What Pro Athletes Can Teach Us About Mentoring

May 25, 2019

Mentoring is an important character-building experience for everyone, including professional athletes. Most professional coaches and athletes have at least one mentor that encourages and supports them to go for gold. There are several famous mentor-mentee connections in the sports world. Sports stars understand how mentoring impacted them and are willing to give back to others. Moreover, mentoring can also help athletes’ transition into new careers or opportunities. In addition, pro athlete mentors can help create a positive public perception of the sports world, which can become tainted with stories of scandal. There are some pro athletes that have even developed foundations and charities that focus on mentoring youth and giving back to the community.

Athletes who Give Back Through Mentoring

There are many professional athletes who spend free time helping others through supporting charities or mentoring opportunities. The Big Brothers Big Sisters organization of Massachusetts Bay has listed several of them in an online article. One of the more notable mentions was Joel Ward.

San Jose Sharks’ Joel Ward – a right winger for the team, off the ice Joel has been a Big Brother to a young man named Malik Johnson. The youth made headlines when Joel’s former team the Nashville Predators stepped in to help him after Joel went to play for the Capitols in Washington, D.C. It was the Predators’ executive vice president that took Malik under his wing and continued the work that Joel stared with the youth. But Joel didn’t stop supporting him. He went on to pay for tuition for Lighthouse Christian school where Malik studied.  

Former tennis champion Zina Garrison – She reached pro status in 1982 and has used her status to help others, particularly at-risk youth. As part of her commitment to giving back, Zina makes presentations at schools and has started up the Zina Garrison Academy, which provides free tennis lessons to inner-city children. She has also been a mentor to another well-known tennis player, Serena Williams. The two were matched when they were with the WTA.

Bobsledder Steve Mesler – Steve has been known to mentor other athletes and has created his own charity to encourage other pro athletes to connect with mentees. His charity, Classroom Champions that organizes presentations of Olympians and Paralympians for schools. The athletes’ mentorship with the students is an ongoing process that is conducted through lessons and live video chats. There are over 150 classrooms around North America that are involved.

Sports Mentoring Pairs

Professional sports stars often have coaches or other individuals that have supported, encouraged and advised them along the way. One Canadian website has compiled a list of famous sports personalities and their mentors. They include:

  • Yogi Berra was a mentor to Jorge Posada and Derek Jeter
  • Steve Nash has been a mentor to a high school teacher named Mark Neufeld
  • Michael Jordan mentored Kwame Brown, who was in the NBA in 2001
  • Malcolm X mentored Muhammad Ali, who, in turn, mentored others such as Larry Holmes, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and his own daughter Laila Ali.
  • Golf legend Arnold Palmer was a mentor to Rocco Mediate
  • Tiger Woods mentored Jason Day, who was also a golfer
  • Hockey great Gordie Howe mentored Wayne Gretzky
  • Tennis star Venus Williams’ mentor is Pam Shriver

Mentoring as a Transition for Pro Athletes

Once a sports professional can no longer compete there are often limited possibilities for their future career options. However, mentoring programs can help them transition from the sports world into business opportunities. For example, the Women Athletes Business Network (WABN) is such a program that helps female athletes. By pairing them with a skilled business mentor, the mentee is able to use their abilities and experience to transition into a new career.

Start a Mentoring Program

Staring up a workplace mentoring program requires time and energy to do it correctly. However, it can be made easier by using mentoring software. Programs like Together have been designed to help manage the mentoring process from matching to scheduling to tracking the mentorship success through reporting.

If you are looking at creating a mentorship program at your workplace, there are a series of steps that can guide you through the process and help you to be successful.


Mentoring has been proven to be effective in a variety of industries, including professional sports. Many athletes have been guided themselves by a mentor or two throughout their career. There have been many famous mentor-mentee athlete pairs throughout the sports world. This often makes them eager to give back and to mentor someone else, particularly youth.

Mentoring programs can also be used to assist professional athletes’ transition into new career opportunities. This has been successful with female athletes that have moved into the business world through the Women Athletes Business Network (WABN).

If you want to develop a successful workplace mentoring program at your organization, contact us to find out how mentoring software can help.

pump up icon

Set your Organization Apart with Mentorship

Get ready to launch your mentorship program today
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Something went wrong! Try submitting your email again.