The former athletes swapping sport for business

Jamie Baker Former UK tennis player Jamie Baker now works for Santander bank

Retirement can be the toughest moment in the careers of many professional sportsmen and women.

Life as they know it changes completely; gone is the adoration from the crowds, the adrenaline rush of victory, the camaraderie with team-mates, and the regular pay cheques.

Suddenly they can feel very alone, and very low.

Former England rugby international Steve White-Cooper questioned his self-worth as his career ended.

Dan Cross, a veteran US basketball player, goes even further, saying retiring "almost felt like a death taking place in my life".

Start Quote

I have always want to challenge myself, I have always wanted more, whether in rugby or business”

End Quote Steve White-Cooper

Yet after getting over the initial shock, both men have successfully launched recruitment businesses, specifically trying to help retired sports stars to gain corporate jobs.

They believe the qualities that help to make someone successful in sport are easily transferable to business, whether as part of a large firm or, in their case, becoming entrepreneurs.

Mr White-Cooper played rugby for top-flight Harlequins for five years. A flanker, he was also capped twice by England.

He says that as rugby became faster in recent years and players got bigger, the average length of career fell, owing to more long-term injuries.

Steve White-Cooper training with the England rugby squad while on tour in the US in 2001 Mr White-Cooper's rugby career included two call-ups from England

He retired 11 years ago and initially found the transition tricky.

Start Quote

My CV would have been just one of many in a large pile, and I have no formal qualifications”

End Quote Jamie Baker Former professional tennis player

He was ultimately able to secure a job in recruitment in the City of London, and after spending six years with a large company, decided to launch his own firm.

"I could have stayed as an employee, but I have always want to challenge myself. I have always wanted more, whether in rugby or business," he says.

He saw a "huge opportunity to establish a niche recruitment company" and two years ago launched Add-Victor.

"Companies can get their hands on driven, talented people, who know the value of being in a team, winning, and working hard.

"Plus they are used to dealing with pressure, and have more life experience than your typical university graduate."

The 38-year-old said he could not believe businesses would not want to employ such people.

Dan Cross playing for the Florida Gaters Dan Cross enjoyed a long basketball career

Add-Victor is now helping "tens" of former sportsmen and women to find work each month.

There is no cost for them, as the firm - like standard recruitment companies - instead charges a fee to the businesses that take on its clients.

One successful recruit is the former professional tennis player Jamie Baker.

The 27-year-old retired from professional tennis in 2013 after a nine-year career.

He now works for Santander, in the bank's UK hotels and healthcare division.

"There is no question that I wouldn't be here without Add-Victor helping me get a foot in the door. Otherwise my CV would have been just one of many in a large pile, and I have no formal qualifications."

Santander gets "just as much energy and enthusiasm" from him as he put into tennis, he says.

And while it took some time to adjust to a desk job, he doesn't miss the travelling involved in life on the professional tennis circuit.

'Difficult transition'

While Mr White-Cooper focuses on former professional athletes, the huge popularity of US college sport means Mr Cross's company - Athlete Connections - targets mainly ex-university sportsmen and women.

Start Quote

Being a professional athlete is all about building up your abilities and performing at the highest level. This is also what starting a successful business is all about”

End Quote Prof Brian Morgan Cardiff Metropolitan University

Mr Cross, 40, used to play for the University of Florida's basketball team, the Florida Gators, whose games can attract 20 million TV viewers.

Audiences for college American football games can be even higher, and their stadiums are giant structures. The largest - Michigan Stadium, the home of the Michigan Wolverines - holds 110,000 people.

Yet with 52,000 student athletes graduating each year in the US, fewer than 1% secure professional contracts. Most of the others seek corporate roles.

This switch, and the need to apply for jobs, can be tough for many former college athletes, Mr Cross says.

"It can be one of the most challenging and difficult transitions they will ever face.

"Yet at the same time, which company wouldn't want to employ such talented, high-achieving young people?"

The 2014 Cotton Bowl game between the Oklahoma State Cowboy and the Missouri Tigers More than 99% of US college athletes fail to secure professional sporting contracts

Athlete Connections runs job fairs at universities across the US, solely open to graduating college athletes.

It is free for both the students and the universities, but attending companies pay up to $500 (£300) per event. Pepsi and American Express are among those participating regularly.

Brian Morgan, professor of entrepreneurship at Cardiff Metropolitan University in the UK, says former sports people can make "ideal" business owners or senior employees.

"Being a professional athlete is all about building up your abilities and performing at the highest level," he says. "This is also what starting a successful business is all about.

"Also, typically, high-performing athletes are used to working as part of a team, and being high achievers. Those skills are in demand at all companies."

