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What do athletes and investors have in common?

15 Oct 2021   ·   

We have seen an increasing trend of athletes becoming investors or entrepreneurs. They realise their sporting careers are short and want to plan ahead for their retirement. But what makes some athletes good investors? What do they have in common?

In sports, athletes need to have a very clear goal in mind, a winning mentality, practice a lot what they do and be patient and work hard to achieve results. The same can be said for investors. Of course, there are always other elements that can help someone to succeed, but the athletes that have a clear purpose, commit to a routine and surround themselves with a great team are most likely to win. You also need a good team, persistency and time to have a good return on investment. No athlete can win alone, they depend on a lot of people for success. And the same can be said for investors or start-ups. You need a good “on the field team” – the people in the business you work with day to day – and a great “coaching team” – the board and mentors who help you to manage your mental game. In business, competition is as brutal as it is in sports. You need all the help you can get.

Athletes have already learnt how to work effectively in a team. LeBron teamed with Arnold Schwarzenegger and two other celebrities to create Ladder. The idea was to create nutritional products for athletes to combat cramping while in action. LeBron suffered severe cramping in the National Basketball Association’s Finals series in 2014 and had always been keen to find a solution. “I will do everything for them to be successful, and I think LeBron will do everything for them to be successful,” Schwarzenegger said. “We’re all partners. We’re going to do this together; that’s our mission.”

Driven mentality

Successful athletes have been motivated their whole life to be the best. They had to be better than average, beat the odds, change their lifestyle, pursue their dreams. They have dreamed of the day they would become a professional athlete and have worked tirelessly to achieve that goal. That dream keeps them going, keeps them focused on every moment. Each training, each match, each competition is important. And this mentality makes them great investors and entrepreneurs. They want to build something big; they want to achieve something great. They know it is not going to happen all of a sudden, they need to work consistently to accomplish it. Athletes have a long-term perspective. It takes five to ten years to build a great business. Athletes understand that, whereas entrepreneurs can be driven by goals which are too short term.

Kobe Bryant has been reported saying that he would prefer to be remembered for his ability to support expanding businesses, rather than his triumphs on the basketball court. “Playing basketball, the focus is always on winning. Now, championships come and go. There’s going to be another team that wins another championship, another player that wins another MVP award. But if you really want to create something that last generations, you have to help inspire the next generation, and they create something great, and then that generation will inspire the one behind them, right? And that’s when you create something forever. And that’s what’s most beautiful.”

Master flexibility and risk

Athletes are also very good at being flexible. You need to master adaptability to be a good entrepreneur or investor. The athlete needs to know how to adapt to a changing situation such as rain on a Formula 1 race, wind on a golf tournament, an own goal in a Champions League game or sun in your eyes during a Roland Garros match… flexibility can also lead to success in entrepreneurial businesses. What worked first may not work later so investors and entrepreneurs need to adapt constantly to new circumstances. At the same time, you need to be able to manage risk. When you are already winning the game, there is no need to take unnecessary risks, just protect your leadership. When your start-up or investment is doing well, there is no need to risk doing something unnecessary.

Athletes as entrepreneurs

Derek Jeter, former baseball player, is a good example of a self-invented businessman. After his retirement, he became a CEO and part-owner of Miami Marlins of Major League Baseball (MLB). Shaquille O’Neal is a former basketball player who decided to become a businessman after retirement. Former athletes often start their own businesses because they have the time, money, and dedication.

Tom Brady, the greatest quarterback in NFL history, and his trainer Alex Guerrero co-founded TB12, centred around an approach to health and wellness using workouts and nutrition in the belief that everyone can benefit from a smarter, more holistic approach to health and wellness. Tom’s functional strength & conditioning principles, innovative recovery practices, and commitment to preventing and addressing injuries are the basis for everything TB12 does.

It is clear that many of the traits that make an athlete exceptional can also be applied to create great financial performance. Grit, resilience, tenacity, clarity of goals, determination and long-term focus are key for both athletes and entrepreneurs to reach their targets.  Success never comes from being in your comfort zone. Only by willing to take chances you can learn. And, both in sports and investments, every day is a new chance to learn, grow and succeed.


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