Sporting Chance

Athletes Find Portal to New Career

Skier and tv expert höfl riesch DPA
German ski star, now TV star, Maria Höfl-Riesch.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Athletes often have few career options when their sporting days are over. A new internship program hopes to address this problem.

  • Facts


    • About 91 percent of elite athletes feel they are not sufficiently prepared for life after sport, according to a study.
    • A new online platform,, will help athletes find internships.
    • The partners behind the platform are Deutsche Sporthilfe, Deutsche Bank and Deutsche Unternehmerbörse.
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Working with an Olympic gold medalist or going to the cafeteria with a world champion could be reality in some German companies from next week onwards. A new online exchange is about to launch that will help professional athletes to embark on a career when they retire from sport.

The partners behind the new platform are Deutsche Sporthilfe (a foundation supporting the interests of athletes) Deutsche Bank and Deutsche Unternehmerbörse (DUB), an online portal for entrepreneurs, start-ups and investors. Young athletes introduce themselves on the website and describe the kind of internship they are looking for and employers can make their own offers.

“Even the smallest Mittelstand company can cooperate with top athletes,” said DUB Managing Director Jens de Buhr, referring to German small and mid-sized enterprises.

There will already be some gold medal candidates registered when Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office gives the green light for the online exchange on Monday,  including 20-year-old speed skater Beate Plendl and 18-year-old teenage trampoline gymnast Leon Zaunseder.

“Project and time management, teamwork – these are challenges we already meet as competitive sportsmen and students.”

Andreas Kuffner, Olympic gold medalist, rowing

Many athletes wonder how they are going to make a living after their sports careers end. About 91 percent of elite athletes feel they are not sufficiently prepared for life after sport, according to a study by Deutsche Sporthilfe.

One or two manage to get by as TV commentators, like ski racer and three-time Olympic gold medalist Maria Höfl-Riesch, who has just been signed by broadcaster ARD. It is less common for medal winners to get established as speakers, with former swimming star turned motivational speaker Michael Gross being an exception.

For most athletes, obtaining access to a classic career environment “is difficult without help or a portion of luck,” said Michael Ilgner, chairman of Deutsche Sporthilfe and a former world-class water polo player.

Mr. Ilgner already set up the “Springboard for the Future Sport & Career” initiative a year ago, enabling companies to support athletes while they are still active in sports with internships and mentoring programs. The new online exchange for interns is the latest feature.

Andreas Kuffner, 27, a rower, knows from experience how hard it is to fit in a long internship while still training. At the 2012 Olympics in London, he and his seven teammates won gold medals. Mr. Kuffner, who is a student at the Beuth University of Applied Sciences in Berlin, initially found it hard to work at automaker Daimler-Benz and sacrifice the time away from his training schedule.

He did find, though, that many of his skills as a sportsman were directly transferable. “Project and time management, teamwork, working on different projects – these are challenges we already meet as competitive sportsmen and students,” said Mr. Kuffner.


Claudia Obmann is an editor on the Handelsblatt careers desk. To contact the author:

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