The High Cost Of Fame And Fortune
Having been an both an athlete and a coach back in the days when playing for the love of the game really meant it where today's athletes not only compete for fame but now are all consumed with the prospect of product endorsements with those ever lucrative contracts. Through-out the course of my long athletic and professional career I have witness a decline of personal and professional behavior among athletes. The professionalism and comradely of the 50's, 60's, and early 70's have given way to a self absorption, self serving, self gratifying, and self profiteering ideology where the individual is all consumed with monetary compensation and selflessness without the slightest regard for their fellow teammates, competitors, and the fans. Lost is the sense of fellowship that was once a prime motivation for being an athlete.
What has replaced playing for the "Love of the game" to now where players of all professional sports and a majority of collegiate sports as well have adopted the self serving philosophy where they play for the excessive amounts of money that are being offered to them. In that light the professionalism, the respect for each player, the fans and the general public has diminished so greatly so that the players now expect the adoration, the attention, and the publicity to be bestowed upon them not because of their ability, their respect for players, coaches and fans alike, but because of the amount of money they are being paid. Whether or not they actually produce the professionalism that must be displayed when individuals achieve that level of athletics rarely figures in anymore today.
I remember when I first competed in an athletic event. The excitement, the exhilaration, and the respect I had for myself, my coaches and the other competitors made me realize that just to be able to compete was an unbelievable experience. Whether I won or came in last wasn't the main focus. My coaches realized that winning wasn't the most important thing but just being able to strive to do the best that you can do is what competing is all about. Sure, everyone likes to win, but even if you lost or came in second as long as you tried you succeeded, and that is winning.
Today, allot of High School and Collegiate athletes are lured by the prospect of lucrative professional sports contracts. Many have succumbed to the temptation to forgo a collegiate career or stop short of graduation and opt for the professional contract only to realize that once their career is over or an injury prevents them from competing they are left with very little qualifications to embark upon a career outside of sports. Most of these individuals are not mentally,emotionally, and educationally prepared to comprehend the scope of the responsibilities that are involved in professional sports contracts. What has occurred today in professional sports is that they have really encouraged a type of behavior that is most unprofessional by the athletes themselves. I am not saying all professional sports athletes have fallen into this type of behavior but the media has continually exploited some individuals to where the general public actually further encourages student and professional athletes toward behavior that is most unprofessional.
"For the love of the game"or sport ! A time not so distant. The days when players and athletes actually played and competed because of the enjoyment of the sport itself and not because of how much money they are or will be paid. In essence the pride of the Olympic spirit. In the professional sports world winning is the ultimate goal. The key here is to recruit the caliber of players that when they actually come together to play or compete the very best efforts made will produce the winning affect that is so important in today's professional sports.
Aspiring young athletes today have to be taught restraint and to resist the temptation of forgoing an education is the pursuit of the lucrative contract that seems like a sure bet when in actually is a short sighted and misguided attempt to interrupt an individuals life process. What really matters is students and student athletes participation in their respective sports are held accountable for his or her behavior on and off the playing field. They must show a level of personal esteem and portray courtesy, respect, and a genuine fellowship toward everyone. This is why the Olympics are so successful.
With this past Summer Olympics brings to light the high cost incurred by athletes just to make it to the Olympics. When I coached gymnastics in the mid 1970's the cost to just to train was about on average $6.00 per hour. We required a commitment of 24 hours a week so that equals to $144 per week. That's not counting entry fees for competition. It was really too much for some families. As a coach at the time potential aspiring gymnasts so often had to stop just because the cost was becoming too prohibitive. What I found out was that it is those who attain the highest level in their sport were the ones that became eligible for sponsorships. Now, today the Olympic committee dolls out monetary compensation to those who win medals. $25,000 for each gold, $15,000 for each silver, and $10,000 for each bronze on top of that these medal winners are now pretty much assured of corporate sponsors. Like Michel Phelps receives money form Subway and Speedo to name a few. In the case of Gabriel Douglas probable endorsements will come from Elite Sportswear, or Snow Flake Design and maybe some top flight cosmetic lines. In both cases these athletes will go on banking monetary gains as a result of their athletic achievements. Look what happened to Johnny Weissmuller an Olympic swimmer who went on to fame and fortune as the movies Tarzan.
The United States is one of a few countries that does not monetarily support amateur sports. The debate is often though, but the fact is so many aspiring young potential world class athletes never reach their fullest potential just because of the lack of monetary support. Specialty sports like gymnastics, swimming and diving require the most monetary support with little prospect that the money spent for all the years of hard work to reach a level befitting Olympic caliber will ever be gained back. A harsh reality for all prospective young athletes and their parents. Though it is not impossible to keep the dream alive of being another Phelps or Douglas. To actually achieve that dream perseverance is essential along with an innate ability to succeed in a chosen sport.
As a coach to recruit potential gymnasts like the Russians or the Chinese do where they frequent local pre schools and actually test young boys and girls in muscle flexibility, and muscle tone in who would be a candidate to train for a particular sport whether it is for a potential gymnast or other specialty sport is one that should be more evident in the United States today. I tried to introduce this in the way I approached my coaching career. By approaching those parents of children whose ability shows potential only to be denied the opportunity to pursue their innate athletic ability just because of the lack of financial means is more apparent today than ever before. It is to the credit of those parents like the Phelps and the Douglas family that sacrificed so much in the hopes and dreams of their children would ever materialize.
When I competed at first I did not like it. But through perseverance gradual success came and that success brought about a lasting relationship. For the love of the game now was a real reality. Though I never went on to fame and fortune like Johnny Weissmuller the success I had only deepened the desire to instill in others that sports in it's purest form changes lives for the better.