Next Game: Sports Athletes vs. Money

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A question rarely asked but has obviously affected many athletes today is, how do you balance being a sports athlete in this world with out completely folding for the money? How do you defeat the very goal you have always wanted to obtain?

I often think of this scenario. It is something that has increasingly become more and more of a problem for today’s athlete. Showing too much of your money will be sure to get you a flashy, bad money managing label. However, being to cautious with your money will defeat the very dreams you had with making it to the promise land of professional sports. So how do you manage the two? Well, let’s talk about the pros and cons of both being a sports athlete and the money that goes along with it from someone who has been in that life. Let me explain to you the one thing I think you need to defeat the temptations that come along with being a sports athlete.

Growing up I had one dream to be a professional basketball player since the age of 10 years old. My dream became more and more a reality, year by year, not by the thought of money but by the hard work I put into perfecting the craft of basketball.  This individual goal I had moved me to go practice everyday, I wanted to perfect every move possible and it was only one way i could do this. The fun involved in perfecting these goals is what made me fall more and more in love with basketball. The dreams of performing things moves i have worked so hard to perfect against other friends or the player growing up everybody thought was the best player in the neighborhood or the player your competing against in 14 and under that everyone sings praises about. The thirst anyone feels should be driven by the possibility to compare your skill set that you alone has developed, and showcase it against anyone who crosses your path. Thirst should come from the delusion that there is a way to perfect the art and gain the respect from your peers. If you have the ability to remain focused on these things, then you have conquered the ultimate battles anyone can have in any profession. We all realize that having the possibility to make a career out of something you love is the single aspiration most humans share. However, if we begin to focus on anything outside of making ourselves better and letting what we have created take us to the best possible place, then we will begin to lost that single medicine that has separated us from the rest. We lose that single advantage. When this particular desire is breached and changed or reorganized, the entire way of thinking changes. This change of thinking, although one may say is very minuscule, is what allows other thoughts to creep in.

The old saying is true, “it’s easier to go down the wrong path then to stay on the narrow, straight path”. In sports, it is more evident than ever these days. We have all seen or read about the sad stories of once hyped superstar athletes that have somehow slipped down the wrong path, only to see the their entire dreams shattered by the end results of desiring the wrong things. The exact minute someone begins to want anything more than to improve their craft, is the exact minute we become just like everyone else. It’s the exact moment we allow someone else to slide right into to your spot. We all know when it happens. We all know the things that goes along with the athlete that has fallen victim to these circumstances. It’s always the same story, the same results and it’s always the same reason.

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“Money” clearly has the advantage in this head to head matchup. Along with money comes the beautiful women that seem to fall out of the woodwork into your arms. Suddenly you have become the cutest guy in the room. With money comes the self ego boost. The ability to showcase how much money you have, that in itself consume a person’s life, completely forgetting about what actually it took to get that paycheck. Then there is the killer. The ability to go and do whatever you choose to do. The ability to say “yes” to whoever asks. The ability to swim in your success and receive the praises you have worked so hard in the past to receive. Now you have the confirmation of all those who doubted you, it feels so good to get this confirmation that you begin to search it out. This brings in the clubs, you have the ability to buy out the bar now, then there is the cars. You can get any car you want now. Then there are the unplanned trips. You have the ability to fly across the world now, at a moments notice. I can recall while in the NBA two stories in particular where basketball took a serious backseat to what money can bring someone in this world and lifestyle you can get caught up in if you don’t remained focused at the original goals placed. One of my teammates was injured while we were on a 21 day road trip to the west coast. Because of the injury he got left behind to do rehab. When we returned home, news spread that he had gotten suspended from the team. Why? because he and his friends flew to the South of France while we were on our road trip. It was the middle of the season!! I guess that was the rehab he figured he needed. On another occasion the story was more shocking. During the two-day layoff of our playoff game, a teammate of mine decides to fly to the Bahamas to relax. No one should have done this during this time. But this player was a superstar at the time and a very important piece to exactly which direction we would go in the playoff series. The worst part about it is that he didn’t see any problem letting anyone know. Needless to say we lost that playoff series. Once an athlete loses a grip on their goals, everything else trickles down behind them.

I believe it is a very easy way for us to really recognize exactly where our focus is once we have made it to our highest goals. It comes in the shape of a paycheck. During this time frame the focused and satisfied will be separated. Their are only two ways you can go in professional sports, you either go up or you go down, there is no in between. Those who think they are in the middle and able to survive in the middle, are the people who are on a fast track downward. Just like playing basketball, making and chasing what money brings is an actual practice and focus in its own right. You can’t focus on the money and focus on improving your sport at one time. Easily written but we have to all recognize that is hard to do.

So the counter the Sports athlete has against a tough “Money” team is focus. Remaining focused is the only punch you have. Remain focused onto exactly what guided you to where you are. Stay focused through the praises you will receive, for they are only “Money’s” traps to steer you away from your path. Remain focused on the obstacles money brings, the women, the ability to do everything but practice on the sport that obtained your status. Remember that money is not your friend. Remember that without your focus you will allow others to sneak in the backdoor and take over all you have worked hard towards. Defeat “Money” with focus and watch the money pile up and eventually become your friend.

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