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.  
    ITV PROFITS 10:45:
    ITV still

    ITV's results proclaim the company is now the biggest unscripted independent production company in the US after buying 80% of Leftfield Entertainment. The studio produces reality programmes such as Pawn Stars, Counting Cars, American Restoration and Real Housewives of New Jersey.

     
  2.  
    TAX CREDIT EXTENSION 10:30: Via Email Kevin Peachey Personal finance reporter, BBC News

    "HMRC says deadline for hundreds of thousands of people to renew their tax credits has been extended from 31 July to 6 August, owing to PCS strike action"

     
  3.  
    BANKER BONUSES 10:17:

    Swift reaction to the new plans from the Bank on bonuses. John Cridland, CBI director general, says, broadly, it's a good idea to align performance, behaviour and pay, but: "As these new rules are amongst the toughest in world, we need to be careful we don't create uncertainty which might make it increasingly hard to attract talent to London."

     
  4.  
    BANKER BONUSES 10:13:

    The PRA and the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) are consulting on the bonus proposals. Martin Wheatley, head of the FCA said: "How a firm conducts its business and treats its customers must be at the heart of how it operates. This has to start at the top. Today's consultations mark a fundamental change in the regulators' ability to hold individuals to account, which is what the public expects of us. It will also build on the cultural change we are beginning to see in the boardrooms of firms across the country."

     
  5.  
    BANKER BONUSES 10:10:

    More: "The PRA [Prudential Regulation Authority] has also today published final rules on clawback which introduce a seven-year minimum period for clawback from the date of award. These rules will come into force on 1 January 2015."

     
  6.  
    BANKER BONUSES 10:07:

    More from the Bank of England's plans to improve bankers' accountability. Some are proposals and the Bank is consulting on them. They are not all new, firm, rules.

     
  7.  
    BANKER BONUSES 10:05:
    Bank of England

    The Bank of England's plans for making bankers more accountable is now released. It says "Increasing the alignment between risk and reward over the longer term, by requiring firms to defer payment of variable remuneration (e.g. bonuses) for a minimum of five or seven years depending on seniority, with a phased approach to vesting."

     
  8.  
    TURTLE TROUBLE 09:53:
    Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

    The new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie in Australia has caused more excitement than usual. The poster shows the turtles jumping from an exploding skyscraper, standard for an action movie, nor necessarily that offensive. That is until you look at the release date at the bottom of the poster. Paramount Pictures has apologised: "We are deeply sorry to have used that artwork."

     
  9.  
    RUSSIA SANCTIONS 09:35:

    Credit and debit card company Visa is one that isn't bothered by tightening sanctions on Russia. "The new package of US economic sanctions is not influencing the operations of Visa in Russia and does not force Visa to halt or block operations of financial institutions who have fallen under the sanctions," it said in a statement. "We are continuing to process transactions in a normal way."

     
  10.  
    NINTENDO LOSS 09:20:
    Nintendo characters

    Videogames giant Nintendo reports a £57m net loss for the April-June quarter. Higher costs are to blame. Sales were down by 8.4%.

     
  11.  
    BARCLAYS PROFITS 09:03:

    Barclays Bank is currently top of the risers on the FTSE 100. Its share price is up 3.3% at 226.30p, so it looks like investors are responding positively to its half year results. They've a way to make up though. Shares are about 30% down compared with last year. Earlier, boss Antony Jenkins told Today: "We are ahead of the targets we have set and in the next few quarters the market will reflect this in the share price." It's made a start.

     
  12.  
    PETS PROFITS 08:50:
    People and pets

    Stock market debutant Pets at Home has released its first trading update. It covers the 12 weeks to 17 July. Like-for-like sales are up 4.1%. Total revenue is 10.4% higher at £210.8m, driven, it says, by new store openings and strong food, accessories and services trade.

     
  13.  
    MARKETS UPDATE 08:41:

    The markets aren't up to much this morning - seems to be the Russia sanctions issue that's weighing things down. Currently:

    • The FTSE 100 is up 4 at 6811.36
    • Germany's Dax is up 9 at 9663.02
    • France's Cac 40 is down 6 at 4359.61
    • The Pound is down a touch at $1.693 and at 1 euro 26.3.
     
