When we think of professional athletes, our first inclination is always to think about their exploits in a given sport. And that’s perfectly natural—it’s why they are pros in the first place. But practices and games only last a few hours every day, in other words, there are lots of extra hours for athletes to branch out and live their lives.
While social media is definitely filtered, it gives us a lens to see How the World's Best Athletes Spend Their Down Time. These are people who are used to the attention and adoration of millions, and they know that their fans are interested in getting a sense of what they’re up to when the games are over.
For many athletes, time off the field or court is spent in a rather predictable (if boring) way: training. The goal, after all, is to become the very best in the world. To make that happen they have to become bigger, faster, and stronger. “There’s no substitute for hard work,” as the old expression goes, and many athletes really, really want you to know how much time and effort they put into their craft. Naturally, their social media feeds are filled with pictures of them drenched in sweat after a brutal workout, with some clever caption making promises of glory ahead.
The Denver Broncos' Von Miller has a lot of interests off the field, particularly in the fashion world. However, even more than a pair of new sneakers, Miller loves to spend his off-field time focusing on improving his game. Whether it's through posting old photos of his days at Texas A&M or black-and-white photos of him roaming the field for the Broncos, Miller uses his decorated past as motivation to make it back to both the Pro Bowl and (more importantly) the Super Bowl.
Elite sportsmen use their time away from their teams to focus on something extremely important: their families. No matter how skillful they are or how much hype they get, many use their limited time off to soak up every moment with loved ones. On Sundays, Buffalo Bills’ star wide receiver Sammy Watkins may be all about rewriting his team’s rookie record books like he did last year, but once he steps off the gridiron, all the man wants to do is spend time with his baby daughter.
FC Barcelona’s Luis Suarez takes it up another level, treating his daughter to a Frozen-themed birthday party in one shot, and taking his whole family on a tropical vacation in another. His teammate, the incomparable Lionel Messi, likewise keeps the focus off of soccer when he’s away from the pitch. Messi spends practically all of his off-the-field time relaxing with his family, sipping on coffee or tea and generally looking pretty ordinary. Except, you know, he can also do this.
It isn’t always just about family time, though. While they do a good job showing otherwise, the majority of athletes are not “everyday men,” and checking in on what these guys do off the field can serve as a good reminder of just how different they are from the rest of us. Take John Wall: in addition to giving back with his summer basketball camps, he also casually snaps candids with President Obama.
There’s also James Harden, who in addition to occasionally dabbling in the party scene uses his time off the court to focus on his goals. While many of us are just hoping to grind enough to get that 5 percent raise this year, Harden’s ambitions are clearly a bit loftier. And you know what? That new deal with adidas might just be the thing that helps him hit those goals. $200 million can buy a lot of plane rides.
One of the perks of being world class in your chosen profession is that it almost certainly means you are athletic enough to excel in other sports as well. As a result, many of our best sportsmen spend their time off playing other sports. It’s really the best of both worlds for them; the athletes get to show off how talented they are but get to do so in a relaxed, no pressure environment. Perhaps nobody takes more advantage of that balance than Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale, a star on the soccer field who clearly loves competing in just about anything else when his season is over. He’s been known to try out both rugby and basketball for fun, but his real passion is golf. The dude is always playing, and even won a tournament in Wales this summer.
Of course, what dude, pro sportsman or otherwise, doesn’t like to show off his or her beautiful spouse? In addition to being one of the PGA Tour’s top players, Dustin Johnson loves to spend as much time as humanly possible making out with wife Paulina Gretzkey, and subsequently showing off photos of said make out sessions on social media. When you see Paulina, it’s tough to blame him for wanting to brag a little bit.
It’s no secret that professional athletes spend a ton of time honing their craft on the practice field and in games, and that the only way to stay at the top level is to work harder than your competition. If you’re among the best in the world, it’s because you really don’t have many hobbies outside of your sport, so the concept of “down time” is a bit foreign. But, it’s not humanly possible to be pushing yourself to the limit all the time, so even the most focused, elite athletes need a break sometimes. While it takes many different forms, the ability to unwind is what helps the best stay the best.