Uncertainty is unavoidable for the professional athlete - how to manage risks?
Disc golf is a new and young acquaintance in the range of sports. It is easy to start to play, as the cost to the first-timer is low due to free courses. With a few discs, you can get started quite comfortably. But, what about when the sport takes you, and you end up where only professionalism and playing across the sea are in your mind. Is it just smooth and easy without a fade of worry? Should professionalism be considered as a whole and the risks involved in the life of a professional athlete and their management considered?
What is it to be a professional athlete?
Professionalism as a concept means that what you do brings you the living, and you work towards your goals professionally. The profession's purpose is to provide a livelihood for the creator, that is to say, money. Just as the goal of a company is to make a profit, the income must be higher than the cost. This income is used to pay for mortgages, food, etc., and other expenses that the professional does not have to pursue the profession — simple math. Professional sport must generate more euros than it takes to practice the work itself. There is still a shortage of disc golf professionals in Finland, but the trend is changing in the US. As the sport grows, we are guaranteed to see more of them.
If you want to become a professional athlete, it may be good to bring realism to your dreams. Things don’t always go like in the famous “Strömsö” as we say in Finland. Professionalism in the company's business also means preparing for risks and identifying them in advance. The company generally hedges its operational risks through carefully considered policies, insurances, and buffers.
Is more attention be paid to athletes' risk management in sport? Risk management is creating and implementing policies and plans to ensure continuity for professional sports.
Risk management means taking care of the essential tools, but also much more
When you are an athlete at the level of Kimi Räikkönen, you have a manager. That is what we tend to think. The manager handles matters related to risk management for the professional athlete. In addition, the manager also helps the athlete with sponsors and visibility. Therefore, if professionalism is really on the horizon, it is worth considering starting a managerial collaboration well in advance.
The essential tool for an athlete's risk management is their own body, which is at the heart of risk management. The holy trinity consists of proper and varied training, nutrition, and rest. If these are not on the balance sheet, the risks will increase considerably. By throwing a disc and eating pizza, Destroyers and Sheriffs don’t fly so far that it’s worth even dreaming of playing big tournaments. In addition to physical fitness, the mental side must also endure. Disc golf as a sport requires serenity and mental strength to be able to focus on the game. It is undoubtedly a familiar feeling for many to have a good round when everything is going well. How to access this flow mode?
Partnerships and social media go hand in hand - how do they relate to risk management?
Professional sports must also produce those euros so that there is more to the bread than the upper lip. Not many representatives of the minor sport live on competition alone, as the prizes in disc golf are reasonably small, at least in Europe. In general, competition prizes cover travel-related expenses; and you should be good to get your share from the payout. The most important source of income for a professional athlete is partnerships. In a changing world, a logo on a shirt collar no longer brings the athlete the euro to fund sport but also everyday life. When the income side also covers day-to-day expenses, sports can be full-time.
Social media is an almost mandatory tool for professional athletes in partnerships today. The professional athlete reaches the followers in the partner’s target group through social media, which is the partner’s goal. Unfortunately, social media can be rabid, and how an athlete works on social media can contain mines that should be identified in advance. If you don’t have social media labels, you can, in the worst case, expel potential partners who make the sport possible.
Let’s go back to the money and it if something happens. Everything can go like a dream, but there may come a time when the partnership is not extended, the game is not going so well that the payouts are clinging to your bank account, or there are otherwise unexpected costs. Even for an ordinary walker, the importance of the cash register and the financial buffer in managing everyday financial matters is emphasized. For an athlete, financial planning in everyday life is even more critical. By saving money, an athlete can also, at best, ensure the professional continuation of the sport, even when there is black grout in front of him instead of the green fairway.
For a professional athlete, winning a competition is one of the season's highlights, but it requires a lot of work.
If you want more tips on how a professional athlete or aspiring professional can avoid risks and enable professional sports, you should follow this series of blogs. In future writings, I will delve deeper into the issues I raised and provide perspectives on how to prepare for things.
Terhi Kytö is a risk management professional working operational risk management in a listed company. Terhi also owns a disc golf company and is the manager of disc golf athletes.
Terhi has a master's degree in Law from University of Lapland and Sport Science and Management from University of Jyväskylä. Her heart beats for the professional development of the sport.