Beyond The Sport: Investing In Life As A Collegiate Athlete
Nov 15, 2021
It’s easy to get tunnel vision when you’re an athlete, putting your sport at the top of your lists of things to progress in and achieve. But the reality is that even the best athletic careers consume a short fraction of our lives. Diet, exercise, and routine are important, but wellness is encompassed by eight dimensions, all requiring their own attention.
According to William & Mary University, “the goal is to find a personal harmony with the dimensions that is most authentic for you. You can't get there passively, it requires active awareness, acceptance and commitment.”
Just as the line between life and sports can blur, so do those functions which keep us healthy, safe, happy, and able to push a little harder each time we hit the field. Here is some advice that every athlete should use to secure their future.
Investing in Your Health for Now and Later
The physical and mental toll of athletics is often lifelong, and it’s important to make sure that you are well protected with the right safety equipment for your sport. Educate yourself on common sports injuries, especially concussions since they can have lasting physical and mental consequences.
When it comes to mental health, remember that grit doesn’t give you immunity against mental illness. The conversation around mental health and sports is growing and needs to carry a precedent in the lives of athletes. Burnout is real. The hypercompetitive attitude some parents foster early on can wear down the mental health of young athletes. What’s more, long-term isolation, lengthy recovery, or persistent injuries can also act as catalysts for poor mental health.
It’s important that you invest in medical care at some point throughout your athletic career, especially if you play a contact sport. Consider creating a two-pronged emergency fund. The first portion of the fund should cover ‘the necessities’, especially during periods of underemployment or unemployment. This may include costs such as rent, gas, utilities, and food. The second portion of the fund would be allocated towards the treatment of injury and illness. Saving extra cash for medical costs is especially crucial if you don’t have health insurance - it will be a lifeline if you ever face unexpected medical bills.
Investing In Your Finances
Financing an athletic career is no joke. There are free perks that come with being a collegiate athlete but there are significant costs as well, making it important to create a budget for the essentials and conveniences. The stereotype of professional athletes going broke is one you should strive to avoid. It’s important to stay abreast of other priorities, goals, and safety nets. This may include costs such as equipment, safety gear, uniforms/apparel, league/facility fees, and travel expenses.
Sports go a long way in developing us as people professionally, personally, and socially. And just as we leave our blood, sweat, and tears on the field, it’s vital to invest off of it. With that, you’ll want to be sure you know both your short-term and long-term financial goals, and how you plan to achieve them. The routine of saving for these things may look a little different for athletes who, during the off-season, find themselves financially responsible for amenities they are otherwise provided with for free during the season.
A New Playbook for Collegiate Athletes’ Finances
As of July, the NCAA’s new guidelines allowing division athletes to earn money from their name, image, and likeness, gave a new meaning to the student-athlete hustle. It means you need to understand where your money is coming from before you move ahead to capitalize on your namesake. This is a unique opportunity to earn and save, but it could be just as easy to make the same mistakes as the pros. Make sure to do your research, have the right people in your corner, and understand what kind of commitment you would really be making.
With that, any regulation season earnings would make for excellent proactive payments on student loans. Unsubsidized loans will accrue interest throughout the duration of your college career and other periods of grace, forbearance, or deferment. You’ll want to consider paying towards the loans with the highest outstanding interest rates first. The practice of managing all of these elements of your finances will give you better perspectives and spending habits as you eventually accrue charges such as phone bills or insurance for your car or home. Understanding and contributing towards student loans early on could also take years off of your repayment plan.
Budgeting on summer or off-season paychecks will also allow you to prepare for spending on long-term assets, regardless of how far you progress into an athletic career. Three common purchases for young adults are a vehicle, a house, and a retirement plan, and each come with their own perks and expenses.
Buying your first home, for example, not only gives you the freedom of space, but it also comes with the potential to create a return on your investment down the road. The health of your credit score can make or break your eligibility for things such as a mortgage. It’s vital to your investment goals that you start building credit early and make your payments on time. Saving throughout the duration of your athletic career along with a steadily-built line of credit can set you on a track to generating fruitful investments long after you leave the field.
Investing In Your Life
With the majority of your days filled with pre-scheduled commitments, as a collegiate athlete, you face a unique set of challenges. You have to balance training and competition with rest, academics, basic care, and social life. So take advantage of the resources you have as an athlete and communicate with your professors early on to create a plan for getting ahead or even catching up if the need arises. Developing those relationships not only helps you academically, but can also lead to other opportunities for extra help, mentoring, and networking.
Creating a separation between environments for academics, athletics, and rest is also important, especially when hybrid/remote schooling is more popular than ever. Seemingly small designations can help you create these separations. For example, using your bed for nothing but sleep can help reinforce healthy sleep habits. Or making sure you complete all academic
work at your desk or in a separate learning environment can help you finish your work with greater ease and less distraction.
Implementing these habits may take time and adjustment, but any good athlete knows that trial and progress go hand-in-hand. Start with things that are most practical for your routine and stay up-to-date on the resources available to you. A strong-founded future can be yours.