photo property of: ShaiAnne Davis & Tremaine Harris
A Letter to the World…
To the Fans/Supporters,
The sport of track and field is a bit one-sided. The fans are not necessarily fans of the sport, but fans of the individuals. The patience and energy you give to those you support in this sport should be reciprocated. On my end, I hope to start by first giving more content, not necessarily more wording, but more about the person behind Jeremy Dodson.
October was the end of the 2015 season, so though it is considered our “off” time from the track, it becomes more of a time to raise funding for the upcoming season. We become our own marketing manager and work to brand ourselves as athletes. We brand ourselves as our own team, looking for supporters to help build the roster. This is a critical time to connect to communities, to donors, and to relay our gratitude for the support. In this sport, although we run a race alone, we are nothing without our supporters.
Over 70% of professional track athletes make under $50k a year in earnings. To reword that statement, over half of track and field Olympians are struggling to make a living. Those earnings include a base salary contract with a shoe company, prize winnings from meets (primarily international competitions), funding from sponsors/donors, and then earnings from part time jobs to supplement the remaining bills like rent. Though this comes as a surprising fact in general, the thing that makes it even more surprising is that aspiring collegiate and high school track athletes who look to make a career of being a professional athlete, know nothing about this issue. So why even pursue a career in track and field?
The life of a professional track athlete generally consists of 25+ hours of training for 6 days a week. The competition season starts in January, with indoor meets occurring every weekend, some domestic, and others abroad. If money is to be made, travel to Europe or Canada is a necessity, but even then it is not guaranteed. The athlete has to coordinate travel, then earn their money through a prize structure according to how they finish. Imagine sitting in a plane for 8-10 hours, disrupting your daily diet plan, aching body, typically dehydrated, sleeping with a roommate that does not speak English, and then trying to give a 100% of peak performance to earn a prize winnings that barely cover the price of a round-trip ticket. So why pursue a career in track and field?
The indoor competition season spans from January until late March. Immediately after, outdoor competitions begin in April and continue until the Olympics in August, with 4 more weeks of competitions afterwards. Sounds like a full time job with no benefits. So, why pursue a career in track and field? I pursue a career in track and field to become an Olympian, a representation of persistence and determination with the label of excellence. The characteristics developed through the journey to becoming an Olympian, whether reached or not, are behaviors that are beneficial for a better human being and eventually, a better community. However, without the giving hands and supporting charity of those surrounding, there would be no journey to embark upon. Will you join the journey?
To The Athletes…
In Greek mythology, an Olympian stands on the same stage as that of the gods and goddesses. They are majestic in manner and superior to mundane affairs. The status an Olympian holds is neither appointed nor bought. In essence, an Olympian is a representative of the people, a representative of the civic, a representative to show the strength of a community. So, when I say that the reason I pursue a career in track and field is to become an Olympian, I am saying that I have been gifted with an ability that can showcase the power of my community and nation.
The gods were nothing without the people. The role the people played were just as important as the role the gods played. Similarly, an Olympian is nothing without its supporting cast. Unfortunately, a lot of athletes do not understand that or simply refuse to admit. We lie about making big money to our friends. We hide away when failure hits us. What is worse is that we expect the investors to shower us with money when we do a simple task correctly. We want everyone to see our potential but we forget to pay our end of the deal. We want to stand on the top of Mount Olympus and say we did it all on our own, with no help. Nothing could be more false.
We need help, plain and simple; but more importantly, we need support. Yes, the international committee for athletics has a huge part in marketing the sport, which is something they could improve. But we as athletes also have a role in “saving” this beloved sport. Nevertheless, instead of making it a simple task, we turn asking for help into some form of art that needs to be honed in on because we have too much pride to admit that as a professional athlete, we do not have it all together. As professional athletes, we want to be the ones to give back large amounts of charity. We want to be V.I.P. every time we step out. Unfortunately, we are the “Supermans” of the justice league rather than the “Iron-Mans”, most of our work is done undercover. While Iron-Man flaunts and gets the glory, we are Clark Kent during the day, and protector of the world when needed. So what I am saying is that the world needs you, you just have to show them how much you are worth by starting in your community and saving one life at a time.
As professional athletes, we can achieve things the majority of the population cannot. As a result, we become a symbol of inspiration. Then again, how much of an inspiration can one be if your story is unknown? In order for everyone to know our story, we must first share it. In order to share it, we have to interact with people. There is a huge business involving inspiration. Nevertheless, the main subject I want to highlight is that being a professional athlete does not stop when you step off the field. Obtaining the Olympian status is not the end, but only the beginning. Being a professional athlete is only a platform that we must use to project our true desires, whether that be in business, charity, art, or any other many endeavors. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but rather a sign of growth. You are a product of not only your works, but a culmination of surrounding support. So while we are training our bodies fervently, training our minds diligently, we cannot forget to train our hearts carefully by the development and connection of relationships.
“When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.” –Paulo Coelho.
Do you have your own story of life you want to share? I want to hear
Jeremy Dodson is a Track & Field Olympian who struggles with the idea of perfection, hoping to break the barrier we place on ourselves so that genuine living can take place for everyone.