Have you competed in your sport since you were in 7th grade? Or, before you could even remember? It can be hard if you have been an athlete your whole life to suddenly be stripped of that title once you graduate from college. Can you still be an athlete and participate in the sport you are fond of after you graduate? The answer is yes, and I am going to show you how.
From my personal experience, I have been a runner since high school. I received a scholarship to the college of my choice for running cross country and track. When I had my degrees completed, I was more excited than ever to keep competing now at the level void of NCAA rules. The number one rule most athletes know is that you can’t take prizes or prize money, nor receive endorsements without making you and often your whole college team ineligible. This time after college is when you can compete without worries of not accepting prizes.
Make an Athletic Resume and Contact Sponsors
If you still dream about competing professionally, write up and distribute an athletic resume with a list of your achievements. You are going to use this resume a lot so make multiple copies. My sport of choice was running. When I graduated, I sent out running resumes to shoe companies and was picked up by my favorite which was Brooks. This meant when I signed that contract that I promised only to wear their shoes and attire in return for them supplying all my running shoe and athletic attire needs. This also included monetary bonuses when I mentioned their name in interviews, and was featured wearing their clothes and shoes in the media.
You can often have multiple sponsors just so as long as they aren’t competitor sponsors. For myself, wearing the Brooks logo didn’t mean that I couldn’t also sign other non-shoe related contracts. I was picked up by PowerBar. They supplied me with their bars and monetary benefits when I competed as well.
Train Smart and Make Wise Choices
For how to make a bigger income as an athlete, I’d pick races with prize money that I felt I could win or place high enough in to be in the money range. I didn’t choose some races if I felt I could make more at other ones. For me, a $1,000 win at God’s Country Marathon meant more than competing in Boston. By picking races correctly, I could plan on making money each weekend, which worked great since I was a teacher and only worked five days a week. Plan what your goals are and get them.
There are athletic companies that will want you to work for them if you are performing well in your sport. For me, while I was already signed on with Powerbar, they would offer jobs if I wanted to work events and be paid for my time. Since I was usually competing at events on weekends, I instead choose to help them hand out Powerbar samples at other places, not on the weekends. One evening, I handed out Powerbar’s Harvest Bar samples at the Pittsburgh Airport in return for a nice monetary compensation from them.
You Can Still Improve
There are also programs that want to help you improve. For me, The USATF Olympic Development Committee was fantastic and sponsored me to travel to some big events like the 10 Mile National Championships. That meant my travel and expenses to the race was paid for along with the contest directors waving my entry fee.
And don’t believe the lie that after college you can no longer improve. I had my best running times after I graduated. There are many programs at gyms, online training articles, and other people you can collaborate with to help yourself improve.
What If I Want A Less Intense Commitment?
Because running has always been a huge passion and love of mine, I didn’t mind giving up my weekends and spending my evening’s training for races. But, for many of you, you might enjoy not having to have a scheduled practice time or assigned exercises you need to complete each week. Why not join a young adults club team at your local gym or YMCA? If you are not someone who thinks you are the fastest runner, you can still sign up and train for a half-marathon. It’s a huge accomplishment whether you come in first or last. Volunteer to coach at a local high school or university. I found great joy in training and equipping other runners, and you might find the same thing happens in your sport of choice.
Don’t Give Up
Even if you only workout a couple of days a week, don’t give up what you love to do. Don’t be afraid to keep pushing yourself in the gym and setting goals in your sport. Just because you can’t compete at the high school or collegiate level, doesn’t mean you give up trying.
Enjoy this time of your life. Most people are still very young when they graduate and in the prime of their lives. You are not some washed up athlete; your athletic journey is still evolving. It’s a great time to continue competing in the sport you’ve always enjoyed.
Have any additional advice for athletes that have graduated? Share with us below.