I’ve heard it mused over a couple times this winter: “I wonder how I am going to pay for my ski racing next year.” It’s a good question, and learning to stand financially on one’s own feet is a tough task. It takes some planning to begin the process. With an early start on saving, and taking advantage of post-secondary opportunities it becomes a lot easier to continue being an athlete after being kicked out of the nest. Below is a quick reflection on the ways I prepared myself to go out on my own last year.
The first thing I did last fall was create a budget. (I even blogged about it). When I drew up my first budget I felt nauseous. I couldn’t believe the list of things I had to pay for. Lodging, food, race entries, club fees, plane rides… The first budget I made did nothing to make me feel better about the task ahead. But, once I was able to cross a few items off the list I started feeling better and better. Budgets are important because they to avoid being blindsided by item to pay for later in the year, but they don’t always instill confidence.
Around the same time I created my budget I realized I could have gotten a head start in high school. A young student should take advantage of opportunities such as a part-time job, saving for the future, and acquiring big-ticket items like gear that can last them a few seasons. Being pro-active about my own transition into the post-secondary world would have taken away a lot of my stresses and paved the road for a happier 2015/16 season. I missed out on the opportunity to save a lot of money while my skiing was paid for by my parents.
Funding from the community is a great place to find extra support. I have been fortunate to obtain sports grants from my city, provincial sport institutions, and my home club. My friends have used crowdfunding to excellent effect, and have obtained a few sponsors. Many organizations are around to help provide financial assistance to athletes, and several don’t use up their annual budgets. It’s a great idea to do some research into one’s hometown and the list of grants available.
As we athletes graduate and head to post-secondary institutions we absolutely do not have to leave our sport behind. Fortunately, there are lots of bursaries and scholarships available for a variety of sports, and many more for volunteering or coaching which many athletes do hand-in-hand with their training. This is a perfect opportunity to go to school for a reduced cost (or free at a college), and then a student can redirect their finances towards their sport instead of taking out a student loan or being forced to quit their sport. Most school funding requires a student to attend “full-time”, but that usually means a modest three courses. In the best case scenario, a student can work in the offseason, have their schooling cheap, and practice their sport while being debt-free.
It took me a whole year to feel like I wasn’t going to run out of money and be forced to miss out on my sport. Once the initial year of trial by fire is over, the next year is easier. The trick to success is to plan carefully, take full advantage of every resource available for support, and then relax. I continued to worry, and fret, and stress over factors outside my own control, and it ruined an entire season. Sport is a big investment and only worthwhile if it’s blissful fun.