News / USA

Professional Athletes Prepare for Life After Sports

Wharton School of Business and National Football League teach them how to rebuild their lives once their playing days are over

Morvarid Taheripour teaching a class of former professional athletes as part of the Business Management and Entrepreneurial Program.
Morvarid Taheripour teaching a class of former professional athletes as part of the Business Management and Entrepreneurial Program.

Multimedia

Tala Hadavi

Professional athletes in the United States can make millions of dollars throughout their careers.  Yet statistics show that many eventually run out of money once their playing days are over.  The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Business School and the National Football League are out to change that. They've teamed up to teach professional athletes how to rebuild their lives when their sports careers come to an end.  

“The average career span of an NFL player is 3.5 years," says Morvarid Taheripour, a professor who helped form what's now called the Business Management and Entrepreneurial Program. "So the amount of the time they can be a professional football player with respect to the rest of their lives is quite short.”

The average professional athlete’s career is over by age 33.  For physically-demanding sports, like American football, it's as young as 28. Deciding what comes next can be difficult.

"All their life they have focused on being the best football player they can be, so now we help them figure out 'How can I do something else?'" says Kenneth Shropshire, Taheripour's colleague at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Business School. "Some people say athletes die two deaths. You kind of die when you stop playing and you die in real life. So they've got to come back to life and figure out 'How am I going to make a living at 25 for maybe another 40 years?'"

For Taheripour, who came to the US from Iran as a child, the partnership with the NFL is a dream come true. "It was taking everything I love about teaching and yet being able to impact people who are both accomplished and are incredibly driven, yet very humble."

Driven, rich and young can be a bad combination. And even with help, figuring out the next chapter isn't easy. Tony Stewart, a recent graduate of the program, retired from the NFL just a few months ago.

Tony Stewart, a recent graduate of the Business Management and Entrepreneurial Program, retired from the NFL just a few months ago.
Tony Stewart, a recent graduate of the Business Management and Entrepreneurial Program, retired from the NFL just a few months ago.

"There's a statistic that says 78 percent of professional football players are bankrupt, divorced or unemployed two years after leaving the game," says Stewart. "To me, that's just not acceptable. When it's time, when it's over, you have to have a plan."

Some 220 athletes have gone through the program over the past six years.

"They are like sponges. Everything we tell them, they can't get enough, honestly," says Taheripour. "Many guys come in and say, 'You know, I want to make a difference and I want to be known for something besides the number on my jersey. I just need to know how.'"

Darwin Walker is one former student who avoided being a statistic. Today, he runs a number of successful businesses and credits football for his accomplishments.

"The concepts I learned about leadership have all come from playing the game of football," says Walker. "The amount of study, amount of commitment, and time that you have to put into it is very much like being a successful business person."

Shifting the skills learned on the field to the workplace seems natural to some, but the numbers show that's not the case for everyone. Taheripour's message to her students is a serious one.  

This is the time to build your legacy, she tells them, because no matter how long your athletic career lasts, you are so much more than just an athlete.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs