Interview with Lauryn Williams, a Four times Olympian

Interview with Lauryn Williams, a Four times Olympian

Question 1: Discuss the challenges faced as a career athlete and a student in this dual career role?

I would say, the biggest challenge that you face as an athlete and a student, is time management.  Once you master that though, you become better equipped to deal with other aspects of your life once you are done competing.  Having already managed two different and equally important things simultaneously, studying and sports, makes athletes really good at being able to juggle multiple jobs, and generally multiple things at the same time.

Question 2:  Explain how your athletic career prepared you for your current role and how your professional performance is influenced by your previous athletic achievements.

I believe that sports has prepared me well for my current career because of the many things that sports taught me.  Take for example persistence; in sports sometimes you have a bad practice and, it’s a rough day but you get up and you come back the next day; that’s persistence. Showing up even when its harsh, showing up after things didn’t go so well is one of the main things that I have carried over into my professional career; when a client tells you that they no longer want to be your client; when you do not land the big deal you expected to get; when you feel a bit overwhelmed by having to deal with all the marketing, the financial planning and the compliance.  Also, there are days where I just want to focus on one thing but by being persistent and following through with the things that are not so fun, I increase my chances for success in the professional world.

Question 3:  Discuss the conditions and factors, faced by career or Olympic status athletes, which in your opinion render financial education important to them.

An Olympic athlete has to deal with getting appropriate equipment for their sport, having to travel extensively, and if you are in a sport like canoeing or kayak or bobsleigh you have to ship the equipment you use, to wherever you are competing, across the globe.  Shipping your equipment all over the world is very expensive, so you definitely need funding to do that.  A lot of these sports are not the most well known therefore funding is quite difficult.  Another thing that Olympic athletes have to face is working full-time or part-time while competing in order to fund their Olympic careers.  Financial education is really important for these athletes in figuring out how to make the most of what they have; when you have very little, the strategy to make the most of it is a really important one and good decision making is an integral part of such a strategy; even if you become financially comfortable from sponsorships, it is just as important because it gives you the insight to manage your money well.  Sometimes it may not seem as important because if you have 5,000 dollars and you lose 500 dollars, it hurts a lot less than if you have 500 dollars and you lose 50 dollars, where the difference is quite vast.  There is a saying ‘’more money, more problems’’ and I think it’s definitely true when there is lack of financial education; it can get quite scary having to manage large sums of money.  When you have proper financial education from the very beginning, you understand the value of a dollar and it enables you to be financially responsible whether you are earning one dollar or a million dollars.

Question 4:  What changes would you recommend to sport bodies in order to better prepare athletes for life after sports?

I’ve seen a lot of sports organizations which put programs in place for athletes and have athletes sit through various conferences and webinars in order to get them engaged and involved in their own financial future, their own preparation for life after sports.  Sports organizations also organize workshops on branding, financial literacy, nutrition and other areas of interest to athletes.  I believe that sport bodies should pool together in jointly creating such programs so that they create a good comprehensive program, applicable to all athletes.  Right now, most sport bodies try to create their own programs from scratch, with limited resources, which I think is rather ineffective.

Question 5:  What advice would you give to a young career athlete in relation to their post sports career?

I would say that the main thing I want to communicate to young athletes is that the time is now, the time is not later, it is not tomorrow, it’s not when they have time.  The time is right now!  Do something small today that could help you later on in the future; your post sports life could be just a day away; you don’t want that to sneak up on you when you are not prepared for it.  It’s going to be really difficult to transition from sport to life after sport.  It is hard for every athlete even with preparation, so it’s really important that you start to put a plan in place now to ease the pain of transitioning from sport to life after sport.  Unfortunately, a lot of athletes think that they are going to be shifting their focus away from competing by thinking about and planning their future after sport, but just a little bit of effort in this area can go a really long way, so the time is now.

Question 6:  You have a new book coming soon “The Oval Office:  A 4x Olympian’s guide to Professional Track & Field”.  Would you like to tell us a little bit about it and what was the motive for writing this book, who would like to help through the book?

Yes, the book is now live, you can get it on Amazon or you can get it by going to www.the-oval-office.com.  The point of writing the book was, first, a way to give something back to the sport that has given me so much.  Throughout my sports career there were so many things that I was looking to do correct but there were just no resources, no one to reach out to, no one to answer my questions objectively.  I did not have the best information available to me so I did a lot of trial and error. Part of the reason I became a financial planner is because I feel that we have got to do a better job for the next generation of athletes.  As a former athlete, I can relate better to the young generation of athletes because they are more keen to get advice and guidance from one of their “own”.  While writing the book, I have tried to use a more generic format so that it appeals to a broader audience of athletes across all sports.  Athletes who read the book will be a lot more educated about how things work in track and field but in addition to that, they will learn a lot about professionalism in sports, in general.  So while the book is written for the track and field athlete, there is a lot of information that is relevant to anybody who is looking to be a professional athlete; how athletes should govern themselves and how they can maximize their resources and abilities as sports professionals.

The book is really a good resource for the next generation of athletes; it talks about nutrition, supplements, doping and how athletes can keep themselves out of trouble.  It talks about branding and appearance and it contains information on contracts, an area of weakness for many athletes.  Of course, athletes want to make sure that they earn a substantial revenue from their sports contract but if they don’t have the skills to negotiate the contract and read and interpret the fine print contained in it, they could end up with a ‘bad contract’ in many respects.  In addition, we have a whole chapter on finance in the book so that we provide athletes with a basic financial knowledge which will help them deal with financial hurdles.

There are so many different topics in the book that are relevant to helping athletes get on the right track and helping them avoid big pitfalls, common pitfalls, and generally the pitfalls that arise in the lives of professional athletes.  My wish is that the book becomes a resource that is going to help athletes make better decisions, end up in less trouble, make fewer mistakes and be more confident in their decision making as sports professionals.

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