There was a time, not long ago, when speaking of athlete development, you would think of; training harder, running faster, throwing farther.
Even more recently, when thinking of athlete development, many would think of services and resources designed to help athletes transition out of sport. Although important, it led athletes to equate athlete development services and the people who offered them to an on-going and endless discussion about the death of their sports careers. Who amongst us is eager to discuss our own funeral?
Many people are inclined to think that somehow professional athletes are kind of like robots. They go out onto the court, the field or the ice surface and they just play. They are not human beings but professional athletes!
The idea that athletes are like robots has been exacerbated by several trends in the sport world including; the ‘Moneyball-ization’ of athletic performance, the expanding world of fantasy sports, the ever increasing amounts of money paid to professional athletes and of course the ubiquitous media chatter and hype.
No one is ever going to hold a telethon or launch a kickstarter campaign to support a retired [or active] multi-millionaire athlete who isn’t quite sure what his [or her] next step is after their sport career concludes.
The common refrain is that Jane Public can’t be blamed for being incredulous that a retired athlete with millions in the bank is struggling to find something to do, to find that new passion outside of sport. Perhaps it is true. If it is, the fault lies in the public’s misconception about professional athletics. Not all athletes become multi-millionaires. Being a professional athlete isn’t something that happens to you. It is a job. A hard job. A job that started, for some athletes, in early adolescence and took years and years of sacrifice and training, just to get a shot.
When you hear something over and over and over again it becomes fact. Research backs it up. If something is repeated again and again and again, its deemed to be true. Or at least plausible. Dictators know this. Fox News knows this. The maxim of three sides to every story is so true. Your story. My story. And the facts.
A key ‘fact’ that drives the industry in which I work (Athlete Development or Player Development) is that the vast majority of professional athletes upon leaving sport will be broke and/or divorced within two years.
Athlete development versus player development can be a source of confusion within the sport community. Player development is typically described as the process of making athletes more skilled within their specific sport domain. In a hockey context this could include skating faster, shooting harder and/or stickhandling better.
It is pretty easy from the cheap seats to ask the question, ‘how does Jimbo Fisher still have a job’? Florida State University has dealt with and continues to deal with multiple high profile incidents of poor student-athlete behaviour. This led to the FSU president’s much publicized visit to the football team’ locker room.
Regularly I hear stories about ‘old school’ sports executives who can’t fathom their athletes participating or being involved in anything that isn’t directly related to or tied to their respective sport. These old school sport executives espouse the viewpoint that an athlete who isn’t 100% focused on their sport, 100% of the time simply isn’t fully committed to being an elite athlete.
That could be described as ‘old school’, but it is in fact old and dumb.
It would be easy to think that supermodels and athletes do not have a lot in common, from a career perspective at least. Super models and pro athletes make their living in short and time compressed industries. Although pro athletes are more likely to have faces made for radio than the catwalk, the career of a model is analogous to a professional sport career.