By Constantinos Massonos, Contributor
State social welfare systems were introduced early in the 20th century as a measure for protecting the health and well-being of citizens and families facing social challenges by providing them with essentials like health care, food stamps or unemployment benefits. The importance of having a protective net for the most vulnerable in our societies is more evident in periods of financial distress similar to the current one, caused by the spread of the coronavirus.
The reality is that when one thinks of a vulnerable individual, an athlete is not the first thing that comes to mind. But the uniqueness of the athletic profession, which we have discussed in many of our previous articles, creates many unique challenges for athletes to overcome, challenges that a state welfare system won’t usually cover.
Athletes’ life outside the field of play is becoming increasingly important and greatly affects their in-field performance. Lately, an increasing number of athletes is coming forward to disclose their personal challenges that can range from sexual, physical and emotional abuse to gender discrimination, unemployment and homelessness. At the same time, governments and sports organizations around the world are launching initiatives that aim to prevent and manage these issues by promoting athlete welfare.
Developing athlete welfare programs and practices involves creating a safe environment for athletes to grow and develop while competing and training for their sport, and at the same time ensuring their safety and well-being when they are away from the field of play.
An important part of a proactive athlete welfare program is offering a dedicated support network that can guide, advise and help athletes, especially younger athletes, to develop essential sport and life skills. While an athlete’s club has a pivotal role in choosing who will be included in an athlete’s support network, established athletes, coaches, managers and other professionals can be included in it.
A number of leagues, predominantly based in the United States are offering a variety of athlete welfare programs to their athletes that aim to help them with facing and coping with different types of problems during or after their athletic career. These programs focus on different phases of an athlete’s career, from rookie transition programs that help rookies adjust to professional athlete life, to programs that focus on helping athletes prepare for their life after the end of their sports career.
Ensuring athletes’ welfare is everyone’s responsibility; responsibility of governments and sport authorities to draw strategic planning and ensure its implementation through monitoring and evaluating the different athlete welfare programs; responsibility of Player Unions and Sports Clubs to adopt and implement these programs and to deal with athletes’ issues on a case by case basis.
We have been working with athletes from all over the world to ensure they get the best financial advice and help them have a smooth transition to life after sport. You can learn more about how we can help you by sending us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org