WHAT NEXT? THE DIFFICULT TRANSITION FOR ATHLETES
Powered by: Tom Penn, President, Los Angeles FC, United States
Jamal Mashburn, CEO, Mashburn & Company and Former NBA All Star, United States
Marcellus Wiley, Former NFL star, Co-host, Sports Nation, ESPN, United States
Charles D. Smith, Former Professional Basketball Player, Chairman & CEO, Professional Basketball Alumni, United States
It is a sad fact that many great sports men and women struggle to adapt once their athletic careers are over.
But why does it happen, and what can be done to stop it? A panel with more than 30 years of professional sports experience gathered to explore the problem and share their knowledge on the topic in a discussion moderated by Los Angeles FC President Tom Penn.
All members of panel agreed that the change from professional athlete earning vast sums of money performing in front of adoring crowds, to suddenly having no clear goal or purpose often comes as a shock.
“The ending is never as storybook as you think it will be,” said former NFL star Marcellus Wiley, who is now a co-host of ESPN’s Sports Nation. “The beginning is – you come in with a lot of fanfare, a draft party, the celebrations and a media day with all the press clippings. But when it’s over, it’s not so much about the fanfare.
“I think when you talk about transition, you have to think about your next move while you’re still on the field or the court.”
Planning early for a career out of the sports spotlight was an idea backed by former basketball player Charles D. Smith.
Smith, a 10-year veteran of the NBA, started attending technology conferences five years before his playing career even came to an end.
That meant he was able to start a technology firm, which now turns over millions of dollars annually, almost immediately upon retirement.
But Smith, who is also Chairman and CEO of the Professional Basketball Alumni, admits that not all skills learnt by professional athletes are transferrable to everyday life.
He said: “Over the last five years, after speaking with many former pros and travelling the globe, I began to understand that everything I have learned as a professional athlete was the total opposite of the things I needed to be a successful businessman, a husband or a brother.”
Former NBA All Star Jamal Mashburn was even further ahead of the curve. With a professional boxer for a father, Mashburn initially dreamed of becoming an athlete, and he picked basketball from a young age.
But watching commuters travelling into work clutching briefcases made him want to try his hand at business instead.
Despite his success on the court, Mashburn always viewed basketball as a means to end to achieving his entrepreneurial goals.
“When I think of the dream I have lived, everyone thinks it is basketball, but it’s actually doing what I’m doing now,” said Mashburn, who is now CEO of Mashburn & Company.
He also concurred that the shock of a professional athlete’s career coming to an end marked a massive challenge for the individual.
“Athletes are considered to be heroes, warriors. And when your warrior falls, there are a lot of people who are impacted,” he said.
But he also urged more to be done to help athletes transfer their skills into both coaching programs and the world of business to ensure their unique portfolio of expertise did not go to waste.