Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Dayjobs

I have long wondered how professional curling teams get by; tournament prizes, while significant, are nothing by, say, golf standards, and they have to be shared probably five or six ways. Moreover, only the top teams get those prizes, and there are not a lot of them, the season is relatively short, and their careers at the top do not last forever, though perhaps longer than in some other sports.
Certainly there are sponsorships, but those must be divided among all the worthy candidates, and one has to remember that the sponsor can really only hope to advertise to a Canadian audience (in some cases to a small international audience). So the sponsorships will not be worth what a Titleist sponsorship is worth to Mike Weir. And again it has to be divided up among the team. (I plan to post later on sponsorship and advertising.)
So my guess is that the VERY top teams might make enough from curling to live on for the years they are curling at a high level, but they will still have a life to live when that money tapers off. They have to worry about long-term expectations.
The net is that I have always assumed that most of these players have 'day jobs'.
Part of the media package at the Brier is a single file with all the player biographies, which in almost all cases includes an 'occupation'. Essentially all of the players have day jobs.
What sort of jobs?
There are some obvious general characteristics that would be required of such a job.
They key one is that to allows absence with some frequency. The absences are fairly predictable, so any sort of job that does not require extended presence should work.
On the other hand, one wants also to be able to grow in the job after curling ceases to take so much time away. A job that rewards explicitly on work performed, rather than time on the job, would be ideal. Especially if it offers the flexibility to determine how much work and when.
When one analyzes the list and tries to classify, some categories and terms stand out.
One word is 'Owner'. Owning your own business allows you to delegate as needed, and probably even manage remotely as needed. You do not have to negotiate with your boss about periods of absence. What sorts of business? The quintessential one is Kevin Martin's curling and racket sport supplies store. Other examples include a food franchise (M&M, a Brier sponsor), a restaurant, roofing (talk about seasonal!), lawn care (seasonal!), beer store, and some are not specified.
Another word is 'manager'. While the word is overloaded, it is usually a job that allows for some delegation (upward or downward), and remote execution. Examples include a bank senior account manager, an IT manager, a 'business development' manager (not sure what that is), a marketing events manager (a perfect job for someone with a public profile, and the management part can usually be done remotely), a brand manager (ditto, especially when you too are a brand).
The next word that jumps out is 'sales'. This is the ultimate in work whose volume you can control to the satisfaction of an employer, especially one that pays largely on commission. So we find 'sales/marketing manager', 'sales manager' (a double whammy), 'salesman', 'sales representative', and my guess is, though it lacks the exact word, 'business development representative'.
Some jobs listed have the ring of flexibility, 'utilities technician', 'substitute teacher', 'fitness director' (here I judge by the job at the fitness club I attend), 'real estate appraiser', 'lawyer', 'accountant', 'chiropractor', 'grad student' (there are some inflexibilities here but universities often try to accommodate). One job is highly seasonal, 'golf course maintenance'.
A couple of jobs sound rather less flexible; there is a 'teacher' and I do wonder how that works. John Morris is a firefighter, but I imagine there is flexibility there too.
Many of the players not listed work for the government or universities, often pretty flexible employers at a high enough level, and undoubtedly basking in the glory of an employee of some note in another domain.
There is one other thing that stands out in this list; many of these are jobs that can be as big as you want to make them, ideal for fairly aggressive and competitive individuals, characteristics of top-level athletes.
I do not have a complete picture, but this goes a long way to telling me something about how curling integrates into the lives of these players, and how they really do seem to be planning for a life not so much after curling, but after getting any significant income from competing at curling. (Many are likely to coach and remain in the sport in other ways later in life.)
Few seem to wasting all the money they are earning as it comes in, the pitfall of so many professional athletes. I think one thing that protects them from that fate is that they don't make enough money from curling to think they are rich.



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