While not providing quite the same thrill as rugby, Mr White-Cooper said running a business was still exciting.

"I definitely get a buzz - just a different one."

More on This Story

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Business stories

RSS

BBC Business Live

  1.  
    MARKET UPATE 09:36:

    European shares are mixed. They started out good after a batch of encouraging company results. Retailer Next is among the big winners - up 2.45% to 6680p on the FTSE 100 so far.

    • The FTSE is 0.12% higher at 6796.35
    • Germany's Dax has just turned negative and is now 0.09% lower at 9589.54
    • The French Cac-40 is also down 0.18% at 4336.92
     
  2.  
    Via Twitter Adam Parsons Business Correspondent

    tweets: "Next now worth slightly more than Sainsbury's and Morrison's put together."

     
  3.  
    GHERKIN SALE 09:14:
    An aerial view of the "City", London"s business disctrict

    London landmark and general troubled child of the City's tall buildings, the Gherkin - otherwise known as 30 St Mary Axe - has been put up for sale for £64m. It was put into receivership with accountants Deloitte managing the place since April. Co-owners Evans Randall and German firm IVG told it to put it up for sale after they failed to reach a deal with their lenders over restructuring the building's mounting debts.

     
  4.  
    BANKERS ETHICS 08.58:
    Book

    Back to the proposed bankers' oath. Would it mean an end to such fines as the £218m Lloyds received yesterday for fiddling rates? Think tank ResPublic, which operates "on the premise that human relationships should once more be positioned as the centre and meaning of an associative society", hopes so. Click here to read what it suggests are the magic words.

     
  5.  
    RUSSIAN SANCTIONS 08:45: BBC Radio 4
    Russian President Vladimir Putin

    Former foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind is talking to the Today programme about the potential impact of sanctions on Russia. He says President Putin is unconcerned about his popularity at home. "This isn't about his popularity this is about imposing sanctions that will require Putin to change his policy," he says. Up to now, he says, sanctions have been "pretty useless". Sanctions need to be about serious economic damage to Russia, he adds.

     
  6.  
    UBS PROBE 08:35:
    The floor of the New York Stock Exchange on 28 March, 2014.

    The "Dark Pools" investigation widens to include UBS. The Swiss bank became the latest bank to say it is cooperating with inquiries about these alternative trading systems. Its second quarter report this morning said a clutch of US regulators, including the Securities and Exchange Commission, the New York Attorney General, and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority had made inquiries. Banks Barclays and Credit Suisse are also involved in probes.

     
  7.  
    RUSSIAN SANCTIONS 08:25:

    Separately the US State Department has accused Russia of violating a key arms control treaty by testing a nuclear cruise missile. Russia tested a ground-launched cruise missile, breaking the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty signed in 1987 during the Cold War, the US says. A senior US official described it as "very serious" but gave little more in the way of detail.

     
  8.  
    PAY KICK? 08:13:

    Two fund managers overheard on the 06:45 to Vauxhall: "It's called a pay away, not a kick back." Business Live (not being perfect) does not know what this means. Any ideas?

     
  9.  
    HEADLINES
  10.  
    RUSSIAN SANCTIONS 08:05: BBC Radio 4

    One more from Malcolm Bracken on Today. He doesn't mince his words. He says: "Putin has looted an enormous amount of money from the Russian people." Mr Bracken adds he doesn't think the aim of sanctions will be to "devastate the Russia economy or isolate it from the world." But squeezing "the cronies" will be language Mr Putin can understand, he says.

     
  11.  
    NEXT PROFITS 07:53:
    Woman in picture

    Next also has results. First half profits at the clothing and homeware retailer rose 10.7%. Next tells investors to stand by for better profits of between £775m and £815m. Sales at the physical stores were up 7.5% and through the Next Directory were 16.2% higher.

     
  12.  
    BP PROFITS 07:43:

    BP says rising oil and gas production from new or recently started projects led to increased processing of heavy crude oil by the newly-modernised Whiting refinery contributed to operating cash flow of $7.9bn in the quarter. Total operating cash flow for the first half of 2014 was $16.1bn.

     
  13.  
    RUSSIAN SANCTIONS 07:36: BBC Radio 4

    The purpose of sanctions is to target the regime and [Russian president] Putin's cronies, not really the Russian people, Malcolm Bracken, analyst at Redmayne Bentley, tells the Today programme. "The mismatch," he says "Is that Russia needs German money from gas sales even more than Germany needs Russia gas." Germany can get its gas from countries other than Russia, he adds. But Putin can impose far greater economic pain on his people than Angela Merkel can on hers.

