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

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact 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.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs