Newton Agency’s team of athlete representatives, athlete service manager and performance psychologist were in Pretoria last week to host a series of workshops with some their athletes and coaches about the realities of being a professional athlete. In the course of Agency work over the past few years it had become apparent that athletes and coaches, while speaking a lot about the dream of the Olympics and performance, often fail to discuss and think about the other side of pro sport.
‘It’s easy to make money as an athlete, but keeping it is difficult. We wanted to educate athletes and coaches about the business element of being a professional and to try broaden their thinking beyond just performance’ said Lee-Roy Newton, group MD. Hennie Kotze, considered one of the world’s best hurdles coaches echoed this statement ‘You often forget about the business of athletics and focus only on performance. These workshops have made a big impact on me by showing how important something such as contracts with athletes are and how important good financial planning is for life after sport’.
Other issues discussed included post-career planning; ‘When athletes ignore the one sure thing in their athletics career – retirement – it makes life after sport very difficult. Even if athletes have earned so much money that they don’t have to work again, what will get them out of bed every day?’ said Dr Kirsten van Heerden, Agency performance psychologist. Kotze agreed, ‘It’s critical that athletes think about life after sport, and it’s wonderful that Newton Agency addressed this issue. Thank you for caring about the athlete as a whole person, it makes our job as coaches much easier when we know our athletes are well looked after’.
Wend Nel, 400m hurdles specialist and Olympic athlete, said she hoped the young athletes took in all the information as it could help them make better choices in their career ‘Even as a senior athlete I learnt a lot this weekend and wish I had access to this type of information when I was starting my career. Even though I am happy with where I am now, having had these insights earlier I may have made a few different decisions. I hope the younger athlete appreciate what they have heard’.
The necessity and success of the workshops are reflected in the feedback from the athletes and coaches themselves:
I think every athlete needs this. It has helped me a lot to understand life as an athlete and what to be careful of – Luvo Manyonga, Olympic silver medallist
The workshop really opened my eyes and I am so happy it happened at the beginning of my career so I can make better decisions. I know now that I must always keep the future in consideration because that’s where my life will be one day – Gift Leotlela, Olympian & World Junior medallist
Thank you Newton Agency for the past weekend; I know my career is in good hands and I am looking forward to the future now – Jaco Engelbrecht, Africa Shot Put Champion.
I learned so many new things though the workshops and now I know what to expect from my athletics career and the real world of athletics and life – Clarence Munyai, Olympian
What a great experience spending time with world class athletes and learning from an Agency well known for their progressive thinking. Thank you Newton Agency – Hennie Kriel, coach