Your Wealth is in Social Capital

When we think of capital, most of us think of money- financial capital.  When we think of professional athletes these days, we definitely think a lot of money!  But could it be, that the most valuable resource an athlete can obtain from playing professional sports is not Financial capital, but social capital?  It certainly can be.

Let me explain what Social Capital is.  And let’s start with a definition from a financial capital website, Investopedia:

  • Social capital consists of the economic resources garnered from human interactions.  The resources include those of tangible and non-tangible assets, such as information, innovative ideas, and financial support. 

Yes, social capital is about building relationships.  But in a very strategic way. This not just ‘networking’.  

‘Economic resources garnered from human interactions’, a much better description than ‘networking’.  Networking has such a bland and boring connotation to it. No wonder people don’t like doing it. Networking?  I would rather watch reruns of ‘Joey’, starring Matt Leblanc.

There are experts in Economics and Sociology that believe Social Capital is even more important than financial capital:

“Despite the myth of individualism, social capital is an essential part of achieving personal success, business success, and even a happy and satisfying life”.

Basically, build up your social capital so you can keep earning money throughout the rest of your life.  Just having money won’t guarantee life long success and happiness.

Over my many years of working closely with Athletes, Executives and Business Owners, I have observed that everything ‘happens through a person’.  Your network, or as we will now call it, social capital is the key to creating opportunity. Opportunity to engage in fulfilling activities and generating a sustainable income during, and well after your athletic career is over.

Social Capital is all around you as an athlete.  From team ownership, to box season ticket holders, corporate partners, neighbours, etc.  It is literally right in from on you at all times. Think about that, a potential key to life-long success and happiness is staring you in the face and most guys have their heads in the sand.  They don’t recognize opportunity.

So what can you do?

So yes, there are interesting and influential people all around you.  It is important to know, that as Professional athlete, you are also an ‘influencer’.  What that means is that become of your status, you are, or can be someone who drives business for activities in business and philanthropy.  People want to know you and be aligned with you.

You are an influencer at these four levels:

  • Local

  • Regional

  • National

  • Global

Traditional influencers ‘are often connected to key roles of media outlets, consumer groups, industry associations or community tribes’. Such individuals are not simply marketing tools, but social relationship assets.

This is why many athletes endorse products and companies.  However, this is not what I am talking about, because simply endorsing a product only builds short term financial capital (not a bad thing) but what we are suggesting is, in order to build social capital (much more valuable long term) there needs to be a strategy behind what you are influencing, in order to build your social capital.

The key, is to find people you want to know and be aligned with.  That is how your build Social Capital. Use your ‘influence’ to meet the people who can help you, not just the other way around.

Game Change was founded in 2011 to serve and enhance the athlete development needs of major professional and elite sport organizations and athletes.  Game Change specializes in customized research and assessment services, the development of applied interventions and resources designed to provide long-term positive outcomes for organizations and individual athletes.  Game Change believes strongly in sport as a catalyst for societal change and adheres to the philosophy of ‘changing the world one athlete at a time’.

John Hierlihy