Sean Van Staden
Columnist
3 minute read
8 Mar 2014
11:00 am

End-of-career choices facing SA athletes

Sean Van Staden

Being a professional sportsman is like being on an express train racing through the countryside at 200km/h, but before you know it, your career is over.

Sean van Staden

Graeme Smith announced his retirement from cricket this week ending a journey which started with his debut on March 8, 2002 against Australia at the tender age of 22 years.

The question that has been bouncing around the social media platforms is: “What is Graeme Smith going to do after cricket?”

This would all depend on the networks he has made over the years and the unique skill set he has acquired. More importantly, will a Matric certificate be enough for Smith to get a job once the dust settles? Does Smith really need to work another day in his life with the wealth he has accumulated over the years. It has been speculated that Smith’s net worth runs into the millions and it is this type of gold rush fever that has a good deal of the recent Under-19 World Cup winners taking a gap year without furthering their studies to focus on their cricket.

Million of rands and living the life of a sports star sounds great, but before you get ahead of yourself, why don’t you ask the 12th man who brings out the water bottles what he earns and how many sponsors are lining up to put his name and face on products and magazines. Ask him if he is making millions and then forward him the same question everyone is asking Smith: “What are you going to do after your career has ended?”

What I can’t understand, and I have trained professional athletes over the years, is an athlete’s perception of not having enough time. There is not an athlete alive who dedicates a 12-hour day, seven days a week to their sport. Professional athletes arrive at training for a two- or three-hour training session, shower and then go home. Occasionally there might be a second session in the day depending if it is pre-season, but definitely not during peak season.

Professional athletes, even with a two-hour midday siesta, have more time on their hands than the average working person. Any athlete over a 12-year career has approximately 3 120 hours based on only one hour a day, excluding weekends, to take up a distance learning diploma or degree from Unisa.

For the lucky few, money will find you, with or without a Matric certificate. For the rest of the millions of athletes trying to make a name for themselves, it is imperative that you need something to fall back on. You need that piece of paper that will hopefully put you on top of the pile when an employer is going through curriculum vitaes.

To put it into perspective, just remember, you have millions of young athletes all over South Africa are all vying to play for the national squad, only 11 and one reserve will make the selection. The next time you play the Lotto, just remember one thing, your odds of winning and become a top sportsmen are relatively the same.

Make sure you have at least an education to make your own millions, if your career doesn’t pan out the way you intended.