With Paul Reid

Regional

With Paul Reid

The Sporting EDGE

Thursday, January 07, 2021

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Recent incidents have brought to the fore the need for athletes to plan properly for retirement before their career ends.

With more and more Jamaican sports stars getting the opportunity to play sports professionally, track and field, football, cricket, basketball, netball, tennis, etc, the need to plan for retirement should not be overlooked.

Most sports 'careers' end in the mid-30s and with people living longer, they have maybe another 50 years to live after walking away from competition.

Just not turning up for training and competition or ending a professional relationship with a shoe company and sliding into being a homebody is not enough as the time that was spent preparing and competing must now be filled, and filled with meaningful events that will keep these people as focused as they did in honing their craft for so many years.

What has also proven to be true is that many athletes who had enjoyed a certain level of fame and success can get addicted to the 'video lights' and fawning fans and just going about the mundane activities that us 'ordinary folks' have to endure in our less than spectacular lives, is not for them.

Many former athletes whose every move and actions and every quote were chronicled and reported on for years are now, by and large, ignored by the masses, except for their enablers and sycophants.

Last week, our senses were attacked by a music (and I used the word music loosely) video from sprint legend Usain Bolt which prompted a comment from dancehall star Popcaan suggesting that the Olympian should invest in someone with real talent for music.

We have seen Bolt chase his dreams of playing professional football, a sport he never played seriously at any level in his life, and few will begrudge him for the perks that fame and money brings.

Many will say 'leave him alone, who is he hurting or whose money is he spending, certainly not mine.' But what is next for the hyperactive Bolt? Making a bid to play for the West Indies or playing basketball?

Michael Jordan once famously played professional baseball in between stints in the NBA, fulfilling what he said then was a dream he had as a boy, and who would want to deny anyone their dreams?

Jordan went to baseball in the prime of his athletics career, not at the end, and chasing dreams is reserved for the filthy rich who can indulge their whimsies.

Most retired athletes are too busy carefully investing their money or for the most parts, going job hunting, it is only the vast minority who manages to stay on in the sport, as broadcasters, coaches or sports administrators.

The recent history of sports is replete with retired athletes who had made no serious plans for retirement and who have found it difficult to adjust to 'everyday life,' which, in most cases, they will have to endure for many another 40 or 50 years, much longer than their 'careers' in sports.

Psychologists have said that the addiction to fame and attention can be as bad as the addiction to drugs, and some athletes will do anything to stay relevant or at least relevant to their fans.

What else could have led Americans Carl Lewis and Dennis Rodman, just two examples, to go to the extent they did to stay relevant.

Lewis, who won 19 medals at the Olympics and World Championships, is almost as famous for his failed attempts at a singing career and his mangling of the American national anthem in 1993, is still a YouTube favourite.

Rodman, one of the greatest rebounder in the history of the NBA and who made playing defence attractive, however, except for those who saw him play in his prime, is known as an almost comical character, dressing up in bizarre outfits and once showed up for an autograph session dressed in a bridal outfit.

Proper planning for retirement could have avoided these circus-like situations, and while no one begrudges wealthy men and women enjoying what they worked very hard for, there is always the risk of watering down the brand. In years to come when the next generation searches the Internet, what they will see is not the greatness of the person, but the buffoonery of their post-competition lives.


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