It’s a well-known fact that the career of a professional athlete is short lived. Even if it’s injury free, there’s only a small window of opportunity for them to make their mark, achieve their goals and then plan for life post-competition.

For some though that window is even shorter if serious injury does rear its ugly head. Take Niall Bruton, for example. A middle distance runner who ran for the Republic of Ireland at World and European Championships, as well as the 1996 Olympic Games. However, his dream of competing at the 2000 Games was ended by arthritis in his hip, causing him to retire.

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So what do athletes do once they can’t compete anymore? For Niall, he got his head down and went into the business of sport. First with Nike, now at Under Armour UK as their Sports Marketing Manager, Niall is using his experience of competing at the highest level to achieve success in his second career.

In a recent interview, he told GIS: “In many respects there’s a lot of synergies [between athletes and those in business]; athletes in many respects approach their sports strategically – they’re results oriented and they’re driven. I saw a quote from PWC where they interviewed a number of CEOs, of which 77% said they see athletes as having a number of soft skills – determination, dedication, discipline – that’s something they see as a real attribute in the business world. Athletes certainly have that.”

Always wanting to learn more, Niall is now a delegate of the CEO of a Sports Organisation programme, ran by VSI in conjunction with GIS. Niall isn’t the first former, or current, professional athlete to join the programme, but through it, he’s able to utilise his former skills to his benefit.

Reflecting on his injury, Niall said: “There’s a famous quote that says ‘an athlete dies twice’, and I would have to say yes, when I lost my career it was a difficult process. You go through a lot of change, a loss of identity and I think that’s probably summed up by a model by Kubler-Ross which goes through five stages of change or grief, and I would say that I probably went through all five stages.”

He concluded: “In many respects that process of change has really helped me to be where I am today, I can certainly look back and take learnings from what I did as an athlete and really start to implement it into my day-to-day role as a business person.”