Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Money, Athletics and Bobsled

Bobsled is in the news and surprisingly it's not Olympic year.  A recent addition to the sport, Lolo Jones of Track and Field hurdler fame,  became a bobsled athlete this past year and with this VIDEO, raised a few eye brows.  I've never talked to Lolo, but I still have a few ties into the sport and have heard that she was a hard worker and was a pretty decent push athlete.  Not quite at the level of some of the top US pushers but good enough to make the World Cup team and compete.

The recent news came from her stating she only made 741 dollars from 7 months of bobsled work.  Some people took it as complaining, some people took it as her making light of the fact that this is all you make as a bobsled athlete.  Either way bobsled is in the news!

"There is no such thing as bad publicity."

I think it's actually a good thing.  Many people make the mistake thinking these guys that win medals make a lot of money from the sport through actually competing, endorsements and medals won.  9 out of 10 of bobsled athletes for the US won't make enough to live on without going into debt.

Housing and food are provided for sure, but not much else.  Some of the top teams will receive a 2000 dollar stipend per month.  But, that is 25% of the athletes.   Flight home to see family, not covered.  Leaving the training complex for a meal not covered.

When the season ends, you are technically no longer a "member" of the US team.  Come summer, you have to pay your own way back to camp to "remake" the team.  Often this requires a hotel stay and food. Over two weeks this can easily reach 1500 dollars.  You are the best pusher in the world, guess what,  you still have to remake the team on your own dime.

As a whole, their is no monetary gain in bobsled.  There is no fame in bobsled.  You are not going to see a bobsled athlete have any type of endorsement.  Why?  It's not because they are not marketable freaky talented, smart athletes, it's because you have to be able to offer value to the company.  In the US their is no value in the sport.  It's not going to excite kids to buy shoes, or companies to buy commercial time if bobsled is even shown on TV.  You will most likely leave the sport with debt.

So whats the draw to do this?  Most every athlete at some point in their life has thought about how cool the Olympics are.  Bobsled allows that dream to be pursued.  It allows most of these athletes to continue athletic careers that would be over without it.  Very few in the US grow up thinking, I want to be a bobsled athlete.  Most come from Track or Football careers that are over.  It allows you to compete for the Untied States against some of the best athletes in the world all over the world.  That is cool.

In the end, it is a choice.  Pursue sport or go make some money.  I'm glad Lolo did what she did.  Any light that is shed on this sport is a good thing.  Maybe with a little more limelight some of these amazing athletes will be seen as marketable and be able to make a living pushing that sled down the hill in USA colors.

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