You May Not Think It’s a Big Deal, But It Is

I don’t care if you rode the bench for three years at Nowheresville College. If you are (or were) a college or professional athlete, you can leverage it in business. This is something I am deeply passionate about.

I make my living digging into businesses to uncover what makes them special and then I turn that into successful marketing. My favorite businesses (or entrepreneurs) to work with are those who are killing it at what they’re doing but don’t have the slightest clue how to market themselves.

Many athletes fall into this category, but have an even greater advantage than the successful businesses. They can actually launch a successful business (or at least get off to a great start) around being an athlete.

Again, I don’t care where you played or whether you played. Our culture loves athletes. Simply carrying that label will open doors.

If you are currently an athlete, network NOW

Make your current experience section within LinkedIn your status as an athlete and search for anyone and everyone relevant to what you want to do (or think you want to do) in business.

There are three kinds of connections you can make:

  • Fellow athletes. You have street cred simply by playing college or professional sports. Look for athletes with successful businesses and connect. Ask for advice. There are waters they’ve already navigated and they can provide invaluable insight.
  • Business pros. Do your research and find business professionals you respect. If you are a higher profile athlete, you have many people bugging you for attention. They want you to start a business with them. They want you to work with them. Make sure you find the business professionals you want to work with.
  • Influencers. Depending on the type of athlete you are, this may include media, performers, speakers, or authors. You will capture attention simply by being an athlete. Use that to your advantage.

If you are a former athlete, leverage your past

Whether you have a business or you’re working for someone else, your past as an athlete will open up conversations. Maybe you’re in sales and being a former athlete is a point of connection with potential clients or customers.

Perhaps you’re starting your own business and bringing up your playing career will open doors for sponsorships or partnerships. There is a way to leverage your past — regardless of what you do for a living — if you do it the right way.

The key is to look at what you do and strategically work it in. This may be in the public eye or behind the scenes, but there will be a way you can benefit from playing college or pro sports.

If you don’t believe me, I am living proof and I didn’t even play professional (or college) sports. I managed a website for an NFL team and my husband works in media relations for a college program. Mentioning what we do (and who we know) opens doors.

The same will happen for you.

It’s never too late to start

Even if you’re 10 years beyond your playing career, it’s never too late to start. Optimize your LinkedIn profile to include your playing career and start connecting. Add custom notes to your connection requests mentioning your past as an athlete.

Connect with big-time influencers who went to your college or university or businesses associated with the pro team you played for. Reach out to other former players and athletes. Take the same determination you used to compete and leverage it in business!

About Chrissie Wywrot

Chrissie Wywrot is a B2B lead generator and personal brand strategist who works with passionate entrepreneurs and professional athletes. To learn more about her services, visit her LinkedIn profile or email her atchrissie@chrissiewywrot.com.

4 Reasons Reserve Athletes Make Up the Best in Business

Many athletes struggle with capitalizing on their pro sports career when transitioning into business. They see what they did in the sports world as “no big deal” and that it’s “cheating” to allow it to give them a leg up.

This is primarily true of those who don’t have blockbuster careers. Headliners often have no problem taking advantage of the fame, but what if you only played two or three years? What if you never made it to an active roster?

Honestly, these athletes are often the best for business for a number of reasons.

1. You Fought for What You Received

We all know about the guy who had no problem starting at every level. The player who coasted his way to starting as a freshman before becoming a first-round draft pick. For those players, it always came easy.

Not for you. You had to scratch and claw for every opportunity you received because it didn’t come easy for you. As a kid, you were always elite. You were the best in your hometown and there was no doubt you would move on to stardom.

Once you reached the collegiate level, however, you met players far better than you. Or perhaps you recognized that – while you were great in college – you weren’t physically built to be elite in the pros.

This is a tough pill to swallow and it humbled you, but it also fueled you to work even harder. It resulted in commitment and dedication to achieving your dream of playing at the pro level … and you did it.

2. You Work Hard in the Classroom

Fighting for that final roster spot meant you had to be great in the classroom. You had no choice. Not only did you have to be as easy to work with for the coaches as possible, you had to know how to fill in at more than one position to carry value.

Non-starters have to be flexible, regardless of the sport. In baseball, you’re called a utility player. In football, you have to learn new plays at multiple positions each week. It’s an added burden that requires greater commitment.

You may have also experienced moving between teams during your career or during the same season. Each move requires learning a new playbook, system, or strategy. Often the primary hurdle is picking up new terminology, signals, or signs, but it still requires quick learning or going home.

3. You Possess Discipline

Pro sports is a hierarchy. All players are not treated equal. Though touted as “just a game” by fans, sports is a business that requires winning. For that reason, starters receive preferential treatment, regardless of the sport.

This means you had to work overtime to hone your skills because you didn’t get as many reps as the starters. You had to pull coaches aside for extra work because they put their focus and energy on the starters during practice.

You were responsible for putting in the work required to keep your job … no one was going to do it for you. That shows discipline and integrity because nothing was handed to you.

4. You Are a Team Player

During games you may have acted as a bench coach, encourager, or scout … and you did all of that knowing you were one injury or extra inning away from getting into the game.

I was always in awe of the inactive or reserve players during my time in the NFL. They were often the most charismatic, fun, and supportive guys on the roster and put the betterment of the team ahead of their own personal goals.

A good sense of humor is also common among these players. I remember one guy in particular who was added and then released multiple times each year for many seasons. Each time he came back, we would see and laugh, “You’re back?”

He would smile and say, “Yeah, I’m back,” even though this constant back-and-forth meant moving multiple times throughout the year and staying in shape year-round just to be ready in case he received a call.

Let Pro Sports be Your Brand

Whether you played two seasons or two minutes at the professional level, the fact that you made it there at all is something to build your brand around. Recognize that playing professional sports is a job that requires a number of high-functioning skills to succeed.

Leverage it to build the business you are passionate about. Tell potential employers you played at the highest level of your sport and articulate why it matters. If the people you’re working with don’t recognize it for what it is, maybe they’re not the people you should be working with.

The bottom line? You put in the blood, sweat, and tears … now go ahead and own it.