for free, or pay a significantly discounted price for a course at a top university. Gain “Micro-Masters” from universities, and gain skills in something you’re looking to achieve down the road. Anything from chemistry to brand marketing, you can find a program that works for you and complete it on your own time, remotely.
- Master’s Degrees: If you’re passionate about getting a graduate degree in your field, there are university teams around the world that provide scholarships for players to play hockey and get their degree. This may be an option for you, and give you a chance to save a lot of money while you are furthering your education as well. If you’re interested in this route, Uru can help you find the perfect program for you.
Have you always been drawn to marketing roles? Do you have a fascination with promoting a company, developing their brand, and learning how they can grow based on their social media, advertising, research, blog, and web-based tools? Finding a role in marketing may be perfect for you. Marketing roles are often able to be completed remotely, and freelancers now have a competitive advantage from the quarantined state of the world…
- Graphic Design: Like Skillshare, there are sites and even YouTube videos offering free lessons on enhancing your design skills. There are also tools on how to best build your portfolio to showcase your work to future employers. Many Graphic Design roles can be in a freelance or contract capacity, so it can work with your ever-changing sports schedule.
- Certifications to boost your applications: When searching for your dream Marketing career, keep an eye on the application process, and what platforms or certifications come up the most frequently. Having these skills may help you stand out from the crowd. Certifications like Google Analytics, Google Ads, and Hubspot, are all frequently mentioned and valuable to the world or Marketing.
- Upwork: Already have the degrees and skills you need in the marketing world? Post your skills and hourly rate to Upwork, and get hired by companies around the world to complete services and freelance-based projects.
Developers and coding is related to marketing, in which all actions are aimed to help promote the growth of a business. If you’re more interested in creating the platforms to make a company a success, then coding and back-end roles may be a good fit for you. There are many opportunities for you to learn how to code and work on how you make online platforms beautiful. Coding is a great industry for global athletes to get involved in, as it typically pays very well, there are many freelance opportunities, and you can often do it on your own time and remotely. To learn about options you have to learn:
- Galvanize: Coworking spaces, like Galvanize, in the USA also offer Online Software Engineering & Data Science Bootcamps where you can become a master
- General Assembly: Focusing on tech and business, General Assembly also has great courses for you to enhance your coding, programming, UX, etc. skills. If you already have the necessary skills and experience in this industry, the company also hires teachers to instruct lessons (and get paid for their services). This is a great, fully remote way to learn and even have the opportunity to make some money.
Let’s be real – there are things you enjoy more than others. Staring at a computer all day and dealing with analytics or code may totally be your jam. There’s also a chance you’d rather run 50 miles than have a traditional office job. We’re here to say that is fine too. While on your quest to enjoy playing sports around the world, you may not want a conventional office job, Or, you could just want to find a way to use your current skills and experience as a side-hustle to make additional spending money. If this is you, here are a few options below:
- Airbnb: Airbnb has been popularly known for providing supplemental income to home-owners for the past decade. While this is a good option, if you don’t own your residence, or aren’t able to share your home, there is a new feature to the site: Experiences. As an athlete who loves to travel, explore the city you live in, and meet new people, signing up to be a guide may be a perfect fit. Give city tours, bar hops, food tours, even see if there are any sports-related activities you could provide as an additional value-add for the clients.
- Language Tutor: If you’re living in another city, especially one where English is not the native language, there is a high value placed on English tutors. It is also a very flexible job that can work around your training schedule. During quarantine times, to move teaching online, there are online resources to register as a teacher, like italki. This could also be a great time for you to learn a new language as well, using Babbel.
- Part-time roles: The thing about side hustles, is that they can be a fun way for you to get experience in another industry you wouldn’t normally think of. Want to drive Uber? Sure. Work as a host or hostess in that fun new restaurant around the corner – do it! Learn to steam the perfect espresso as a barista? Why not! Find a company hiring part-time corporate role? Sign me up! These roles are perfect for the traveling athlete since they have flexible schedules, may have benefits, and you can meet new people in your local area. It’s also a great way to boost social skills and public speaking to prepare you for the next step. Be prepared to put in some time up front for training, then you’ll be on your way.
Our own founder, Ainsley McCallister, lived the life of an import – traveling to various countries and playing for multiple club programs. During her downtime, she was noticing how people from her old US university were reaching out to her to learn what it was really like to play abroad, and how they can figure out how to find their next hockey move. Thus, she began to create Uru Sports while still playing in Australia. In her words: “To be honest, I never planned on starting a business. After playing and coaching worldwide, I realized there was a problem to solve in the world of sports recruiting, and the rest took flight organically.” After years of development, accelerator programs, and community engagement, Uru Sports has built a community of thousands of hockey athletes from 28 different countries with the goal of helping members find their next competing opportunity, and learning about what’s out there in the hockey world.
If you’re like Ainsley and realize there’s a business opportunity you’d like to explore, GO FOR IT! While you’re playing, you may have more downtime than you realize to create a business plan, go make great connections, build websites, and more. To learn more on how to begin, here are some great book references to get you started.
- Get Backed: A wonderful resource for the fundamentals on how to raise money, create an effective pitch deck, and build an early-stage company.
- Shoe-Dog: Learn the story of Nike and Phil Knight’s gritty story of making it to the top.
- 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Yes…this one too. It’s a great resource to learn how to manage it all, stay organized, and make sure to balance your personal life at the same time.
While there are a few options we provided that could help set yourself up for success down the road (and avoid deep Netflix binges), another key point to identify is to recognize your network. From playing sports, you have alumni and coaches from your club/school programs with a large reach. Don’t hesitate to go to local networking events, or alumni association meetings. Putting yourself out there to meet new people is a great way to learn about others in your community, and may even find that more doors open up to you.
When attending networking events, there are a few important things to note:
- Follow Up: According to a Hubspot blog, 85% percent of jobs are filled through networking. There’s value in the face-to-face meeting, and you become more memorable in your follow up email & conversations after that initial impression.
- Don’t be thirsty for a job: make it conversational, just test out the waters and converse in order to to build great relationships.
- Build great relationships: you may find a potential mentor, or be able to leverage their network once you’ve established a great connection. Plus, it’s a lot easier to communicate with someone in a follow-up email that you have already heard their style of conversation in person.
As a final note: many companies love working with athletes. The work-ethic and discipline of athletes can often be superhuman – leverage that. Play to your strengths of being a team player, dedication, self-motivation, and refusing to give up. Athletes are often more prepared than other applicants for a position, knowing what it takes for success, and being able to take (sometimes harsh) feedback and make changes quickly to achieve a common goal. Be confident in the skills sports has brought, and be ready to make some moo-lah.
As you’re figuring out your next steps and how to fund your next move, keep in mind that you always have options and there are unique ways to make it work so you don’t have to choose between the “real world” and athletics. You can continue competing at a competitive level, while boosting your professional career and leveraging your skills for when that day comes that you choose to be done with playing your sport. At Uru Sports, we can help you find your next path, and make sure it’s a perfect fit for you. Email us at [email protected] to learn more, and keep an eye out on our Uru App for new updates.
Photos courtesy of our Uru/Gryphon Team and Trainers4Trainers