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Athletes: Choosing advisors carefully

By Marianna Kazazi, The Sports Financial Literacy Academy, Nicosia, Cyprus 

Solo-sports athletes are often compared to lone wolves, since they do not have a team or, in this case, a pack to support them as athletes in team sports would. Therefore, it is crucial for them to create their own support system, which should consist of professional advisors, amongst others.

Undoubtedly, some of the most famous and successful athletes have a number of advisors and mentors around them. In fact, some of these advisors are professional athletes, who have the knowledge and expertise to teach solo-sports athletes, based on their own experience in the field.

An example of this is Zina Garrison, a former professional tennis player, who has played a significant role in the lives of Serena and Venus Williams, creating a lifelong bond with them, offering them advice and support, as a mentor and close friend. Specifically, as stated by Serena and Venus, Zina has provided honest guidance and mentorship to both of them, from a young age, having a significant impact on their professional careers, contributing to their success in the world of tennis.

It is completely normal and very common for athletes to seek support from professionals, who have insights into their challenging life in sport, and who know the particularities of a solo-sports career in great depth.

It is vital for solo-sports athletes to establish a good relationship with such professionals as they have a lot to give, given that they possess the necessary knowledge, experience and are a good-fit for the athlete.

Athletes also need to seek persons, who are positive and can boost their motivation, providing emotional and psychological support, whilst also remaining realistic and true to the values of the athletes in need of their advice and assistance.

Whilst it is important to have psychological and mental support, it is also extremely important for athletes to have professional financial advisors in place, since they will come across numerous financial challenges during and, perhaps more importantly, after their sporting careers are over.

Selecting the most suitable advisors requires certain criteria.

First of all, it is crucial to interview the advisors to check if they are trustworthy. Of course, it is important for athletes to see if they connect with them, not only on a professional but on a personal level as well. The athlete needs to feel that they can communicate effectively, as well as trust and rely on these persons, for successful results. Communication is key when it comes to the athlete feeling safe and secure

In addition to that, athletes should choose a financial advisor, who has extensive understanding and experience in the sports industry. The reason for this is that athletes have a particular way of life and should have a specific approach to financial planning, considering their income pecularities, which vary from year to year; they usually earn their highest-level income very early in their lives. This means that they need to use it wisely and take all the necessary steps to preserve it and make it last for the later stages in life when they will not be earning as much income.

Furthermore, athletes have a busy schedule, and their advisors need to be able to adapt to it. It is also expected from their agents to possess deep knowledge regarding many disciplines, such as contract laws, advocacy, advisory, knowing how to protect athletes and how to deal with agreements.

It is also worth mentioning that some financial professionals usually work on commission and thus athletes should be suspicious if they are promised very high and unrealistic investment returns. This might indicate potentially fraudulent schemes that they should stay away from.

Furthermore, even though the athletes’ advisors may be heavily involved in the decision-making, the athlete should be the one that has the final say. Solo-sports athletes need to understand that no one will care about their future as much as themselves and it is essential for them to obtain basic knowledge regarding financial and business matters.

An ideal team of financial experts includes:

  • a business manager;
  • a business/tax/estate attorney;
  • an accountant/tax advisor;
  • a financial planner/money manager; and
  • a specialist in insurance.

During the evaluation of different advisors, athletes should consider specific traits, such as trustworthiness, as already mentioned, communication skills, transparency, good reputation, accessibility, the size of their clientele and whether their values are aligned, amongst many other things.

The key is to find advisors who feel like a good fit to them across many levels.

In conclusion, considering the short career spans of solo-sports athletes, every choice they make counts and is critical for their future - especially when it comes to choosing their support circle, which can make or break their careers and success in terms of sports, financials, psychology and many different aspects of their lives.

Therefore, athletes need to take the time to evaluate and assess very carefully their potential advisors before making any serious decisions about them.

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