Monday, March 17, 2008

Financing a Dream

Track and Field leaves a lot of people with questions about the money side of it all. Some people expect that we all make millions like some “professional” athletes do, while others may assume that it is an amateur sport that we are a part of simply so we can compete every four years. The answer for each person is different and while it might seem taboo to talk about personal finances, I really don’t have too much of a problem talking about my own funds. I am willing to share my wealth of experience to a bunch of strangers on the Internet, because I know some of you have asked and are curious. I am only here to please.

I will start off by saying that my experience has been difficult. There has certainly been times when I have questioned my lot in life, wondering why I was struggling in a profession that barely, if at all, allowed me to make ends meet when I had a college degree and a desire to be successful and self-sufficient. But of course we all know the answer. This is my passion and I most certainly DO NOT do it for the money. Sure, one day I hope to shout to my agent show me the Money! but that day hasn’t come yet.

When I was in college, I thought that if you decided to compete after school and you were good, you’d make money—pretty decent money at that. Well my first year, I had an Adidas contract and ran a few meets, and I barely made it. The next two years I proceeded to pretty much forget how to run and jump and Adidas finally said thanks, but no thanks. By this time I was living in L.A., where you can really only live comfortably if you’re a millionaire or if you’re daddy was a billionaire. Well I was neither and so began the wonderful life of trying to have my “career” while working a J.O.B. I guess if you are really lucky you can find work that you enjoy and are inspired by, but when you are looking for something where you can’t start til after 3, you’ll need to take some days off with very little notice, and you probably won’t be around in the summer…well I ended up serving people steaks and cocktails. Decent money and flexible schedule, but I worked late into the night and had to be on my feet for six hours.

After a year and a half of that I decided to take a different approach of trying to make ends meet. Of course this required being able to run and jump half decently, but once I did that, I started working my behind off and becoming what Paris Hilton is to Hollywood nightclubs on the track circuit – a constant. For the last two summers you couldn’t be at a track meet in Europe without seeing my lovely face. I’d fly straight from Nationals and stay until the last meet of the season running at the big meets, the small ones, and everything in between. From Paris to Slovakia. Athens to Belgrade. Monaco to Warsaw. It was all about quantity because at this time my performances were not of the quality that would allow me to compete only a handful of times and make enough money to support me for a year in a span of 3 months.

People often wonder how last year I could run a PR at the beginning of the summer and by the end of the summer I was running times I ran in high school. Well the drawback to this method is that it’s easy to run out of steam. At some point the wheels just fall off and I was definitely scraping the asphalt by the end. Luckily I had a couple photos posing with a beer bottle to help make up for the two dollars they pay you for running backwards.

Each and every person in this sport will have a different story. The crazy thing is that if I had graduated a couple years later, I could have been making good money straight out of school. Probably six figures as a base salary based on my accomplishments in college. The tides turned around 2004 and they started paying the young kids the bigger bucks before they had ‘proven’ themselves in the big leagues. The good thing is that you have guaranteed money and you aren’t forced to run in meets to make sure your light bill will be paid. But, alas, that was not my course. At times it seems a bit unfair but I suppose there is no promise of fairness when it comes to life.

So I continue to make my own way and do what I have to do to make it work. I’m sure I’ve made the whole thing seem totally unglamorous but the truth of the matter is if I had done anything else with the last six years of my life, I am sure I would have regrets. God has always provided and I have been allowed to travel the world because of the talents He gave me. Sure, I hope that this year will allow me a little more cushion and if things go as planned, it will. But I don’t do this sport for the money. If that were the case I’d pick up a tennis racket.

***If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments section and I’ll try and answer.


dejanae said...

but the truth of the matter is if I had done anything else with the last six years of my life, I am sure I would have regrets

thats just it right there

intersting post

Ron Bramlett said...

Hey isn't that the truth? A lot of us would be in different tax brackets if we were born a few years later, like a lot of the 82's and 83's that were cashing in around 2004-2005. Nope.. had to come out in 2001 and 2002 for slim pickins and run 40 races a year just to live.. Definitely a hard cycle to get out of.

