A Foreign Currency
I was in Belgium sitting in one of the most beautiful botanical gardens I have ever seen with my own two eyes…
but I was on the phone.
Talking to a friend I work closely with whom I’ve promoted to the role of my Director of Multimedia.
Anyway…I’m getting off track.
We were talking about track.
He’s an agent (not mine) so he has interesting perspectives about the sport in which I’m a more active participant.
We were talking about Michael Norman, Sydney McLaughlin and some others and how they were going to get PAID…like ALL CAPS “paid”.
I groaned involuntarily.
Not because they don’t deserve big multi-year contracts.
Because they do.
He detects my uneasiness and says, “but they should be the standard-not the exception”
And I agreed…
(but who are we kidding…really).
“I do think that the age of the storied careers that last a decade or longer are over in the age of these huge contracts.”
I chewed on that thought for a moment.
And before I could stop myself I said aloud, “I think you’re right, had I gotten a million dollar contract 13 years ago when I started I probably wouldn’t still be doing this.”
I went on…
“I’d run for a few years, make my money, Make that money make more money, and decide to move on to something else. I think that one of the reasons I’m still here all these years later is because I’ve never felt justly compensated for— or validated by my effort, for my accomplishments. If I left the sport today sure, I’d be leaving with six gold medals, three bronze medals, and a world record BUT I’d also be leaving with barely a nickel to my name to help propel me to my ‘next thing.’ Sure I’ve been stolen from by people I thought I could trust and their actions against me are mostly responsible for my current situation but I also don’t have sponsors banging down my door, offering monetary support, or asking for my endorsement, and I already told you about NIKE. So…
here we are.
here I am. Still feeling largely incomplete in this sport.”
He says what he usually does when I drop these kind of bombs, “I hear ya…”
I heard me too
and I hated it
because somewhere along the lines athletics became about money for me and ego
and I started to say things like…
what’s the appearance fee?
what’s the prize money?
I started counting dollars
and calculating reductions
and I became trapped in this “I’m a professional-this is a business” mentality
which is a tricky trap to fall into because it is indeed true.
I am a professional.
This is a business.
But it’s a f**king mess.
- Managers now are more often meet directors picking and choosing the line ups of IAAF Diamond League meetings which are heavily weighted when it comes to calculating world rankings which are now also under the IAAF umbrella.
- In a lot of contracts your world ranking is worth a bonus that may propel you into a different tax bracket.
- If a manager decides they don’t want you in their meet (for ANY reason) it’s more than a competition that you’re missing out on. Much more.
- The IAAF decides without warning or consultation that long jumpers (and a couple other field events) only need four diamond league competitions and 30 seconds per jump to make the most out of those already scarce opportunities.
- The Diamond League final now is a “peak” event in periodization/performance terms. So god forbid you killed it your entire season, medaled at a championship, and were too damn tired to be competitive at the final. Kiss $50,000 good bye and that gorgeous trophy and the bonus your contract would have paid out. Good season though. See you next year.
A meet director told my manager that they didn’t need to pay me because I’m “sub-par now” but this same meet director was in partnership with a person that manages one of my rivals.
So…conflict of interest or nah?
Sure. I’m having a horrible year. Would you like to know why? Here’s why.
2014: World Number One (long jump) and Diamond League Champion
2015: World Champion (long jump) and Diamond League Champion
2016: Double Olympic Champion (Long Jump and 4x100m relay)
2017: The MOST 7m jumps, a bronze medal at worlds while literally running for my life.
9: the number of stress fractures I’ve accumulated in my takeoff leg over that period of time.
7: the number of stress fractures I have in the other leg.
1: one sprained but on-the-mend ankle of my takeoff leg.
So because I AM A HUMAN BEING and am NOT indulging in performance enhancing drugs…I’m down right now. Not to mention a (since resolved) coaching setback this past fall/winter too big to bounce back from(from a training perspective) in time.
But don’t cry for me Argentina…
I’ll be fine.
And ready to go again for the next 2019-2020-2021 push.
But I somehow have to figure out how to sever the tie
my self esteem.
And let each be independent of the other.
Because on paper, I’ve nothing left undone in this sport.
But my heart…
My heart says I’m incomplete
my career feels unfinished.
Would I feel better about myself if my face was featured on signage in Nike stores?
Would I feel better about myself making a million dollars a year?
Would I feel better about myself having seven or eight EARLY CONFIRMED diamond league meets?
How crazy is it that still after thirteen years of being a professional athlete, nine medals, and a world record I still find that I wonder if I really matter to anyone in this sport besides myself?
This is where my work is. This is the “flaw in my Matrix”
The idea that my “worth” is derived from anything external- outside myself is an illusion.
That’s why it is called SELF worth, and SELF esteem.
It ABSOLUTELY must come from within.
You can only fake it for so long.
As you probably already know, I decided to stop all the faking last year and every day since then I’ve had to come face to face with my aversions…
being stripped of the crutch of high performances and medals this year laid bare my insecurities.
exposed how I truly feel about myself.
in so many ways this year has been much more difficult than the last
and much more enlightening in a "growing pains" sort of way
because at some point
track and field has to end for me
and it’s in my best interest
to not feel like there’s nothing left for me on this planet when it does.
There’s a reason suicide is a phenomenon amongst Olympians.
There’s a reason depression runs rampant and unchecked among athletes.
the weekend warrior, the average joe, the marathon monster, the amateur athlete, high school athlete, age group athlete, masters athlete, pro athlete…
You are worth far more than the medals, the ribbons, the trophies, the checks.
So much more that there would never be enough of the aforementioned to compensate you for being you anyway.
Look not to the right or to the left at what someone else is getting for what seems to be the same shit you do on a regular basis…
At the end of the day our price tags all say the same thing:
We simply have to learn to accept that currency.