Not all former professional athletes leave their respective sport with sufficient funds to remain unemployed. On the other hand, they have parlayed their millions into becoming a successful entrepreneur or working with an established business. Some still seek the limelight and opt for acting or politics. Arnold Schwarzenegger did both – acting and becoming Governor of California from 2003 to 2011. Former boxer George Foreman attached his name to a household product known as the Foreman Grill. Allowing the manufacturer to use his name and likeness resulted in a windfall of $138 million for the two-time heavyweight champion and Olympic Gold Medalist.

Being a former athlete is not a free pass into the field of sports management. First, the profession requires a degree. In the NFL, 50% of players have not completed their college degree. College football players may enter the NFL draft after their junior year. Therefore, most of the top draft players opt out of university as soon as possible. The risk of injury in college, coupled with the lure of money, is a strong incentive.

Major league baseball (MLB) has a much lower percentage of players with a college degree – 4.3%! The reason for this percentage is that players are eligible for the professional draft at multiple points during their careers. Here are the potential eligibility requirements of the MLB draft:

  • Teenagers can enter the draft after their senior year of high school
  • Anytime after enrolling in a Junior or community college
  • After the third year of a four-year college
  • Or after turning 21 – this age negates the above requirements

The NBA may not have many former players working in sports management as their percentage of college graduates is approximately 21 percent. To enter the NBA draft, a player must be one year out of high school or at least nineteen years old.

Consequently, many players leave college after their first year or do not attend. The Cleveland Cavaliers drafted LeBron James at the age of 19 immediately after playing for St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio. Many players, including James, do not return to college to finish or earn a degree. Although former players will have plenty of time for college – NBA players’ career averages less than five years.

Former athletes have had exposure to physical therapy, team management, sports promotions, sports marketing, player personnel issues, and financial advising. The experience at the college or professional level does not qualify an individual for a position in sports management. However, it may open doors to areas associated with sports management for college graduates.

Here are employment opportunities in sports management:

Account Manager

The job involves working for a company in sports attire or promotions business. Prospective clients are other companies that use your company’s products or individual athletes. An entry-level position in this sector might be sales for a sports nutrition company, for example. You move from sales to sales manager to account manager. A former athlete may be able to relate to the challenges facing clients who in amateur or professional sports.

sports spending


Sports marketing focuses on the promotion of sports events and teams, as well as products and services related to a particular sport or team. Marketing is essential to expanding the fan base through advertising, ticket sales, and event promotions. Sponsorship is another category of sports marketing in which the major manufacturers invest heavily. For example, Nike sponsors Ohio State sports to the sum of $16.8 million per year until the 2033-34 academic year.

As a marketing representative of a company, such as Rolex, Mercedes, Wilson, Kia, or Gatorade, you may deal with a professional athlete’s agent. To reiterate, companies of this stature would require experience and the minimum of a bachelor’s degree in sports management, marketing, or business. A former athlete could use his/her familiarity with the sports world as an introduction to a marketing job.

Social Media

Professional teams and athletes use social media as a marketing strategy. Facebook and Twitter are popular venues to build brand awareness, reach a broad audience, and engage fans. This type of marketing is also cost-effective, which can increase sales and communication with a vast audience. The Philadelphia Eagles used live content during football games for 65,000 people at the game. Live streaming has become a viable marketing tool for professional organizations. This field is another opportunity for graduates with a degree in sports management, whether they are athletes and non-athletes.