  14.  
    ANA PROFITS 08:31:
    Japan scene

    Japan's All Nippon Airways (ANA) has reported a return to profits in the three months to June. The better result was thanks to expansion at a Tokyo airport and changes to its pension plan. Net profit came in at 3.5bn yen (£20m) against a loss of 6.6bn yen. Sales were 10% higher.

     
  15.  
    BANKER BONUSES 08:24: Radio 5 live

    Shadow chancellor, Ed Balls, says the previous Labour government should have been tougher on bankers' bonuses. "Most of the criticism of the Labour government from the banking sector and the Conservative party was that we were much too tough on the banks. Now in retrospect, those criticisms were wrong because we should have been tougher," he tells 5 live. He points out that no one at the time was pressing them to crack down further.

     
  16.  
    AMAZON INDIA Via Email Simon Atkinson Editor, India Business Report

    The editor of India Business Report in Mumbai emails: "Online shopping is still in its infancy in India but growing fast. The market's led by local players but Amazon is upping its presence - and today said it's investing $2bn in its India operations. But restrictions on e-commerce here mean it can't hold its own stock like it does in the UK and US. - for now at least it is only a 'platform' for others to sell through."

     
  17.  
    BAT PROFITS 08:07:
    A pile of cigarettes

    Tobacco giant British American Tobacco reports a fall in profits to £2.6bn in the six months to 301 June from £2.9bn a year earlier. It blames the strength of the pound but revenue is also lower, down 10% to £6.8bn in the period. Volume - which measures the number of actual cigarettes sold - fell 0.4%.

     
  18.  
    BARCLAYS PROFITS 07:55: BBC Radio 4

    Back to Barclays profits for a moment as Antony Jenkins also tells Today that staff at his bank are changing their ways: "Staff at Barclays are fully behind what we're trying to do with our culture change programme." He says staff know this is not only "the right thing to do" but also the way to better profits.

     
  19.  
    ELECTRICITY CUT 07:43:
    Pylons

    Regulator Ofgem has announced a cut in distribution charges that will mean a £12 a year average reduction in electricity bills. And, incidentally, offers us the opportunity to publish a nice picture of pylons.

     
  20.  
    BANKER BONUSES 07:32: BBC Radio 4

    Barclays boss Antony Jenkins tells the Today programme his bank can already take action against mis-behaving bankers: "If someone has done something wrong and performed badly we have the right too claw the bonus back today."

     
  21.  
    HEADLINES
  22.  
    BARCLAYS PROFITS 07:27: BBC Radio 4

    Antony Jenkins, chief executive of Barclays is on the Today programme: "These are an encouraging set of results... Our capital position has never been stronger."

     
  23.  
    ITV PROFITS 07:27:

    ITV boss Adam Crozier says the broadcaster's "share of viewing" improved during its second quarter helped by the World Cup. He says he is confident of ITV's Autumn schedule of both new and returning drama and entertainment will help keep audience figures high. Meanwhile, ITV has benefitted from the economic recovery - specifically an improved advertising market.

     
  24.  
    BARCLAYS PROFITS 07:19:

    Investment bank income at Barclays fell 18%, reflecting a fall in customers. This follows allegations about malpractice in "dark pool" trading. Essentially, these are private stock markets and are the latest area of banking to be probed by regulators.

     
  25.  
    ITV PROFITS 07:19:

    ITV says total external revenues rose 7% to £1.2bn in the six months to 30 June, while revenue from its online, pay and interactive TV unit was up 20% to £67m.

     
  26.  
    BARCLAYS PROFITS 07:13:
    Barclays logo

    More on Barclays: Statutory pre-tax profit was £2.5bn (2013: £1.7bn), reflecting the fact bank had to set aside another £900m for PPI redress Read the full release here.

