Three Things For Sport People To Keep In Mind As We Head Into The ‘Great Resignation’

Capitis Consulting - Paul Varian MBA, C.Dir picture
Paul Varian MBA, C.Dir

As Covid-19 recedes, economists are predicting massive changes in the workforce, as people consider new careers following the life changes forced upon them during the pandemic lockdowns. Will this so-called ‘Great Resignation’ affect the sport industry and what should you, as a sports professional, keep in mind if you are considering a career move?

My cell phone rang. Caller ID showed the familiar name of the Executive Director of one of my amateur sport association clients. I picked up, keen to talk her as I hadn’t heard from her throughout the entire pandemic, now over a year long. In chatting with her, I learned that she had been let go by her sport association employer during the pandemic and was now working in a totally unrelated career, doing contact tracing for the local health authority. Would she be back working in amateur sport when all this had blown through? Maybe. But also maybe not.

It’s an example of what has happened to many people during this pandemic, whether in sport or other industries. Covid-19 forced change on us like nothing else has; way beyond our comfort zones. And for many like my client, the change was Draconian - loss of employment forcing the seeking out of new opportunities, not out of choice, but simply to put bread on the table.

We all struggled along and sometimes bounced unceremoniously along the bottom. But we got through it. And now we find ourselves in a strange position. Because of the changes we were forced to make, we have opportunity like we never had before. The courage we found to make these changes was largely because Covid-19 didn’t afford us the choice. We lost our job, so we had to find a new one. We got locked out of our places of employment, so we had to find a way to work from home. Our businesses couldn’t operate in-person, so they had to move it all online.

But now we’ve actually taken this bold step (or got pushed?) towards significant life change, we are finding parts of it that we kind of like it. ‘I could get used to this!’ we are saying to ourselves sitting on our back deck at 4.30pm, checking email on our smartphone. The thought of going back to the ninety minute commute to and from dreary offices, sitting in endless, pointless meetings and listening to Dave talk about his boring ballet-dancing kids beside the photocopier? No thanks. We’ll stay with change.

So hey presto! Here is why we are looking at this Great Resignation. A massive upheaval in employment norms as people en-masse reconsider their career options and potentially make big career changes.

And yes, it is for real – according to Axios, surveying has shown that from 25% and upwards of 40% of the US workforce is considering quitting their job.

Industries that were hit particularly hard by pandemic lockdowns appear to be taking a front row seat in this. Take the hospitality industry, for example.

Doug Radkey is a leading hospitality consultant, author and speaker. In dealing with hundreds of bars, restaurants and hotels across North America, he sees the Great Resignation as the largest attribute holding back a full re-opening and expansion of the hospitality industry in North America.

‘In North America, the hospitality industry is experiencing significant staffing shortages across all positions, from service staff to back-of-house,” Radkey says. ‘Many people who used to work in bars and restaurants have simply not returned and are either choosing to delay their return or not work in the industry anymore because they have found alternate careers’

So what about sport? Are we to see the huge shifts in staffing, or volunteerism, that has fueled the industry in the past?

At this point, it is very difficult to tell, particularly in places like Canada and parts of Europe where pandemic restrictions have not been fully lifted yet and amateur sport still cannot operate freely and unencumbered. We don’t know how many people are coming back to work yet, because we still aren’t really letting them.

However, it would be naïve to think the sport industry won’t get caught up in this massive human resource shift.

Early signs are there. Polling conducted by Capitis Consulting in the Canadian province of Ontario in late 2020 indicated that arguably the industry’s most important human resource – the coach – is under serious threat of getting swept up in the Great Resignation, with approximately a third of all coaches surveyed indicated that they would probably or definitely not be returning to coach post-pandemic.

What about you? Are you a sports person wondering if what you do in sport is worth it, given what you either had to put up with this year, or what new opportunities the shutdown has thrown up for you?

If you are considering a change, especially a big one that would see you leave the sports industry entirely, here are three things to muse over before you make the big leap!

1. Job Security Doesn’t Always Mean Job Satisfaction.

Anecdotally, we know that many people are switching careers because the pandemic has revealed major frailties in the industry of their employment, and vulnerability to future public health crises that we know it would be blindly naïve to not expect again in some form in the future. These people are changing careers for job security purposes.

