Professional sports in Australia are becoming more lucrative for athletes every year and sports headlines are increasingly as much about the salaries and contracts of players as they are about the results themselves. We hear the numbers bandied about as we label these new breed of athletes as mercenaries for negotiating contracts with rival clubs and codes behind closed doors.
There is still an expectation placed on professional athletes that they should sacrifice everything in the relentless pursuit of trophies and championships for our favourite club or glory for the nation. But what do we provide them in return when their aching knees finally relent and their athletic prowess deserts them?
Ironically, before the new era of professional sports, organisations were inadvertently better prepared for providing athletes with a career in their retirement. Of course this was because they often needed to participate in the workforce during their playing years to supplement what is now considered a meagre income. Before the New Zealand Rugby Football Union finally succumbed to the modern era of contracts and salaries, it was commonplace to see All Blacks conspicuously plying their trade out amongst the adoring public.
Walking in to the Ponsonby branch of BNZ back in 1994, customers would have been greeted by the sheepish smile from a 6’5” 120kg Tongan bank teller by the name of Jonah Lomu. Arrangements like these were not unusual as clubs and codes would use their networks and influence to find suitable (or as close to it) employment for their players in order to provide much needed financial security.
While professional athletes in the major Australian sporting codes no longer need to work part time in order to supplement their income, they do need to pay attention to what roles they will fill when they finally hang up their boots. Opportunities for professional development are as important to sportspeople as their warm downs and ice baths as they safeguard their future employment prospects and ensure they can apply their competitive will to new environments.
In the below video, Professional Footballers Association Chief Executive, Adam Vivian and PFA President, Simon Colosimo discuss their partnership with the Australian Institute of Management and how their unique training program enables players to evaluate new career options off the pitch.