     
  27.  
    ITV PROFITS 07:10:
    ITV logo

    A strong set of numbers from broadcaster ITV this morning. Annual pre-tax profits are up 40% to £250m in the six months to 30 June compared with £179m for the same period last year.

     
  28.  
    BARCLAYS PROFITS 07:03:

    Barclays profit before tax is down 10% at £3.84bn.

     
  29.  
    BRITISH GAS BOSS 07:03:
    Iain Conn

    In all the excitement over bankers' bonuses we nearly forgot this. British Gas owner Centrica has succeeded in its pursuit of Iain Conn, confirming he will become its new chief executive from January 2015, succeeding Sam Laidlaw who is retiring. Mr Conn joins from BP where he has been chief executive, of BP's refining and marketing division,for the past seven years.

     
  30.  
    BARCLAYS PROFITS 06:52: BBC Radio 4
    Pedestrians pass a branch of Barclays Bank in the rain in London

    Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets is talking to the Today programme about Barclays interim results - coming up imminently. He says the investment banking arm of Barclays is "not listening" to new boss Antony Jenkins who has been trying to clean up the bank's reputation and practices.

     
  31.  
    DRIVERLESS CARS 06:44:
    Nissan car

    It's going to be a bank-heavy day today let's face it, but just to provide a break from all that, the government will be announcing changes in the law that will pave the way for driverless cars to take to Britain's roads next year. The government wants the UK to become a leader in developing the technology. In December, the Treasury said it would create a £10m prize to fund a town or city to become a testing ground for the cars.

     
  32.  
    MUSLIM ACCOUNTS 06:36:

    HSBC has told three Muslim organisations it will close their bank accounts. These are the Finsbury Park Mosque in North London, a think-tank on Islamic issues called the Cordoba Foundation based in West London, and a Muslim charity in Bolton called the Ummah Welfare Trust, which works in 20 countries giving aid. HSBC says the decisions were "absolutely not based on race and religion".

     
  33.  
    BANKER BONUSES 06:30: Radio 5 live

    More from Ms Mangwana on Wake Up to Money. She says the proposed seven year rule may be more about changing culture in banking and the way in which bankers view their bonuses. But she also points out bonuses are generally paid in tranches that vest over a number of years, already (commonly anything between three and five years). "That's the current formula and there are [already] mechanisms to reclaim those bonuses," she says.

     
  34.  
    TWITTER SHARES 06:21:
    Twitter

    In case this happened too late for you, Twitter shares rocketed 30% on stronger-than-expected financial results. Revenue more than doubled in the second quarter. Shares rose to $50 in after hours trading. Still down on its high of $74.73, hit in December.

     
  35.  
    BANKER BONUSES 06:10: Radio 5 live

    Samantha Mangwana, employment lawyer at Slater Gordon told Wake Up to Money seven years is a long time to hold a bonus and regulators may well find it difficult to reclaim money. It is highly likely bankers will have gone and spent the money already, she says, and have nothing that the Bank of England can reclaim.

     
  36.  
    BANKER BONUSES 06:07: BBC World News
    Tom Stephenson

    Those new rules on bankers' bonuses are expected to recommend a claw-back period of seven years. Tom Stephenson from Fidelity Worldwide on BBC World News says they could have been tougher: "One of the suggestions was that bankers could be jailed for a significant fall in profits - that's quite something isn't it. Even so, being able to claw back bonuses for seven years is pretty draconian."

     
  37.  
    06:02: Matthew West Business Reporter

    Good morning folks. It's looking like a busy day today. We also have trading updates from ITV and house builder Taylor Wimpey. As always you can get in touch via email at bizlivepage@bbc.co.uk and on twitter @bbcbusiness

     
  38.  
    06:00: Rebecca Marston Business reporter, BBC News

    Welcome again to the Live page. We're going to be banking heavy. There's Barclays results - in about an hour - and later this morning the Bank of England will release new restrictions on bankers' bonuses, said to be the toughest in the world. We'll see.

     

Features

From BBC Capital

Programmes

  • A factory in JapanThe Travel Show Watch

    Factory infatuation – why Japan’s industrial compounds are drawing large crowds at night

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.