The cost of becoming an elite athlete

8 Aug

Wednesday planned workout:  Yoga after I take a nap and before my night shift starting at 8.

I was skimming through my favorite newspaper’s headlines and came across this interesting article The True Cost of Making an Olympian.

Here are some of facts I learned from this WSJ article:

Ryan Lochte’s parents were forced to foreclose on their Florida home

Gabby Douglas’ mother filed for bankruptcy earlier this year

Indeed, experts say raising an Olympian — or seeking Olympic glory on one’s own — is an extremely pricey proposition, especially when measured over the period of years it takes to get to and then compete at the games. At best, say athletes and others connected to the Olympics, it’s easily a six-figure “investment” – with no guarantee of a “return” (meaning a medal or an endorsement deal) – when factoring in the costs of equipment, coaching and travel.

Eric Flaim, two time Olympic speed skater medalists, says that his parents spent at least $250,000 on costs related to his speed skating, and when he became one of the relatively few athletes to obtain endorsements for his success, they only summed up to around $75,000.

Now, I was no Olympic caliber figure skater, but I competed at the senior level, spent summers training at other places in the country, traveled across the U.S. for competitions, and practiced year round beginning at the age of 4.  Who knows the exact costs, but what my parents spent on my skating aspirations was probably like investing in a college education.  A new pair of skates with new blades could cost at least $800.  I mean…one BLADE alone at that time cost around $150.  Then there were the practice sessions, the hand-made, sequined competition dresses, the lessons, and the competitions.  It was not only a financial cost, but a time cost as well.  My dad used to get up as early as 4 in the morning with me to drive me to my 5:00 am practice before I was able to drive.  My mom also spent countless hours in the car driving me to skating practices in between driving my sister to dancing and singing lessons.

At the rink with my mom and sister when I was what, 5-6?

It was no doubt an expensive sport.  My parents, though, never thought of it as a financial investment with the expectation of a financial “return”….they never expected anything in return other than the joy of seeing me excel at something I love, and I am so grateful for that… grateful for their love and support over the years and for giving me the opportunity at a young age to find and be involved in something I was truly passionate about.  It has had nothing but a positive influence on my life in more ways than I can even begin to list here.  I will forever be thankful and indebted to my parents for their sacrifices over the years and the opportunities, support, and love they gave me as a child growing up and continue to do now.

Competing in college.

So when you see those athletes on the podium, yes, they have no doubt worked their as$es off to become an Olympic athlete, but behind the scenes of every athlete is a lot of time, money, effort, support, and sacrifice from many other people, ESPECIALLY from their parents in most cases.

2 Responses to “The cost of becoming an elite athlete”

  1. Heidi (@idlehide) August 8, 2012 at 7:36 pm #

    you were such a cute little girl!
    Elite sports are definitely a huge sacrifice for parents!

  2. neonspndx August 16, 2012 at 2:49 pm #

    I am also thankful to my parents for supporting such an expensive sport. Figure skating was always my number 1 passion in life and I’m very grateful I was able to pursue that. Thanks for sharing! I concur!

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