Athletes have lived a sheltered life isolated from “the real world.” They are used to having people take care of everything around them so they can focus on their performance on the field.

While this might be true for athletes of big team sports and many student-athletes, we are a lot of Olympians and non-Olympic extreme sport and lifestyle sport athletes who cannot identify with that version of life as an athlete at all.

In those types of sports careers, the athlete is running his or her career as an entrepreneur. While the goal might be to be able to focus on the sport, it’s just not possible to isolate yourself. In order to even be able to practice, the athlete has to put all the surrounding pieces of the puzzle in place. That involves setting up your structure, building the team around you, planning the training and competition calendar and of course finding ways to monetize – or even just finance – your sports career by developing a value proposition through communication, branding and marketing and networking.

Now we don’t call it all those fancy words and we might not be super systematic about this part of our career. Most athletes will prioritize training and fit in those things whenever there’s some down time – or an urgent need to bring in some cash for the next camp.

So when exactly do you prepare for life after sports?

Either you divide your attention and side hustle – or you wait till your sports career is coming to an end and take it from there.

I believe we can do a better job of “taking it from there” by realizing and translating the skills we’ve developed running a sports career like this. I believe a career like this in itself is a form of preparation for a second professional career the same way an education is. It can be used as a mix of learning and putting to practice – AS LONG AS we’re aware of what we’re learning and putting into practice.

A good place to start this process on your own is by using the Athlete VALUE sheet. It will help you define your VALUE proposition for life after sports.