A Career in Professional Sports Does Not Last Forever; Make Hay While The Sun Shines

Kiprono sat on the hard bench, face in his hands. He was a worried man. Would his younger brother come on time to bail him out? Was his brother already tired of his endless woes? Would he opt to let him suffer the consequences of his reckless life? A feeling of panic crept into his heart but he struggled to remain hopeful.

A door opened noisily. Kiprono was jolted out of his thoughts by the appearance of a fierce-looking police officer whose large frame filled the entire doorway. He called out a name and a man who was standing next to Kiprono made his way to the door. This ritual had gone on the entire morning and only 3 men out of the original 15 still remained in the stuffy police cell at Eldoret police station. Kiprono’s anxiety heightened with every departure from the metal door that separated him from his freedom.

Kiprono allowed his mind to wonder, as a feeling of nostalgia overwhelmed him. He closed his eyes and let out a sigh. He savored the moment as if it was happening right now. He remembered the swelling crowds at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi and how proud he felt as he pushed a trolley with his suitcase, scanning the crowds for familiar faces. The gold medal he had won at the World Athletics Championships held in Thessaloniki, Greece was visible for all at the airport to see.

A faint smile appeared on his dry lips as he remembered that moment when his proud mother had placed a gourd of mursik (traditionally fermented milk) to his lips as crowds clapped and cheered and cameras from various journalists flashed. At that moment, he felt like the most important person in the world.

Growing up in a rural village in the outskirts of Eldoret town was a struggle. Many were the times he missed school because his alcoholic father had not paid his school fees. Being selected to represent Kenya in the All Africa Games held in Algiers, Algeria had been a dream come true. It had opened doors to a successful career in athletics. He had represented Kenya in at least 10 international competitions over a period of 5 years and had brought home 3 medals; 2 gold and one bronze. His total earnings in the 3-year career was not less than KShs. 20 Million.

He was now sitting on the hard bench in a prison cell, arrested when police raided a chang’aa (illicit brew) den. He had been arrested on numerous occasions in the past 3 years since an injury forced him to retire prematurely from the sports career.

How did he sink this low? He used to have an endless flow of cash and had been nicknamed ‘mheshimiwa’ (honorable member, a title popularly used to refer to politicians). His home could be mistaken for that of the area member of parliament because of the number of people who use to flock there every day. He was the area’s newest millionaire and he was well known for his kind heart and listening ear. However, a series of misfortunes followed in quick succession, changing his fortunes in a short period of time.

He had a dream of long career in athletics but that was not to be; an injury killed that dream. That injury was the beginning of his woes. As though that was not enough, his mother developed health complications and was in and out of hospital until her demise 5 years ago. He spent dearly as he sought treatment for her. It did not take him long to find himself completely broke. The house he was constructing for his family was still incomplete and he no longer had any money to continue with the project.

He started drinking alcohol to forget his problems and as time went by, he got hooked and could no longer control himself. He no longer had money and so he relied on cheap local brews. He was now sitting in a miserable police cell, arrested for drinking illicit brew. He was hopeful that his younger brother would pay the cash bail to get him released.

Financial Independence Tips For Professional Sportsmen and Women

Careers in sports don’t last very long; 10 years if you really do well. You will retire by the time you are around age 35. Winning some large sum of money is not an every day thing so if you do win once, take good care of that money. There are no guarantees that you will ever win such an amount ever again. Do not begin to spend that money without a plan or you could mess up big time and end falling from grace to grass in a few short years.

Put aside a modest amount in a regular bank account, an amount that can take care of your needs for six months or so and nothing for any project. You are not yet ready to undertake any major project as you still do not have a concrete plan for that. Put the rest of the cash in a fixed deposit account for a minimum of six months.

Give yourself time to get used to the fact that you are now the proud owner of a large sum of money, before you do anything with it. If you make mistakes during this period, the money at risk is not a substantial amount so you will still survive. You will learn some lessons from those mistakes without any major damage being done.

Goal Setting

Plan like you will never win again in your life, like the money you have won is the only one to last you till retirement. Set goals:

* Short-term goals: Up to 1 year
* Mid-term goals: Up to 5 years
* Long term goals: Until retirement

Make your goals as clear and specific as possible. Come up with very concrete steps to their achievement. Be very clear about what you will need to do in order to make your goals a reality and what resources you will need, not just monetary but all resources. Have a very concrete plan about how you are going to move from where you are to where you want to be. How will you access all the resources you require? Who will you work with?

Your Priorities

Be very clear about your priorities. What are your career needs for the next 5 years? Condition yourself that you have no sponsor such that should you find yourself without a sponsor, your career will not suffer. Should the end of sponsorship signal the death of your career? You are your number one asset and your survival is dependent on your ability to win races so guard that jealously. Nothing should put your sports career in jeopardy, not even the lack of a sponsor.

