Why Some of the Most Successful Entrepreneurs are Former Athletes

By Tom Ottaiano, CEO, Today’s Business

As a former athlete leading a digital marketing company, I often find myself looking up to famous athletes like Lebron James and Tom Brady for the successes they’ve had with developing new brands and building up teams. From founding production and media companies to creating wellness programs and charitable foundations, it is no coincidence that former athletes often become such successful entrepreneurs. Being an athlete shapes a person to be able to make quick decisions, strategize, and overcome challenges⁠—all of which are important when taking on new endeavors. Here are five key traits that have helped me, as well as many other former athletes, with our entrepreneurial ventures. 

Work Ethic

If you’re not willing to put in the work, do not expect to accomplish anything. During my time in the NFL, my work ethic was put to the test. With strict workout regimens and drills, my mind was conditioned to push through challenges and accomplish my goals⁠—no matter how much time it took. That work ethic always stays with an athlete and ultimately helps them accomplish any goal they aim to achieve in life.


Becoming an entrepreneur often means leading a team of people to success. It means understanding how to motivate them, mentor them, teach them, and how to lead by example. The only real way to understand how to lead a team is to have had experience being part of one. This is where I can give credit to my athletic background for teaching me to be the leader I am today.


Goal Setting

Setting goals is the framework of success because every action you take towards a goal, big or small, gets you one step closer to achieving your dreams. Without direction, you are wasting time and energy, and odds are you’ll be going in circles instead of tackling challenges head-on. Being an athlete instills a motivation and an understanding that no great feat is accomplished without first setting goals.

Time Management

Every morning I get my day started at 4 am with a workout. From there, I plan and strategize for my company, employees, and clients. As a former athlete, I understand that time is valuable and, if you manage it correctly, you’ll be amazed at what you can truly accomplish in one day. If you are not managing your time properly, you are missing out on opportunities to succeed.

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Continuous Learning

Everything in life is a learning experience and, to be successful, you need to actively be searching for new ways to learn and grow. In my time playing football, I was constantly learning new plays, new workouts, adapting to our opposing teams’ strategies, and so on. Now that I am running a business, I can’t tell you the number of podcasts I’ve listened to, books I’ve read, and mentors I’ve spoken to in order to get where I am today. To be ready to take on the business world, you need to be willing and open to learning as much as you can.

There is no doubt that the skills I have gained from my time as an athlete have set me up for success. Football has instilled in me a valuable gift and that I will not take for granted. After all, it has brought me to where I am today with a team that is ever-evolving and ever-growing.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]