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You Didn't Go Pro, Now What? - by Sarah Daren

From the Coach’s Clipboard Basketball Playbook
"Helping coaches coach better..."

Sarah Daren is a featured writer on the Today Show website and has been a consultant for organizations across a number of industries including athletics, health and wellness, technology and education. When she's not caring for her children or watching the New York Yankees play, Sarah enjoys practicing yoga and reading a good book on the beach.

Sarah Daren
Sarah Daren

If you've ever been seriously involved in sports and athletics, you know that it's a tough field to find success in. Whether it's because of natural talent or luck, the disheartening reality is that many young athletes who have dedicated their lives to sports won't go pro. While this may seem disappointing at first glance, it's important to know you have options.

Understanding the possible paths to pursue when you realize you're not going pro can help make the transition into another life path easier, more accessible, and less jarring.

Here are some options for you to consider when becoming a professional athlete isn't working out.


While it may not be an obvious first choice, college athletes who don't pursue a professional sports career can actually make amazing entrepreneurs. This is because athletes often display many of psychological factors that go into entrepreneurship, such as unwavering self-belief and an ability to adapt quickly to different situations. This being the case, for many athletes who find that going pro isn't an option, entrepreneurship may be the perfect path to pursue.

In addition to psychological qualities such as self-belief and adaptability, a competitive edge and staying calm under pressure can also make athletes great entrepreneurs. This is because having a competitive desire to be the best can help you build a business effectively, while being able to stay calm is of paramount importance because being an entrepreneur can be extremely stressful.

As such, entrepreneurship could be the perfect path to consider pursuing when pursuing the professional athlete route doesn't work out.


If you're someone who wasn't able to go pro but can't see yourself working outside of sports, it may be a good idea to think about pursuing coaching. Coaching allows you the opportunity to stay immersed in sports without having to actually play at a professional level. In addition, while many sports require athletes to have to retire at a certain age, in coaching positions, individuals typically work to a much later age.

To become a sports coach, you'll typically need to be certified by an agency such the NCAA. While you may want to consider getting certified as soon as possible, exploring the career first can be a great place to start. Coaches at the college and high school that you attended can be an amazing resource. They can help you develop realistic expectations of what the career may be like while also being able to guide you through the process of becoming a coach.

Pursue a Master's Program

Just because you didn't have the opportunity to play professional sports doesn't mean that you're optionless. In fact, the world is still your oyster, and you have the opportunity to pursue an education in any field that you'd like. Whether you're fascinated by mythology, have an interest in marketing, or would like to learn more about the judicial system, you have the opportunity to pursue these paths. This being the case, pursuing a master's degree and furthering your education could be a great choice.

While you may have been at school with a sports scholarship while completing your undergraduate education, this probably won't be the case as you pursue a master's degree. This means that it will probably be a good idea to start working at the same time you pursue your advanced degree.

As such, it's important for you to be aware of some tips about working full-time and going to school in order to better manage your workload.

Life Isn't Over

While it can be difficult to grapple with the reality that you're not going to become a professional athlete, the truth is that there are a slew of meaningful and fulfilling career options for you to pursue. By thinking deeply and critically about what careers interest you, you'll be able to pivot and pursue a new path in life that brings you joy and satisfaction.

Articles by Sarah Daren