Throwholics makes some noise for Benn Harradine’s latest blog: “Moth in a Lampshade”
Check out his blog an support him!
It is with mixed emotions I write this blog. As always I try to think of the purpose of writing things down at all. To what end is all this? Rather than “stir the pot” and provoke people, I am sincerely genuine in my ramblings. I’m sure when I hit the upload button there will be some people who may be disgruntled by what they read but the older I get in this sport the more I think that its worth opening up and telling people from the athletes perspective and opinion what it is like. Before I begin I want to reiterate that fact that this is not my “whinge” letter. Nor do I dislike the sport of athletics. In fact I love it so much it makes it too hard to walk away even when sometimes you wonder what its “purpose” is. Even when, business wise it is probably the smart thing to do.
Australian athletes are not short of passion. One thing we truly truly have is passion. As a team we bond together better than any other as far as I have witnessed and I think you will find when you ask any athlete from another country who the tightest enjoyable team are they will point to us. We train hard. We train smart. We give it all that we have! Yet somehow from the 46 athletes we took to the World Championships in Moscow we “only” had 3 medals. Are we doing something others aren’t? Or aren’t we doing something others are? There are so many questions and discussions that could go on for hours on this very topic.
Not so long ago I was doing a radio interview in studio and a man called up and made a statement that unsettled me. After pointing out some of the challenges I have faced in my career he explained that “you get paid too much money to complain about doing something so many others cannot”
My resume of achievements does not yet include an Olympic Games medal, however I am an Olympic and World Championship finalist, Commonwealth Games Gold medallist, and in 2013 I held the 3rd furthest throw in the world 68.20. When we talk “making too much money to complain” I would like to draw a basic comparison.
The minimum wage for an Australian based on the Fair Work Ombudsmen is roughly $630 weekly. Annually that comes to $32760. The average wage for an Australian person based on the Australian Bureau of Statistics May 2013 is $1485.20 weekly. Annually at $77230.40.
The best support an Australian Athlete can hope for if he/she was to win a medal at the Olympics or World Championships would be no higher than $40,000 p/a. If I were to sign my contract for the next season my support would be somewhere in the vicinity of $12000 p/a the majority of which is a direct contribution from the Australian Sports Commission under the title of Direct Athlete Support.
What do we have to do for the funding? Unfortunately the finer points I cannot go into however the athlete must appear regularly, adhere to certain rules and criteria that could be argued as third line forcing. Many criteria I agree with and actually make for a better sport however there are a few clauses that seem hardly worth signing up for based on what I am being offered now.
Of course there are some athletes who have sponsors but very very few and a far higher percentage have no financial assistance outside of the support from the federation and ASC. As part of the NASS “potential athletes” may be selected for up to $6000 p/a These are athletes that are our developing athletes, tomorrow’s superstars and potential medallists.
It may appear that I am not at all grateful for the support that I have been offered and given in the past but as times move on we must adjust for the better to produce more successes and in my opinion we are not competing on a level playing field with the people who are winning the medals.
The idea of us as athletes being professional seems to have empty meaning. “you have to be more professional” is a statement I hear from many different sources but what does it actually mean? Can an athlete in Australia really look forward to such a privilege? “Professional” in the sense that they train and think as an “Elite” sportsperson and “Professional” in the sense they can maintain “Elite” upkeep of themselves, live a life outside of sport, balancing their career comfortably and having giving themselves every chance of success when it counts. At this point for the majority of us I would say that we are definitely not in a position to do so. Is the idea of work and training a viable option? Can you manage your time and give 110% to your training, go on training camps, travel to meets overseas etc. Im sure there are many who have done it in the past but as I have already stated we need to adjust to what is happening now and in the future and make it better for ourselves and the future of our sport.
What can I present to the youth and developing champions of tomorrow? Cliches such as the following are false and boring:
- If you really believe you can get there
- You just need a goal
- Its about hard work and dedication
They leave out the essential and important parts. How do I support myself? What is it going to cost me financially? What opportunities do I have?
Right now I can offer the youth a promise of maximum $40000 but ONLY if you could win or do win a medal repeatedly. Passion and motivation and desire aside it seems like a lot of work to do on the tiny chance that you are one of the 3 in the team of 46 chosen to represent Australian that can get it done and earn a little money to pay off the debt you have invested to get there in the first place? Perhaps this is just another reason why so many athletes drop out and either go and work or take the talent they have to a sport that can offer them something more secure.
So my questions are:
How do I improve my 68.20 further to win a medal if I have a total annual salary of $12000 for the following season?
How do I improve my performance if my coach is not supported? Seeking another, for example Gerd Kanter’s former coach would cost me $5000 US per quarter which is more than I have.
How do I train like a professional athlete if I am not treated and supported as one?
Apologies for incorrect grammar and spelling if there are any. It’s the way I are.