When I have kids, I'm steering them toward tennis..

Joice Maduaka said...

So true Bri
One year I did a magical mystery tour of the world. I think I was trying to hit every Continent. 58 races latter. Not a good look.

Track has brought me a nice car and cute shoes/handbags.

Other than that hmmmm.

I have had to work full time to make ends meet. Making track more a hobby than an occupation.

People always presume the Brits have it made because we get lottery funding. Let me tell you. You have to jump through hoops of fire to get it. This aint no gift from the God's trust me.

So like I tell everyone. I do the sport because I love it. No regrets no look backs.

Eb the Celeb said...

Thanks for sharing... I often wonder about that. Not just with track & field though, with any sports that doesnt get major ongoing exposure.

the gamelord said...

The fact that you compete at the level you do without a contract or the benefit of a sizable athletic governing body sponsorship (like a lot of the Communist and European countries) is a testament to your determination. Putting in a 5+ hour training session and trying to work a side gig can't be easy, but anything worth having never is. I know most of us on the outside looking in never realized how to tough it is for you to make a living in your sport. A lesser women probably would've went the clear heel route or did something strange for change to make it.j/k LOL

Brianna, you are blessed and one day you'll reap the rewards for your perserverance. Once your career is over, you'll appreciate the experience more, because you had to sacrifice more than those
professional "amateurs". :-)

BG in Beijing! '08

Anonymous said...

This is very much an honest and thought-provoking post-thanks for sharing.

As you know, I am involved in a sport that only pays the big bucks when you are near or at the top. Bodybuilding is just now starting to pick up steam financially with a lot of the athletes scoring major supplement contracts and endorsement deals, but it is still very uneven because as you would imagine, only the very best can actually make a living from just competing; the others are personal trainers or have a regular 9 to 5 to hold down. As a competitor myself, I was smart enough to have a career and start a business because though I love bodybuilding, I am currently not a part of the great gene pool that translates into major bucks. I do not chase the dream to be a top pro because I know what goes into being at that level and I am not lookin' to take any years from my life just for the sake of having bigger muscles and a $10 trophy on my mantle.

You have found that you participate in your "career" because you love it and that is very noble because many people would have hung up their cleats a long time ago. You are a champion that serves a purpose within her sport and soon that purpose will be recognized by many.


kludge said...

Thanks so much for the posting. I definitely was curious as I have a niece that is pretty gifted at running. So, when you run "constantly" does all your travel and such become "business expenses" or do the meet organizers provide for your travel ? I guess sacrifices are made in just about any career. Although you seem to have alot of fun and have large network of friends, is there any one sacrifice that you make as a track athlete that sticks out as the worst? OK, I'm nosey, but this is also an open question to the other athletes making comments here.

the gamelord said...

I forgot to ask this question in my previous post. It's regarding your agent's compensation. Does he receive the standard 10% commission from your earnings from meets or does he just receive a cut from the various appearances and photoshoots that you do? Is there some type of service contract involved? Sorry for getting all up in your business.:-)

eclectik said...

I envy you.
The Travels alone is the hotness

I like you even more because of the passion you have for the sport.

That's what's killing most of the other professional sports they are doing it for the paycheck moreso than anyone else and you can see it/tell it in their performances

Your story is cool and I think it's hot you're sharing

and me having a crush does NOT make me biased lol

You are doing exactly what you're supposed to be doing...and well.

What's the degree in?

If you were to leave the track next month; what else would you like to be doing?


Anonymous said...

I am always intrigued by folks who do what they do out of passion because there are so few folks who do it. Glad to see you're tracking along with your God-given talent.

Isn't it amazing how He always provides? When we think there isn't any way, He shows up out of the blue. I love me some Him.

Brianna said...

@ yup, i know you can relate. i see you hustlin as well.