While this is in some ways sensible and responsible (particularly if you income is supporting others, such as a family), take a deep breath before you do this yourself. Yes, a job is a means to an end. But your career is a big part of your life and how you define yourself, your happiness and fulfillment. Understand that job security doesn’t necessarily give you job satisfaction or make you happy and, while you may be able to put up with it for a while, eventually job dissatisfaction or a lack of fulfillment will likely wear you down.

So if you must leave the sports industry, ensure what you choose to pursue instead isn’t just a safe option, but also one that you find fulfilling, rewarding, motivational and is a career you can see longevity for yourself in.

2. Were You Unhappy In Your Career Before The Pandemic Hit?

This is an important one. Were you privately burnt out, fed up with difficult sports parents, over unreasonable sport Boardrooms and frustrated with nickel-and-dime program budgets before the pandemic hit? Has this forced break from sport simply been the push-over-the-edge that you needed to make that change? Or do you still love sport, what it does, and what it brings to you as the person you are?

If it’s the former, then thank this pandemic for making a decision for you that you clearly should have a made a while ago. If it’s time to move on, do so and be happy in what you do! Life’s simply too short to do otherwise.

But if it’s the latter, consider trying to leave the door open ajar if you simply must leave for other immediate, pressing reasons (such as money). No doubt, the sport sector will want you back when it is allowed to accommodate you. And if you can’t come back now, you will likely be welcomed back later if that is all you can commit to.

If you still love sport, don’t walk away completely. Retain a volunteer role somewhere, even if small. Keep in touch with your former colleagues and attend sport events. Remain in the sport community and keep tabs on it. Assess when you think you can jump back in, and why. Finding a rewarding, personally-satisfying career is hard to do. So, if you know in your heart sport is still where your passion lies, stay connected!

3. Re-Train Anyway – You’ll Need It To Just To Keep Up.

Okay, so you’re a coach. You’ve considered the options and you’ve decided you’re in the 70% or so in the Capitis Consulting surveying that is staying in the industry, pandemic or not. That’s great! No doubt in my mind that you will be needed as the industry continues to emerge from hibernation, particularly early on.

But have you considered this. Why don’t you re-train anyway?

The reality is this. Even if you don’t change job, career, or volunteer pass-time, the world of human resources (paid and unpaid) has irrevocably changed. How things were in 2019? That ain’t coming back. Many companies aren’t going back to in-person work environments (according to a recent PriceWaterhouseCoopers webinar, CEOs are anecdotally musing a two-day-a-week work-from-home policy, with the three days at the workplace being focused on creative tasks, group work and collective staff training and celebration events).

But this change extends beyond the workplace. Simply doing business online as an expected norm (not some futuristic option) is also here to stay. You know when your grandmother now chooses to connect with you via a Zoom call that this internet thingy is officially here to stay. Society has reached its e-tipping point, and there’s no tipping back.

Backing this is up is a broad scale digitization of the economy, which was happening anyway, but has been heavily expedited by the pandemic.

According to PriceWaterhouseCoopers’ recent 24th CEO Survey ‘From Optimism To Opportunity’, 71% of Canadians CEO’s are increasing digital investments over the next three years, with 36% expecting these increases to be more than 10%.

Whether you change your personal situation or not, it is becoming a non-negotiably digital world. And you’d better be able to operate in it.

So, even if you are staying put in your job or volunteer activity, consider re-training anyway to make yourself as productive and effective as possible in this new digitized world we find ourselves in. Train yourself in how to deliver what you do online, with more advanced technologies, with excellence (including coaching).

I’m doing it myself. Consulting used to be about giving people advise in-person around a Board table. Now I’m expected to be an online TV producer! Am I outside my comfort zones at times? Absolutely. But I am investing over time what I need to in myself to be able to do online what I used to do in-person. I haven’t changed my job. But my job has got up and walked away online. I have to re-train to go and keep up with it.

It is likely the same for you. So avoid hesitation you may feel about having to take yet more education, after you had thought you were finished with all of that when you completed your last coaching license. Accept that you never finish training, learning, developing. In this post-pandemic world, you need to keeping upskilling yourself just to keep up.

Accept it, immerse yourself in it, and enjoy it!


Paul Varian is the President of Capitis Consulting Inc., a boutique management consultancy focused on adding value in and around the amateur sport Boardroom, and author of Amazon #1 Best Selling Soccer Management Book ‘Don’t Blame The Soccer Parents’. Visit for more and follow Paul on Twitter at @paulvarian or on LinkedIn at Paul Varian.