     
  14.  
    MORRISON'S CHAIRMAN 07:30:
    Signage for Morrisons supermarket on a trolley handle

    There's confirmation that former Tesco finance director Andrew Higginson will become the the new chairman of rival supermarket Morrison's when Sir Ian Gibson retires in 2015. Mr Higginson will join the board on 1 October as non-executive deputy chairman. He was finance director at Tesco between 1997 and 2012. He is currently chairman of Poundland, N Brown Group and McCurrach UK as well as a non-executive director at BSkyB.

     
  15.  
    BP PROFITS 07:17:
    British Petroleum sign

    BP has reported profits (second-quarter replacement cost profit - which strips out the effect of oil price movements) of $3.2bn, compared with $2.4bn a year earlier.

     
  16.  
    BIG CHEESE 07:13: BBC Breakfast
    Cheese

    The biggest event in the global cheese calendar starts today in Nantwich in Cheshire. Steph McGovern is at the International Cheese Fair for Breakfast along with the 4,500 cheeses there. Andrew Loftus, agriculture manager for Morrison's supermarkets says: "Customers need a big variety, the block cheese, the cheddars, but we also have our own range that we cut and grate in our factories."

     
  17.  
    BANKING ETHICS 07:03: Radio 5 live

    Control Risks' Charles Hecker on Wake Up to Money pulls together the two big topics of the morning - Russia and banking ethics. He says it's the ethics that attract them: "There is a reason why the British banking sector is by a mile the preferred destination for Russian financial transactions. It's seen as transparent and liquid market that is well regulated and is seen as clean." And they also like the flight time and the restaurants, he says.

     
  18.  
    UBS RESULTS 06:53:
    The logo of Swiss bank UBS

    Swiss bank UBS reports second quarter net profit of 792m Swiss francs (£516m), up from 690m francs last time. Results were whacked last year by a $885m settlement with the US housing regulator over the mis-selling of mortgage-backed bonds. The bank has still had to set aside 254m euros (£165.4m) this year, mainly to settle legal claims that it helped wealthy Germans to dodge taxes.

     
  19.  
    RUSSIAN SANCTIONS 06:41: BBC Radio 4

    In case you were wondering why sanctions were back on the news menu, last week, European leaders agreed there should be tougher sanctions on Russia after Ukrainian separatists brought down Malaysia Airlines MH17. This week they decide what sanctions should be applied and against whom or what.

     
  20.  
    BANKING ETHICS 06:31: Radio 5 live
    Triumph of Virtue and Nobility

    Would getting bankers to swear an oath promising good behaviour work? That's a suggestion by one think tank, ResPublica. It wants to introduce "Virtuous Banking". But the chairman of the Banking Standards Review Council, Sir Richard Lambert, tells Wake Up to Money an oath won't help to bring that about.

     
  21.  
    GAS GUZZLER 06:21:
    Mayor of London Boris Johnson

    London mayor Boris Johnson wants the drivers of diesel cars to pay an extra £10 - on top of the congestion charge it should be noted - for the pleasure of driving into the centre of the capital according to a report in the Daily Mail today. Other cities are also considering introducing low-emission zones to crack down on diesel fumes. These cars were once encouraged as being less polluting...

     
  22.  
    RUSSIAN SANCTIONS 06:08: Radio 5 live

    More from Charles Hecker. He tells Wake Up to Money: "I don't think anybody is that keen on sanctions that are going to impact on their own economic sectors." Part of the problem with European sanctions against Russia is the French have defence deals with Russia, there is a substantial amount of Russia money in the UK's financial services sector and Germany has energy deals with Russia, he adds

     
  23.  
    RUSSIAN SANCTIONS 06:01: Radio 5 live

    Charles Hecker of consultancy Control Risks tells Wake Up to Money targeted sanctions, whether against sectors of the Russian economy or against individuals, would have a potential impact and suggests the Russian economy is already teetering on the edge of recession. But he adds both Cuba and Iran have been subject to far more stringent sanctions and that further sanctions against Russia are unlikely to change the country's behaviour.

     
  24.  
    06:00: Rebecca Marston Business reporter, BBC News

    Yes, we're back. And we're here: bizlive@bbc.co.uk @bbcbusiness - should you wish to get in touch.

     
  25.  
    06.00: Matthew West Business Reporter

    Morning everyone. Yesterday afternoon we had a £218m fine for Lloyds for its part in the 2012 Libor scandal, while the think-tank ResPublica has suggested this morning bankers should take an oath - a bit like doctors - to fulfil their "proper moral and economic purpose". We also have second quarter trading updates from BP and Next this morning, plus more on Russian sanctions.

     

Features

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.