  • Training gear
  • Gym membership
  • Diet
  • Nutritional supplements
  • Healthcare/health insurance
  • First aid supplies
  • Your livelihood and that of your family (day to day needs)

Long Term Plans

You will not always be able to run but you will always have needs even long past retirement. How will you earn income long after your sports career is gone?

There are many different lines of business that you could set up, but refrain from getting into ventures that you do not understand well. Family members and friends can easily tell you some very rosy stories about how much money you can make by buying into businesses such as restaurants or schools, or investing large sums of money into investment schemes that you really don’t understand. Their businesses might actually be in trouble and they are tricking you to bail them out under the pretense that the businesses are great.

Do not allow yourself to be lured into pumping large sums of money into businesses that you know nothing about. Consider building a business around what you do best.

Sports will never go out of fashion so you can bank on building a business around sports. What steps can you take to build a long term career around your sports talent?

1. Set up a foundation that supports upcoming athletes. Get the foundation legally constituted. You do not have to invest heavily in the foundation initially. Start small and grow.

That way, you will not tie all your money in the investment before it reaches a point of giving you returns. Look for a ground you can use for training of the budding athletes. A public stadium can do. Set up your camp in an area that is conducive for training of athletes such as Eldoret or Ngong area. The athletes should be able to train without unnecessary investment in a training ground.

You do not even need to have a residential place for the athletes you are going to support. Start with what is workable for your circumstances and grow gradually. If you can afford to rent a modest place that can double up as the office of your foundation and a residential for a few athletes, probably 3 to 5, that would be a good way to begin. Such a place should not be too costly to rent.

Make sure that you plan for a minimum of 6 months in rent before you get started. Set up a very basic gym for training. Invest in some very basic equipment such as kettlebells and weights. With proper instructions including clear images, a good jua kali artisan should be able to construct some of the crucial equipment for you at a modest fee.

2. Scout for talent. Attend sports events in schools and other institutions. Sponsor some events in the community in order to attract runners. I know that many times when the word sponsor is mentioned, we shy off thinking that it takes a lot of money. Sponsorship could be modest, such as offering a KShs. 10,000 award to the winner of race.

Identify talented young people and sign them up with your organization. Nurture those you select. Start with a small number, what you are comfortable with. Be their mentor and help them to become professional athletes. Have your own training program and use it for the upcoming athletes that you are nurturing. Connect them with opportunities to compete so that they develop the competitive edge.

3. Facilitate them to participate in such competitions. Facilitation for them is likely to be quite modest, probably in form of bus fare to travel to such events, some money for expenses such as food and some personal effect such as what to wear during such events.

Start small but plan long term. Your plan is to have a fully fledged foundation sponsoring top athletes by the time you retire. The foundation should have a training camp of international standards by that time, complete with boarding facilities, professional coaches and other employees, a fully fledged gym and everything else that athletes need for a successful career. Budget for that growth and plan how you are going to finance your business over the years.

You are an athlete; not an experienced business man or woman so hire professionals and pay them well. Work closely with them so that you are always on top of things in your business.

4. Grow your business. Visibility is critical for business success. Borrow a leaf from big companies. How do they grow their businesses?

Top companies use some of these strategies to market their businesses:

  • TV/radio/newspaper/magazine advertising
  • Billboards/banners
  • Social networks
  • Being visible in the community: sponsoring sporting events, coming to the rescue of needy people, publicity (ensuring that they are visible even if it is a dinner for their staff).

Borrow ideas from this. However, do not invest a lot of money in advertising or you could run out of funds before you achieve your goals. Hire a marketer so that you are able to focus on what you do best. Make use of this person to publicize your activities. Seek for opportunities to feature in the media for free.

The marketer can be in charge of all your marketing from taking photos and videos during the trainings of the team you are mentoring, to ensuring your visibility on social media, representing your foundation in events, booking engagements for you to attend and coordinating activities of your team.

Secure Your Future

When you win a substantial amount of money in a race, consider that as your seed money. Do not eat the seed. I know that it is exciting to win a large sum of money and more so if it is the first time you are handling such an amount. It is tempting to rush to change your lifestyle and that of your extended family.

It is easy not to say ‘no’ when people come to your for help. Some of the cases are really needy. But doing that will rob you of a future. Plant that seed for future harvest and eat the fruits. That will enable you to keep on eating for many years to come, even long after your sports career is over. Secure your future and that of your family for generations to come, with a sports career.

This article is written by Susan Catherine Keter; life coach, personal development mentor, motivational speaker, freelancer and blogger.
Website: www.susancatherineketer.com
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