The Price of Greatness: How Money Affects Athletes’ Careers and Performance

When it comes to sport, it’s easy to think that the harder you work and the more determination you have, the more successful you’ll be in reaching your goals. But while dedication is essential to achieving success, there are also external factors that can help determine how well you play your sport and how far you go with it. The biggest of these factors? Money.


Yes, money matters. The discussion often focuses on how much players make during their careers, but what about when they aren’t playing? A new survey by Fidelity Investments finds that 61% of former athletes go bankrupt or suffer from major financial stress within two years of retirement. That’s a rate nine times higher than Americans in general. Once earnings stop, athletes can find themselves unprepared for life off-the-field.

Planning Ahead

The Importance of Strategic Investing—Whether you’re a seasoned athlete with several years left in your career or just starting out, it pays to take your investments seriously. Here are some financial considerations every athlete should keep in mind before signing that first big contract:• Start saving for retirement early. There’s a reason so many athletes write memoirs (and not all of them are about how their parents, coaches, and friends all held them back). You can help yourself avoid some serious money woes down the road. • Budget carefully

Private Money Versus Public Funding

Sports in North America has become a sport for millionaires. Although, one should not necessarily assume that professional sports is more expensive to play than in previous years. In fact, it may be easier for a common person to afford playing sports professionally now than ever before. However, public funding for professional sports facilities has never been greater or more prevalent around North America. The real question becomes what forms of private investment are emerging alongside these new government investments into sport.

Elite Athletes Are Not Special Snowflakes

The different groups who go from being amateur to professional have different success rates. In other words, some become NHL stars, but most don’t even get drafted at all. With that in mind, you might expect NHL players to do better than amateurs because they are different or better than everyone else who never made it to The Show—but you would be wrong. High-level hockey players have lower success rates when compared with non-hockey athletes who went on to become successful professionals in their chosen fields.

A Thirst For Brand Deals

Mark Cuban is a great example of how athletes can leverage their fame in front of corporate brands to make major money from brand deals. At 52, he is still competing at a high level in two different sports leagues. With his star power, Cuban has been able to pitch himself as a brand ambassador to companies. His net worth is estimated to be $3 billion dollars.

Loss Of Focus From Other Interests

If an athlete has money, he or she can afford to do other things besides training. Many athletes quit training as soon as they start making money, which is a sure way to burn out in professional sports. A non-athlete who starts earning big money may decide that his or her newfound wealth is more enjoyable than working hard at a demanding job, and may be tempted to take a year off from work to travel or relax. Most athletes are able to overcome such distractions but others aren’t.

Keeping Perspective And Enjoying Sport

In order to keep perspective, it’s good to remember that sports is a game for having fun. While you may have goals as an athlete, your primary focus should be on enjoying yourself and playing well. The less pressure you feel to win all of your games, or earn a high paycheck, or accomplish some other lofty objective—the more likely you are to experience long-term success. Playing well isn’t just a matter of talent; it also involves preparation, discipline, hard work and luck. You can improve your odds by keeping perspective on how much sports really matters in life.

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