Thursday, May 23, 2024

We should not set our sportsmen and women for failure

The world is awash with examples of former athletes, many of whom raked in millions during their heyday but went on to live in abject poverty, squalor and misery once they had left sport.

Former heavyweight boxing champions Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield, former basketball star Allen Iverson, as well as golfer John Daly are but a few of  these athletes.

At their peak, these athletes lived the high life, but when their careers came to a close, they were broke ÔÇô out of pocket and out of luck. During their prime sporting days, they bought big houses, big cars and indulged in alcohol, drugs and gambling. While this is seldom heard of in Botswana, probably due to local athletes not having made much during their heyday, details are emerging of former local sports stars living in poverty.

Though these former athletes will be forgiven as they did not make much from their careers and at most did not get the necessary advice due to the state of our sport then, the situation is, however, not ideal and should be averted. As Botswana makes her way into the international sporting arena and local athletes start making a living out of sport, it is time that local athletes are given good enough help to avert them falling into poverty at the end of their careers.

Just recently, rumours have been making the rounds about one of Botswana’s emerging star athletes living ‘the high life.’ Ever since making money out of his trade, the athlete was said to be indulging in excessive alcohol drinking and was also said to have crashed a car, which he had bought with his earnings from the sports field. Though these rumours have been quashed as untrue by both the Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) and the concerned athlete, the rumours come as a clarion call to local sporting mother bodies to step up athlete education on financial planning and discipline. There is no denying that the sporting bodies have put in efforts to educate athletes, but in view of these rumours, clearly a lot needs to be done.

Fame and money can be a cultural shock, especially when the two come overnight.

From what we know across the world, many spot personalities are often unable to deal with attention they all of a sudden find receiving as a result of their brilliance on the fields.

A way has to be found to get sport personalities more anchored and embedded as a way of equipping them to deal with both fame and money.

We are of the view that as a country we should start targeting upcoming athletes and at an early age prepare them by inculcating them with values of good financial planning, good personality and good discipline. While there have been workshops to help athletes, most of these have been done when athletes are already too close to making it big, especially financially.

Such workshops have very little impact because they come too late in the day.

More crucially, these workshops have more often left out the young and upcoming athletes.

The first of these workshops was held in the past year just prior to the Olympics and was solely for athletes who were preparing to qualify for the Olympics and excluded many other athletes. This is not ideal, considering that local athletes from other codes such as football have continued to make it into the highly paying professional ranks but have not had any such financial education passed onto them. This, therefore, puts them in jeopardy of not making much out of their playing careers. According to experts, the recipe for losing millions made while playing professional sports is typically a result of immaturity, dubious investments, profligate spending and poor financial planning. As such, it will be of great importance for local sports governing bodies, led by the Botswana National Sports Council (BNSC) and the Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) to not only help educate, but also rope in experts to help  mentor and advice athletes on a regular, ongoing basis. These experts must be accessible to athletes at all times to give the young lads advice as and when needed.

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