Tuesday April 30th 2019
There has been something that I’ve thinking about for a long time. I’ve alluded to it in previous blogs but only now do I feel the need to expand upon it in full. I’m referring to the way that we as Canadians take care of our amateur athletes after they have finished their athletic career. Let’s face it, we don’t even take proper care for a majority of our amateur athletes during their athletic career and that is a different problem altogether.
In other countries when you represent them on the international stage, it essentially becomes your full time employment. As such, you are taken care of during the tenure of your athletic career where all your basic needs are basically taken care of. One can argue that being a carded athlete takes care of this, however this is only for a select few and in a sport like wrestling, people come from all over and have many different training partners of varying skills which will help them to excel in their quest for World and Olympic Gold. Without these partners, these athletes would not be able to train to their full potential. Let’s also be clear that I’m not saying that we need to provide money to all the training partners of high performance athletes (let’s face it, in Canada we wouldn’t have the resources to do it anyway) but something to help ease the burden would be nice. Some would also mention that this has already been taken care of and that there are bursaries available to those athletes on the periphery of breaking in to carded-athlete status. While I have received my fare share of bursaries, they are few and far between and not in a large amounts. Most of the higher-level bursaries go to the top athletes (and rightfully so) making it difficult to sometimes make ends meet. I was fortunate in that I had a good support system when I was competing and as a result, would never go hungry or be at risk of sleeping on the street (some athletes face this harsh reality). However, I had to still balance work and school in order to insure that I had a future after my career was done. Some might also argue that because of this, I was not able to train to my full potential. I guess I’ll never know for sure but I also want to be clear about something. I will never regret finishing two university degrees while I was competing as it has basically made me the person I am today. My degrees gave me the necessary qualifications to teach and as such, I get to work in a school atmosphere, helping to develop the next generation of wrestlers. My path to me was clear but this is not always a viable path for many athletes.
Some athletes have been able to transition to coaches in their post-competition career
I’ve spoken at length with some of my fellow coaches about how during the transition from high school to university; we lose a lot of athletes. Simply put, a lot of very talented athletes are not cut out to complete a university degree. The prospect of not having a job or missing out on the opportunity for one, forces a lot of high school graduates to seek out a job as quickly as they can. They know that wrestling will probably not be financially viable for them and because of this, they leave the sport before even hitting their prime. The number of athletes competing at U17-U19 Nationals versus the sharp drop in numbers competing at the Junior-Senior Nationals strongly supports this argument. I don’t think that we need to offer athletes lifetime security after they finish. But I think that for starters, athletes can be given a stipend for the first five years after their retirement in order to help them have an adjustment period as well as time to prepare and find a job. The next step I feel should be taken is what has been suggested for everyone (not only athletes) is a guaranteed base income. We could start with something like a thousand dollars a month, which would help alleviate the costs of paying for basic needs. Some would say that this would eliminate people’s desire to work since they would be getting free money every month but I disagree with that. No one likes hand-outs and let’s be honest, you wouldn’t be able to survive solely on twelve thousand dollars a year anyway. In our society where inflation is on a steady rise and our wages are not keeping up, this added assistance would be a huge boon.
Last but not least, I think we also need to offer some form of job-finding assistance after they finish competing. When an athlete retires, it can be a very emotional time in their life. Finding a job may be the furthest thing from their mind and a little assistance can go a long way. I also want to be clear that I think that athletes who pursue their academics while competing is a good thing. The athletes that will be able to do so will do it. This blog is to help shed some light on the athletes who may need that extra bit of help. This would help us as well as we would keep more athletes by offering them incentives to stay longer, thereby making the pool of athletes at the higher age groups more numerous and increasing the level of competitiveness. We need to take care of our amateur athletes since the goal of representing your country takes a lot of time and dedication and thus should be rewarded. In the end, this can only be a good thing for sports as a whole.