Ever wonder how athletes make money? Most people think it is as simple as just playing a game and getting a paycheck.

But for many athletes – and we’re talking about professional athletes – this isn’t enough. Many don’t get to play as often as they would like. Others do not earn as much as they need to and have to find ways to supplement their incomes.

So how do athletes make money?

In this article, we will review 5 of the most common ways in which athletes make money using their athletic skills.

This means we will not cover ways they may money from side jobs. Instead, we will talk about prize money, endorsements, salaries, coaching fees, etc.

We will also cover how other types of athletes, specifically, college athletes, CrossFit athletes, and retired athletes make money.

So, if you’re curious about how athletes make their living, read on!

How Do Athletes Make Money?

In this section, we will talk about how generic professional athletes make money. We do not specifically talk about Olympic athletes as they tend to fall into a special category of their own.

So here are the 5 top ways with which athletes make money:

  1. Prize Money
  2. Sponsorships / Endorsements
  3. Salaries
  4. Appearance Fees
  5. Coaching

#1. Prize Money

Many athletes make money by winning competitions. This could be anything from a local marathon to the Olympics.

Of course, the prize money varies depending on how big the competition is. But even small-time athletes can make a decent living just by winning prize money.

Unfortunately, most athletic sports are linked to age. This means that athletes have a limited time frame in which they can earn prize money.

For example, track and field athletes generally start to decline in performance after the age of 30.

#2. Sponsorships

A common way for good athletes to earn money is to get sponsorships and endorsements.

In a sponsorship, a company pays the athlete to usually wear the company’s clothing or use their equipment during competitions. They may also have to do some form of advertising, such as appearing in commercials or doing social media posts wearing or carrying the product.

Many local companies will sponsor athletes as it is a great way to get their name out there. For example, a running shoe company may sponsor a local marathon runner.

#3. Endorsements

An endorsement is when an athlete uses their name or image to promote a product. They may appear in commercials, social media posts, or even just wear the product while they compete. For example, Tiger Woods has made millions of dollars from endorsements with companies like Nike and Rolex.

Local athletes may also get endorsements from companies. For example, a local car dealership may sponsor a Little League team and have the players wear the company’s logo on their uniforms.

Endorsements can be a great way for athletes to make money, especially if they are not able to compete as often.

#4. Salaries

Some athletes are lucky enough to have salaries from their team or organization. This is most common in team sports like football, basketball, and baseball. But it can also apply to individual sports like golf or tennis.

In most cases, this is a fixed salary but it could also include bonuses based on how well they perform.

#5. Appearance fees

Many athletes can make money just by showing up to an event. This is common with golfers but can also apply to other sports. For example, athletes may get paid just to attend a meet-and-greet or sign autographs.

For instance, an athlete from a small town who has just won a championship can be invited to open a new department store in that town. It can be nice publicity for the store and some extra cash for the athlete while his or her fame lasts.

Sometimes athletes are invited to corporate events to give speeches and share their experiences of overcoming adversity or failures to achieve success.

Of course, appearance fees are not available to every athlete. You generally need a certain level of fame or notoriety to get invited to these types of events.

#6. Coaching

Athletes don’t have to wait till they are retired before becoming coaches. Many athletes start coaching while they are still actively competing. This could be at a lower level like high school or club sports. But it could also be at the professional level.

Many athletes enjoy going back to the club or school where they first got their start. It can be a way for them to give back to the sport and the community that has given them so much. And of course, it is also a way to make some extra money.

#7. Sports Presenter

Another way athletes make money is by becoming sports presenters. This usually happens after they have retired from competition but it can also be done while they are still actively competing.

Many athletes have the personality and charisma to be good sports presenters. They also have a wealth of knowledge about their sport that they can share with viewers.

And being a sports presenter or an expert on sports shows is a career path that can lead to other opportunities, such as becoming a commentator or an analyst. It is also a career that can be pursued long after an athlete has left the competitive arena.

How do College Athletes make money?

College Athletes who are not yet professional also have some of the money-making options open to them that professional athletes do. But they also have another one: scholarships.

The first way that most college athletes make money is through their scholarships. Many athletes receive scholarships that cover all or most of their tuition and living expenses while they are in school. This allows them to focus on their studies and training without having to worry about how they will pay for school.

In addition to that, college athletes can make money from endorsements, prizes and coaching. In fact, many college athletes will coach youth sports teams in their spare time. Some will offer private lessons like golf or tennis lessons.

One option that is available to the pros which is generally notavailable to college athletes is a fixed salary. But a scholarship can provide a college athlete with sufficient income while they are in school and prepare them for their future career.

How do Crossfit Athletes make money?

Crossfit refers to a type of fitness training that combines elements of weightlifting, gymnastics, and running. It is a very popular sport, especially among people who are looking for a more intense workout than what they might get from traditional gyms.

Crossfit athletes can make money from a few different sources. The first is through sponsorships. Many companies will sponsor Crossfit athletes because they want to be associated with a healthy lifestyle. This can be in the form of money or free products.

Crossfit athletes can also make money by winning competitions. The prize money for the Crossfit Games can range in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for the top places. Many other smaller competitions also offer cash prizes for the winners.

Finally, Crossfit athletes can make money by teaching classes or giving private lessons. Many Crossfit gyms will hire athletes to teach classes or give private coaching sessions. Police and military academies also often hire Crossfit athletes to train their personnel.

How do Retired Athletes make money?

Once an athlete retires, they may no longer have any income from playing sports. But that doesn’t mean they can’t still make money from the sport.

Many retired athletes will become coaches. This can be at any level, from youth sports to professional teams. Coaching allows them to stay involved in the sport they love. It can also be a very rewarding experience to help others achieve their goals.

Retired athletes can also become broadcasters or commentators for television or radio. They may also write books about their experiences in the world of sports.

Some retired coaches turn to becoming life coaches. The experiences they have had and the lessons they have learned can be very helpful to others who are looking for guidance.

Appearance fees can also apply to retired athletes. For example, Michael Jordan is still paid large sums just to show up and play at golf tournaments. And he doesn’t even need to win!


If you’re considering a career as an athlete and are asking yourself – How do athletes make money? – then we hope this article gave you some insights into the income opportunities that await you if you decide to pursue athletics as a career.

If you start off as a college athlete your best bet is to get a scholarship. This would, ideally, cover your tuition costs and pay for your living expenses. This will free you up to focus on your education and your sport and do everything you can to get ready to become a professional.

Once you start competing as an athlete you can earn prize money, you can get sponsorships and you can earn money endorsing products. You could even get a salary from a club and/or get appearance fees at events. Finally, you could earn some side money as a coach. This could be to coach children or at a local school or club.

If you are very, very good you can have a shot at sponsorships and product endorsements where the biggest money is made.

And after you retire, you still have options to earn income from your career as an athlete. You could become a full-time coach, become a sports broadcaster or commentator, write books, or even become a life or personal coach to others who could benefit from your experiences and expertise. 

So there you have it. If you are considering a career as an athlete, there are many ways that you can make money from your sport. If you are good at it and are passionate about what you do, you could find yourself earning a good living as an athlete even after you retire.

Thanks for reading!