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Why hiring an athlete is a game-changer for business

From Wimbledon to the Tour de France, the fantastic events taking place this summer are leaving us in admiration of our sporting heroes.

The precision of French tennis star, Harmony Tan, whose measured crosscourt forehand secured victory over 23-time Grand Slam legend, Serena Williams.

The strength of the Jumbo Visma team that fired Wout van Aert beyond the peloton’s reach to win stage 4 of “Le Tour” in Calais.

As a former professional rugby player and company director, I know first-hand that the talents shown by these individuals are the fabric of success in any setting, but especially so in the corporate domain.

It’s no coincidence that 94% of C-suite women come from sporting backgrounds, nor that 95% of Fortune 500 CEOs played sports at college level. “Sport is so much like business”, tennis great and entrepreneur Venus Williams explains. “It’s all about strategy…learning from losing. It’s about setting goals.”

But when athletes retire, their world-class value can be overlooked if employers do not see beyond academic qualification and industry experience when hiring.

Below are five reasons why recruiting a former sports professional can be a game-changer for a business.


Dion Bailey - Transitioned to Private Wealth at AllianceBernstein

In 2018, injury ended Katie Ormerod’s Winter Olympic dreams and left her career hanging in the balance. The UK snowboarding champ “saw every gym rep and every physio session as one step closer to being back,” and two years later became the first Brit to win a slopestyle World Cup title.

GB Snowsport head coach, Hamish McKnight put the return down to Katie’s extreme talent, “unusual work ethic…a very intense approach to practice and self-determination.”

Companies inherit this brand of commitment when an athlete comes on board – self-belief that motivates colleagues, even at the toughest of times.

Team mentality

When multiple Tour de France winner Chris Froome signed for Israel Start-Up Nation, teammate Dan Martin was unequivocal in describing the legend’s impact.

“The aura around him and the professionalism that he brings [helps] everyone to look in the mirror and improve themselves. That’s something that has been massively underestimated by those outside of the team,” Martin told Cyclingnews.

Anyika Ounora (3rd from left) - Transitioned to PAS Graduate Program at EY

Executives similarly underestimate the galvanising influence a former sports pro has in the workplace.


The pandemic has made us all adjust to new working environments. For athletes, successive lockdowns meant turning backyards into gyms, forcing a complete shake-up of carefully planned schedules.

Abby Dunkin - Transitioned to Business Consulting Associate at EY

For pole-vaulter, Holly Bradshaw, disruption was followed by the heartbreak of a Covid-postponed Olympic Games. The Brit “channelled energy into other areas of training” and “realigned goals and objectives to attacking personal bests in the areas of training that we could actually do,” explains Holly’s coach Scott Simpson.

Like all athletes, Holly responded to drawbacks with an unwavering determination to improve – an invaluable character trait in any enterprise.

Outstanding performance

We rightly celebrate when athletes win gold, but medals are just a symbol of long-term endeavour; of brutal cycles of exertion and recovery.

Andres Brasil - Transitioned to Sales Support Coordinator at Equinix

The rituals within this endurance are the foundation for optimising wellbeing and achievement in business, writes performance psychologist, Jim Loehr.

“When people feel strong and resilient – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually – they perform better, with more passion, for longer. They win, their families win, and the corporations that employ them win,” Loehr says.


Ursula Santos - Transitioned to Customer Project Manager at Equinix

When the stakes are high, athletes are able to put fear and doubt to one side, and focus solely on the task at hand.

This composure makes them suited to guiding teams under pressure, a reality reflected in the fact that 46% of CEOs in the UK’s 500 largest companies possess awards for their athletic prowess.

Experience has taught me that the elite athlete’s character is not only ideal for leadership; it also creates a culture that ignites leadership in others, driving all organisation members to reach the top of their game.


ACT Co-Founder & Director, Steve Moore.

At ACT, we help sportsmen and sportswomen to transition from elite sport into business.

We do this by identifying and developing transferable skills, before placing candidates into professional environments suited to their experience profiles, interests and ambition as high-level performers.

Click below to find out more.


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