By Iacovos Iacovides, APC Sports Consulting Ltd
It is a common mistake for parents to try and dictate to their children how and in what way to live their lives—a route which entails many dangers. It is generally advisable to allow children and young teenagers a breathing space in which they can make their own decisions and in the case of young athletes, it is even more important to accommodate their wants and desires and allow them to input some of their own choices in the decision-making formula.
It is of course, a fine line, but you along with your children should strive to find that equilibrium which is frequently elusive and hard to pin down. Nonetheless, there is a plethora of good reasons why, as a parent of aspiring and ambitious young athletes, you always have to listen, pay attention, understand, and incorporate your child’s concerns, thoughts and wants into the planning process.
Since this topic is potentially endless, I will focus on two of the most important pillars of an athlete’s future; their academic performance and financial literacy—two concepts that should be viewed as intertwined with their lives as athletes—and discuss some simple techniques that can be utilized, as well as the benefits that your children can reap from including them in the planning process.
It is not uncommon for young athletes and their parents to view sports and education as two conflicting lifestyles. Against popular belief, the two can and should harmoniously coexist, even reinforce each other and this is where child-parent synergy comes in. Sports can help your child cultivate skills that are transferable in academics and life generally, such as focus, determination, resilience and passion, which is why the effect of sports on their development should not be underestimated or worse, misconstrued.
Instead of parents setting boundaries solely, they should sit down with their children and agree together how to strike that balance between sports and education. The issues that could be addressed are simple and include; the allocation of time for homework and practice, TV watch time rights and bed times. These can set the basic contours of a mutually acceptable and healthy routine.
Of more importance, is the need to communicate to your child why their education is paramount to their future. It should be emphasized that this needs to be a mature and thorough discussion where your child ends up appreciating for themselves why school and subsequently university is in their best interest. It is crucial to avoid the “Because I said so strategy” here.
Dreams, ambitions, goals are important and all young athletes should have them, but statistics are rarely that kind. In fact, only 6% of high school athletes become college athletes and from college athletes only 2% turn pro. It should be ingrained in your child’s psyche early-on, that sports are an admirable pursuit but that back-up plans should always exist in the back of their brains. Techniques for this can range from helping them to figure out other interests, which will come in handy when the time comes, to gradually laying out to them the difficulties of realizing their sport-related dreams. Even if your child ends up making it as a professional athlete, education or other hobbies and skills are always a plus!
Amongst those skills, is the second pillar of this article: financial literacy. Financial literacy is important irrespective of whether your child ends up turning pro or not. Parents of young athletes should educate their children about financial concepts, but also consult and inform them as to the provisions they are making for their education, and the options available to them such as student loans and custodial accounts. This will help establish a solid understanding of finances inside your child’s developing brain that will help them on the road ahead.
Most importantly, you should—through practical engagement—teach your child certain financial tools such as budgeting. The techniques are once again simple and should be the product of mutual agreement. Examples include determining allowances, part-time jobs and of course, teaching them the ills of extravagant spending because professional athletes, unlike the average person, reach the peak of their lifetime earnings between the age of 20-35.
Usually, the young age of professional athletes, along with their inexperience in finances can lead to extravagant spending which can cripple the athlete’s future. According to data, 60% of NBA and 78% of NFL players go broke within 5 years of ending their sport careers. However, if athletes are taught from a young age by their parents about finances and kept in the loop regarding decisions, then the said athletes will be in a better position to handle large incomes, manage their wealth properly and be capable of making plans on their own when the time comes. A couple of great role models are Michael Jordan and Cristiano Ronaldo, who have turned into proper businessmen and earn considerable incomes outside of their professional sports careers. In fact, Ronaldo’s football salary is but a fraction of his income nowadays.
It is the easy solution to plan for your kids and while consulting them will not always be easy, it will pay off in the long run. Professional athletes have to cope with pressure, attention and considerable salaries at an age that other people do not, and are not allowed the smooth and gradual procedure of growing up, which is why their parents should start educating them early-on. So whether we are talking about education, sports balance or financial planning, remember to keep your child always by your side!