Fully half of previously carded athletes report that they feel they retired as a carded athlete before they had reached their full potential. Another quarter does not feel this way and the same number do not know. When asked why they had retired prematurely, many report retiring due to lack of financial backing and injury. Slightly fewer indicate a lack of support from coaches/training facilities, the pursuit of education, or family reasons for early retirement.
After retirement, approximately one-third indicated that they had been very interested in both employment and volunteer involvement in high performance sport and the same number indicated that they were not interested in pursuing either type of continued involvement in high performance sport.
Despite the divided interest in employment or volunteer involvement in high performance sport, a strong majority are still involved with competitive sports and, in fact, continue to actively compete in their sport at an international level.
Coaches were also asked for their opinion on athletes’ retirement decisions. Many (69 per cent) also agree that high performance athletes retire prematurely from the national team and, similarly, coaches are most likely to cite financial difficulties as the most important factor in athletes’ decision on retirement (63 per cent say it is an important factor). Four in ten also think that athletes retire mainly because their sport responsibilities interfere with their non-sport career goals.
8.Economic Status, Working Conditions and Professional Opportunities
High performance athletes report an average annual income of $27,367 last year (which moderately lower than the average Canadian personal income in 2000, which was $ 31,75711). The largest proportion of this income is derived from government athlete assistance (39 per cent or $10,608 annually, on average12), while 37 per cent (an average of $10,090) is actual employment income and 21 per cent ($5,850) is sport-related income. A relatively small proportion of an athletes’ annual income is in the form of direct financial support from the National Sport Organization (four per cent) or in-kind rewards (four per cent). High performance athletes in 1997 reported an average income of $21,559, up from $19,865 in 199213. In these years, however, the largest proportion of income came from employment rather than government athlete assistance. While employment and sport-related income has come down over time, at least since 1997, athlete assistance has nearly doubled over that same period.
Previously carded athletes, by comparison, reported an average annual personal income of approximately $27,000 for 2003.
Student athletes (carded) report an average personal income of $20,802 (from all sources), which is 70 per cent higher than the personal income reported by Canadian post secondary students in general in 2001 at $12,200 (from all sources) over the course of an academic year.14
(*Note: the total average annual income shown in the slide above ($27,367) is the actual average amount reported by athletes responding to the survey. It is not the sum of the individual sources of income.)
The level of personal income increases with age, education and carding level. Personal income also tends to be higher among athletes participating in individual (as opposed to team) sports and, not surprisingly, athletes who have commercial opportunities in their sport, as well as the employed. There are no significant differences in income on the basis of gender or season of sport participation (summer vs. winter). The table below provides this information in greater detail for the total income and top three sources of income.
Average Personal Income by Athlete Characteristic
Employment Income ($)
Sport-Related Income ($)
With respect to the top three sources of income, note that, while patterns by age and carding level follow the same pattern as the overall income pattern by age, for education it is only employment income that is higher for the university-educated. Winter athletes and those with commercial opportunities are only better off than other athletes in sport-related income. Individual-sport athletes show a larger income in government assistance. Naturally, employed athletes report a higher employment income, whereas athletes who are not employed show virtually no employment income.
It is interesting to note that nearly half of carded athletes (44 per cent) reported a personal income in 2003 that was actually higher than in previous years. One-third (33 per cent) said that their income has remained fairly stable compared to previous years and roughly one in seven (17 per cent) said they earned less income in 2003.
Although older athletes report higher levels of personal income, they are also more inclined than others to say that their income in 2003 was lower than it has been in previous years.