Citius, Altius, Fortius! More Prosperous? Hmm…

Rio Olympics was such a welcome distraction. I spent the mornings watching the heated swimming races, evenings with volleyball or weight-lifting, and towards the end going ga-ga over athletics and synchronized swimming. Within the limited free streaming services, I tried to catch as much as I could.

Whether or not Indonesian athletes were at play, it was just too much of great background stories behind most athletes that it was hard not to support with awe. Beyond the insanity that was Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps, there was French gymnast Said Ait Samir who snapped his left foot yet vowed to return to competitions in 2017, Syrian high-jumper Majd Eddin Ghazal who’d braved civil wars and visa difficulties during training, the tough love militancy of Hungarian swimmer Katinka Hosszu, or the 41-year-old Uzbekistan gymnast Oksana Chusovitina who’d won an Olympic medal before this year’s American wunderkind Simon Biles was even born.

My heart expectedly beat so much faster when, on the last hours before Independence Day ended, duo Tontowi Ahmad and Lilyana “Butet” Natsir fought valiantly in badminton court for our only gold medal, adding to the silver medals we’d won in weightlifting earlier. I prayed, screamed then got teary-eyed, perhaps with the rest of Indonesia, when the flag was hoisted up and Indonesia Raya played in the background. What a glorious way to celebrate the Independence Day.

A TV reporter immediately asked Butet, who was still in sweat and tears after her last professional game, on how she’d utilize her bonus of IDR 5 billion. As The Independent reported that day, Indonesia gives out the 2nd highest cash bonus for gold medalists, below Singapore and way above Germany and the US. The UK even gave none.

The question quickly went abuzz in chatgroups was whether our medalists would really receive their promised bonus. Some wondered if it might be wise to return to the New Order method of employing retired athletes in state-owned enterprises.

I honestly would rather the state give them personal finance coaching alongside the promised financial bonus. Look, most athletes retire before the ripe age of thirty, just when their non-athlete compatriots are starting to earn money above minimum wage, with another 30-40 years of lifespan ahead of them.

The employment with state-owned enterprises may only work if the retired athletes are given education and training necessary to take the job. State-owned enterprises are no longer cash cows for the Indonesian government—they are expected to turn profits with qualified team under their belt. However patriotic the duty that has been performed by the athletes as individuals, the state-owned enterprises are also on equally patriotic duty as institutions to churn profits for the country.

Continuing in the field? Not all former athletes, however great, are cut out to be coaches. To coach another athlete takes certain knowledge and skill set, not to mention a whole different level of patience and determination. You can push yourself to the limit, but you cannot make another person to walk towards the limit unless you know the psychology entails.

Going into business? Well, former badminton queen Ivana Lie did open a sports clothing label for a while named Elvanna, from which as a kid I bought a purple running shorts from, but I don’t know if it had a good run. Business, even within the sports, takes also different knowledge and skills.

Basic management of career and personal finance is what should be tutored seriously. Let them know there are choices beyond putting into time deposits, which interests would always come up short to cover living costs as time progressed, or buy land in their parents’ hometowns, which may not be a property with considerable growth in the long run.

Let them know that there is a possibility to switch careers smoothly. Richard Sambera received a scholarship that he seriously took advantage of to learn and start new career in broadcasting. You can be TV commentators, sports writers, or personal trainers at gyms mushrooming in Indonesian metropolitans nowadays.

Even beyond all the options above, once you know how to manage your sports money for the long haul you can safely pick a job enough to get by, without eating into the principal amount. It is sad to read this week about the 21 year-old former weightlifter in Semarang, who’d apparently won medals in the region, caught stealing motorcycles to make a living. More tragic is Ellyas Pical, Indonesia’s first world boxing champion who served time in jail for drug dealing and now is reportedly employed, perhaps out of charity, as an office gopher in the National Sports Committee. How Pical and his dentist wife couldn’t manage the huge windfall from bonus and sponsors is a mystery as much as a proof of how personal finance management is sorely needed for our athletes.

Citius, altius, fortius. Let us endeavor to make it, for athletes, more prosperous.

As published:

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