The life of an elite athlete can be comparable to that of a real estate agent: The competition is fierce, the future is uncertain and he/she has to be playing their “A” game 24/7. Due to these similarities many high-performing athletes have made the transition to the real estate industry.

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Recently Canadian Olympic soccer player Emily Zurrer transitioned from full-time player to a real estate agent for Century 21 Assurance Realty in the Okanagan. But after retiring, Zurrer says she wasn’t sure how she’d fill the void in her life soccer had left.

Emily Zurrer
Emily Zurrer

“It is hard to emulate the emotional excitement and passion of playing in front of 50,000 fans or at an event like the Olympics,” she says. After meeting her future husband Taylor Atkinson at a good friend’s wedding, new career possibilities began to blossom. As the couple continued dating, her partner showed her his property investment portfolio. This led Zurrer to become  curious about the real estate industry.

“After retiring from soccer, I thought it would be quite a challenge for me to find something else to match the level of passion soccer had represented in my life. As I started to get into real estate investment sales myself, it seemed like getting my Realtor licence was a natural fit.” After obtaining her licence and an interior design diploma, it wasn’t long before she was working as an agent in the residential market.

From left, Emily Zurrer, Christine Sinclair and Karina LeBlanc celebrate the bronze medal win at the 2012 London Games.
From left, Emily Zurrer, Christine Sinclair and Karina LeBlanc celebrate the bronze medal win at the 2012 London Games.

Zurrer compares playing on a professional soccer team to being a real estate agent: “The harder you work the better you do. Many of the skills you develop on and off the field in professional soccer are transferred into your job as a real estate agent, like discipline, a never-say-die attitude, organization, a kick-butt work ethic and patience.” She says she never gets too high or too low, which is a vital attribute for an athlete – dwelling on a bad performance won’t help in the next game. Instead she is all about learning from her mistakes.

Zurrer grew up in Vancouver but at four years of age she spent about six months in Scotland while her dad was racing stock cars. Ever since she first kicked a soccer ball it was her dream to play pro and later represent Canada. Zurrer says that even though her dad loved hockey and played it regularly, it’s her mother who passed on the persistence and determination genes.

She played soccer at the highest levels all through her childhood and by 18 was selected to play for the University of Illinois, where she studied advertising. At 16 she was invited to try out for Canada’s National Team program, and her first major senior tournament was the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Her first Olympics is a memory she will never forget.

“It was absolutely overwhelming! The energy on and off the field was electric,” she says. Canada lost to the USA in the quarter finals.  “It was a real close match and I remember the game had to be stopped for over two hours because of a terrible storm. The USA won in double overtime.”

After graduating, Zurrer played for her first pro team in Germany. She says although she was initially intimidated and nervous, “over all it was a great experience.”  Once the season ended all of Team Canada’s players moved to Italy where they stayed in a hotel for eight months, vigorously training for the World Cup at a soccer field next to the hotel. In 2011 Canada played its first game in the World Cup of Soccer in the host country Germany against the German national team. There were over 75,000 fans in attendance, the most people to ever watch Zurrer play.

“Standing in the tunnel you could hear a dull roar of German fans chanting. The Germans beat us and we never advanced. It was definitely the lowest point in my career.”

Next stop was Sweden, then back to Canada’s national team for the 2012 London Games, where Canada won a bronze medal. Unfortunately Zurrer pulled her hamstring before the tournament and had been rehabbing intensively for weeks. She sat out the first game and started game two but shortly into the match she felt something snap. At that point the London Olympics were over for her. After that Zurrer played one last season for Seattle for the newly formed National Women’s Soccer League. She retired from international soccer after the 2015 FIFA World Cup.

As her career came to an end, Zurrer’s life markedly changed. She married Atkinson, a helicopter engineer, then lived in Shanghai for two years before moving back to Canada two years ago.

“We had a choice to make. I wanted to move back to Vancouver Island and my husband wanted to move to Kelowna,” she says. “In the end, he won and we moved to Kelowna and now I’m happy we did.”

Recently Zurrer watched Canada win gold against Sweden at the Tokyo Olympics. She was on the edge of her seat cheering for the team she’d belonged to for the last decade.

“I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel watching the game but I just burst into tears at the end of it. I was so happy for many of my former teammates. It was such an incredible thing for our country and for the future of the women’s soccer because so many young girls would be watching.”

Now Zurrer says she is thoroughly enjoying the challenges of transitioning to real estate. She says one day she would like to give back to Canadian soccer by perhaps coaching kids. But in the meantime she’s pregnant and says she can’t wait for her baby boy to come out kicking.

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