Money Smart Athlete Blog

Athletes, Money and Mental Health: Addressing the Psychological Toll of Financial Challenges

By Stefanos Gregoriou, The Sports Financial Literacy Academy

Money is a big deal in our lives, isn’t it? We use it to buy groceries, pay rent, and maybe even treat ourselves to something nice once in a while. But when money gets tight, it can mess with our heads. While most of us face financial challenges at some point, it’s essential to realize that even professional sports athletes are not immune to these struggles.

We often see professional athletes as living the dream, with fame and fortune at their fingertips. However, beneath the surface, the reality is far more complex. Research indicates that a significant number of athletes experience mental health challenges, with financial stress playing a significant role. The pressure to maintain peak physical performance and the demands of managing substantial amounts of income can lead to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. Athletes are expected to perform at their best, but the financial pitfalls they encounter behind the scenes often remain hidden from public view.

One compelling example of an athlete who navigated the treacherous waters of financial challenges and mental health issues, is Sheryl Swoopes. Sheryl Swoopes, a basketball icon and three-time Olympic gold medalist, experienced significant financial troubles after her retirement from professional basketball. Despite her impressive career, Swoopes struggled with poor financial decisions and faced bankruptcy. The combination of financial distress and life changes after retirement took a toll on her mental health. Swoopes eventually sought support, regained financial stability, and opened up about her journey to inspire others facing similar challenges.

Another inspiring story is that of Terrell Owens. Terrell Owens, the former NFL wide receiver and one of the league’s all-time greats, found himself in a difficult financial situation after his playing career ended. Despite earning tens of millions of dollars during his NFL career, Owens encountered financial troubles due to a combination of factors, including bad investments, extravagant spending, and unexpected financial obligations. The stress of his financial difficulties took a toll on his mental health, leading to periods of depression and anxiety. Owens openly discussed his challenges and sought financial advice to regain control over his finances. He also became an advocate for financial literacy and mental health awareness, sharing his experiences to help others facing similar issues.

So, here’s the deal: Money and mental health are indeed buddies, and when money gets tight, it can mess with our heads. This holds true not only for the average person but also for sports athletes who have substantial revenues; the pressure to maintain their status, coupled with the uncertainties of their careers, can take a toll on their mental well-being.

However, there’s hope. Athletes, like Sherryl Swoopes and Terrell Owens and anyone else, can reach out for support, make a plan, and work on their feelings. There are ways to handle the stress, anxiety, and even depression that may come as a byproduct of financial challenges. Remember, you’re not alone, and there are people and resources out there to help you through it.

In conclusion, it’s crucial to recognize that the intersection of money and mental health affects individuals from all walks of life, including athletes. By shedding light on this issue and sharing stories of athletes who have faced financial challenges and have recovered, we can better understand the psychological toll these challenges can take and work towards providing support and solutions for those in need.

The Money Smart Athlete® Blog is established and run by the Sports Financial Literacy Academy® (SFLA). Through its education programs, the SFLA has the vision to financially educate and empower athletes of all ages to become better people, not just better athletes.  For more information on our courses, our SFLA Approved Trainer Program®, and how they can benefit you and your clients, please get in touch with us at [email protected].