From sporting hero to children’s author

What does a world class sports person do when retirement arrives? Besides waving the flag to start the London Marathon or appearing on `A Question of Sport’, that is. It’s a question that footballer Steven Gerrard and F1 star Jenson Button will be pondering at the moment.

Some are tempted to write books. I don’t mean autobiographies like the excellent This Mum Runs by Jo Pavey, My Time by Bradley Wiggins or Chris Froome’s The Climb.

You’d expect high-achieving athletes like these to want to share the story of their careers, from youthful ambitions to arriving at the pinnacle of their chosen sport.

What I’m talking about here is the less well-tried career option of writing children’s books.

This week we learned that Jessica Ennis-Hill has signed up to produce a series of books aimed at children. Like many parents, she’s doubtless been making up bedtime stories for her child for some now, and given her celebrity status curiosity alone should persuade plenty of parents to buy them.

She’s not alone. Since retiring from competitive cycling, Sir Chris Hoy has been busy as a TV pundit, a racing car driver but has found the time to produce the  Flying Fergus Books.

Mo Farah is, arguably, Britain’s greatest ever track athlete (if you disagree, I’d be interested to hear who you have in mind) yet he too has produced a children’s book,Ready, Steady, Mo! .

Even Frank Lampard, former England and Chelsea stalwart has had a go with his Frankie’s Magic Football series.

Crossing the Atlantic, George Foreman made a name for himself squaring up to Mohammed Ali before putting his name to a range of cooking appliances. He too has once produced a children’s book, Let George Do It! .

While having a celebrity name on the cover makes a publisher happy by increasing reader recognition, does it do anything for sales? Away from the sporting world, books by David Walliams, Ricky Gervais and even the Duchess of York have all enjoyed good sales.

With sports stars, it’s less clear. Here are the debut children’s books some of the big sporting names ranked in order of their Amazon sales:

  1. Flying Fergus: The Best Birthday Bike by Sir Chris Hoy (Amazon books rank 3,135)
  2. Frankie’s Magic Football: Frankie vs the Pirate Pillagers by Frank Lampard  (9,908)
  3. Ready, Steady Mo! By Mo Farah (15,805)
  4. TJ and the Hat Trick by Theo Walcott (148,000)
  5. George Foreman, Let George Do It. (5,216,716)

(rankings correct as of 24/11/16)



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