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Oran Hall Sports as a life-changer

As a nation, we are over the moon as a result of the outstanding performance of the Reggae Girlz, who reached the round of 16 at the recently concluded Women’s World Cup football competition, and the Sunshine Girls, bronze-medal winners at the Netball World Cup championship.

But are the sportswomen themselves even happier considering the prospects for significant changes to their lives?

Sports such as cricket, football, netball, and track and field have lifted many from a position of insecurity to financial security for themselves and their families. They have been able to travel the world to represent their country to earn fame and good money for themselves and some foreign exchange for their country.

The promise of a significant change in the fortunes of their families has not been lost on their families, more so their mothers. Note the presence of mothers and sometimes fathers, particularly at track and field meets, sharing in the triumph of their children, no doubt dreaming of what can be.

The amateurs who participate in these sports do all they can to excel, for it is in excelling that they can transition to the professional ranks, and the professionals themselves can expect to earn more.

Chantelle Swaby of the Reggae Girlz sees what she does as a job, and she is right. It is a source of income to her. The higher the income, the better she should be able to live.

Indications are that some of our successful sportsmen and women have lifted their own standard of living as well as that of their immediate family like their parents and siblings. Although some have opted to live abroad, they have been able to increase aggregate demand in the local economy through spending and investment activities. By earning foreign exchange, they have also contributed in a positive way to the national economy.

Whether it be from appearance fees and prize money in the case of track and field athletes or from the various contractual arrangements in other sports, our professional sportsmen and women can expect to earn an income. Naturally, the elite have significantly more earning power and some make additional income from endorsements and promotional contracts, often valuing more than they earn from their activity on the field, and extending beyond their active years in their sporting discipline.

Although it is costly in time and money to train and make all the preparations to succeed, established and promising sportsmen and women often benefit from sponsorship contracts with major suppliers of sports goods to address the cost of training and transportation.

Young sportsmen and women often benefit from scholarships to tertiary level educational institutions locally and abroad, creating the pathway to the ultimate life changer a: good education.

But being involved in sports, whether as an amateur or a professional, comes with a lot of risk. Some have experienced the termination of their careers by various medical conditions. Injury has sidelined many for extended periods of time. Being out-of-form has resulted in some losing their place temporarily or permanently. Thus, uncertainty of selection often looms over their heads. Much as we love and enjoy sporting activities, there is the ever-present interruption: seasonality, meaning that there is a time a sport is active and a time when there is a break in activity.

Sports people earn a very significant portion of their income in a narrow portion of their lives during which income flows may be uncertain and irregular. Their commitment to assist those they care about or who assisted them in some way sometimes proves to be their undoing as they give without paying attention to how their resources are being affected.

It is best for them to determine clearly how much they can afford to give and to set up a structured programme for doing so, and, if possible, to have a trusted individual or entity manage it.

For further protection of themselves and their dependants, sports men and women should seriously consider getting adequate insurance protection. Fortunately, the Government of Jamaica has provided group health and life as well as personal accident insurance for athletes through the Jamaica Athletes Insurance Programme.

The programme is for athletes, but it does not release them from making provision for their own protection. Other sports people also need to protect themselves and their families.

To make their life-changing experience more concrete, secure, and long-lasting, sports people should consider some diversification. Starting a business is one idea: be a Bolt. Learning a skill or furthering their education can create a path for earning a good income after sports.

Making poor investment decisions, including choosing less-than-competent advisers, has been the bane of many successful sports personalities. Be on guard.

While making money from sports can change the lives of sports people and of those dear to them positively, managing it poorly, directly or indirectly, is no way to maintain the good life.

Oran A. Hall, author of Understanding Investments and principal author of The Handbook of Personal Financial Planning, offers personal financial planning advice and counsel.

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