@joice...well i still drive a civic so i guess you are doing better than me! and YES you do have it made with your whole lottery funding! i mean, i know you work hard and it's not just a handout but it must be nice to have the support of your country.

@kludge...most meets(in europe at least) give you money for travel and take care of your lodging and meals. however, it is usually not so easy and turning in receipts. each meet has their own travel allowance and so hopefully at the end of the summer you are not in the negative. i was a few thousand over this summer actually and that had to come out of pocket. last minute summer priced tickets to europe will do that to you. that is also the benefit of staying over there for longer periods of time and going from meet to meet. but i will tell you that my trip to Indoor Nationals this year was entirely paid for by ME. Gotta love paying your own way to U.S. Nationals. I'd say the biggest sacrifice for me has been moving 5 times in the last 6 years. That...and the times I was broke.

@gamelord...actually the average most track agents take is 15%. mine takes that until you earn above a certain amount and then it's dropped to 10%. he receives a cut from everything he has a hand in--mostly the stuff that is track related.

@eclectik...yes, your crush makes you biased. :) my degree is in marketing. if i stopped running next month i'd be a professional blogger. lol. actually, i don't know. i've thought about commentating but who knows. it's hard to focus on your next career when you are in the middle of one.

brit_brat said...

Sure, I have a question....
Can I borrow $20?

Cara said...

Thanks so much for the insight! It is really nice to read from an athlete how it all really works.

Nigel "6five" Bigbee said...

I have a lot of friends that are on the circuit and some that have the potential to run at a high level and I tell them, professional track and field isn't like anything else. It's a hustle and you have to be hungry and determined to make it. Your blog is something I will share with them to give them some insight. Great post.

I am trying to do the coaching thing and have a degree in management. I turned down 48k to take this coaching internship in Nebraska getting paid $8.50. So, I understand your struggle from a different angle though.

Brianna said...

@brit...hahaha. i guess you still are probably more broke than i am. yes, you can have $20.'re welcome!

@nigel...yikes! $8.50!!! now that's love for the sport. :)

t.v. said...

Hey, I would pay you to be a professional blogger... lol.

Track Evangelist said...

wow..what an intimate post. thanks for sharing. track a sport that you love to hate. it's issues are frustrating..but anyway don't get me to testifing up in here.

anyway, keep doing what you doing. i look forward to reading your blog and seeing where this journey takes you. you are gaining more fans by the day. literally. that will continue unless you mention new kids on the block again..LOL. just kidding.

Nickson23 said...

My first question is do you still work or are you a full time runner?
And my second one is when you travel do you have to pay out your own pocket?

Brianna said...

I only run full time now...I felt for what I wanted to achieve track needed to be a full time commitment and not feel like a hobby.

I pay out of my own pocket when I go over travel allotments.

Ronnie said...

I understand all too well the mental battles that you had to go through. I actually quit running and was talked into comming back on three seperate occasions. On the last time, I was actually talked into training for the Decathlon by the WGADC. Don't get me wrong, I thank them for the opportunity. The money was right but I soon learned my limitations. I found out I had some. I was just a High Jumper and a Long Jumper that could do well in many other events,... but not the 1500.

After they picked me up off the track and my decision to quit was made for me, I decided to go back to school. Yes I already had a degree, but the medical field was calling me. I'm trying to put my all into Pharmacy School but when I see how watered down the events have gotten I wonder what would have happened if I had stuck it out? What would have happened if I had a good coach? What would have happened if I came in just a few years later? The "what if"s just kept comming. I lost 4 years to the olympic dream but I had a beautiful fiance and that gave me all the support in the world. Now that I'm a full time student on a sure track to success, the relationship suffered, I'm now in debt up to my eyeballs in mortgage payments and school loans, and I'm stressed out off my mind for the first time in my life.

I know I made my decision and there is no turning back the hands of time. But this doesn't mean that I can't wish the best for my friends. I actually get that adrenaline pumping again when I hear how good you all are doing. Wish I was there but since I'm not, do it twice as well for me.