By Andreas Themistocleous, APC Sports Consulting Ltd
Anyone who has had involvement and experience in collegiate sports will attest to the fact that every single college athlete has his/her sights set on a sports pro career the minute they sign a National Letter of Intent. Call it ambition, call it the nature of a driven athlete or even the simple effect of true competition instilled in each and every athlete; the fact remains that all athletes have a tendency to set goals and go after them, undoubtedly with a high flair, a sense of attainable ambition and the never exhausting self-belief that thrives on previous accomplishments.
Truth be told, it is reasonable to expect college student-athletes to think that way. Just go round any gym, playground or environment in which they operate and notice the ambience; notice the signs on the walls, the sayings on t-shirts, the song lyrics voiced, the more recent social media hype. It’s all geared towards shaping athletes into the things I described above. Don’t get me wrong, I come from that same exact environment and I am as equally guilty, so I wouldn’t dare to question the culture… Or, maybe should I?
The reality is that less than 2% of college athletes turn pro and the NCAA has for decades instigated the message that “you will all turn pro in something other than sports”. Athletes choose to read only the former part of the message, “you will all turn pro…”. It’s no harm to set goals and go after them, afterall it’s up to you whether you can reach your goals. Hopefully you will have set SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic goals that are Time bound).
On the other hand, I always tell students in strategic management classes that SMART goals should include a Plan B. Not because they are not good enough, not because there is doubt or hate (the new trend of haters) in my mind, but because it’s actually highly probable that even as pro athletes they will not enjoy the ludicrous luxurious life of the very few Jordans of this world.
Ten years down the road, athletes probably see themselves as established pros enjoying the good life, the fancy cars and the big houses, the media hype and the crowd attention, not having to work again, not having to worry about money, having taken care of close family and friend, right? They should also see themselves as retired athletes, as parents, as husbands or wives, as members of a community, as part of the ecosystem. If they can do that, then they are one step closer to being successful.
They should see themselves in another career, not necessarily associated or dissociated from sports. They should see themselves loan-free, with a healthy financial plan, but most importantly with a healthy life-plan. Saving money should always be a target. Financial management is a key success factor. Education and knowledge should be a priority in any college athlete’s arsenal, which is the foundation. A legacy is not only about sport achievements and the 20 years of a sports career. It’s also about another 50-60 years of life after sports; where you can be successful as a professional, as a family man, as a member of your community.
But guess what; it’s not all about money, it’s not just “show me the money”. The US is going through some very rough times right now, where ethics, values, belief systems are being questioned and are under scrutiny. Perhaps, now more than ever, college students should indeed ask themselves not only the questions about “how” and “what”, but also the questions about “why” and “why not me”. The future is about you and your family. It’s about your next job, your money, your comfortable living. But is it really just about you? What about the environment in which your kids will grow up? What about the circumstances of people in your community? What about the country you live in?
Make sure that you come up with a SMART strategy about your life. Make sure to include the “how” and the “what” and look to prepare for financial freedom, which is afterall essential for every single one of us. But don’t forget that it’s all a big bubble that will burst, if the “why” and the “why not me” is not also in place. Find that balance that makes a difference.