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$ + Attention + Immaturity = ?

$ + Attention + Immaturity = ?
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This week, we wrap up our conversation about the implications of changes in NCAA policies regarding compensating student-athletes, calling on universities to foster prudent financial management by these young people.


Student-athletes now have increased access to financial wealth, national attention, and responsibilities rarely experienced by that cohort before. We close this series with a few thoughts on what universities could do to best prepare their student-athletes to realize a fulfilling life of contribution.

Like all of us, these young people do not have all the knowledge, experience, or guidance for making the best decisions. Their youth has given them less time to accumulate experiences that could better guide them. As for everyone, the mistakes they make can teach them, and their drive for continuous learning to create a more secure and stable future will serve them well.

While learning and growing, we need to keep in mind: What we do today is important, only if it is preparing us for a more stable tomorrow.

How Universities Can Best Serve Their Student-Athletes

Universities must help student-athletes develop these three competencies:

Ability to Delay Gratification

Maturity and wisdom allow one to understand the long-term ramifications of short-term decision-making. Helping young people understand the four stages of maturation will help them better understand where they are and what they can look forward to.

Example of what understanding the Four Stages of Fulfillment framework can do.

We supported a Wall Street leader who realized he was living and working in an immature “show me the money” Stage II Fulfillment: Learning, Growing, Competing environment. He felt odd and out of place, as he himself had reached the more mature “what can I do for you” Stage III Fulfillment: Benefiting Others. Understanding the Four Stages of Fulfillment made him feel good about himself; it was ok to be odd.

Understanding Who I Am and Who I Can Trust

The foundation of who we are is found in our Core Identity. It guides us as on why we are doing and how we make decisions. Understanding who we are can be learned from studying those we admire and respect most, the people have helped us most along our journey through the jungle of life to become who we are today. What was it in their why they did their work that was motivational? What was it in the how  they went about achieving that made us respect them so much? These attributes also reside in the observer but are not fully developed yet.

Understanding who we are helps us understand who we are meant to partner with and who we can work with most effectively. Two Guiding Principles are essential for us and our partnerships.

  • Trust is the ability to rely on someone to do what they say they will do, when they say they will, and how they say they will.
  • Caring is the ability to demonstrate deep concern for others’ feelings and their opportunities to learn and grow.

Example of understanding with whom to partner

At FS/A, we advised a young woman, a little older than these collegiate athletes, who had just taken over a business. Our client went from wanting to quit the business to thriving by honoring who she was and what her business was to represent, instead of catering to the whims and desires of clients. Everything changed. People who disagreed with her Purpose left, and rewardingly, her clarified Core Identity showed what her business stood for and attracted many more who wanted what she had to offer. She continues to thrive today.

Understanding Financial Responsibility

The history of young professional athletes being financially responsible could be better. A 2009 Sports Illustrated article shared that approximately 78% of NFL players face financial distress or go bankrupt within two years of retirement. The article noted that about 60% of NBA players are in the same situation within five years of retirement. In 2015, the National Bureau of Economic Research shared that around 15.7% of athletes who make it to the NFL or NBA will file for bankruptcy within twelve years of retirement.

Looking at the longer term

Teaching the longer-term impact of wise financial investment can set student-athletes up for greater economic security later in life. Teaching the power of compounding interest at a young age may be the greatest financial lesson we can learn.

For example, a young person who puts $10,000 a year aside from ages 20 to 25 would see the value of their investment grow to more than $850,000 by the time they are 65. Teaching delayed gratification for future security incubates maturity and wisdom, which are vital for these young people to learn early.


These three opportunities to learn and grow are vital for all of us. Early in life, most of us are given time to make mistakes that are not that big. We are asking these young people to play a big game, some with substantial sums of money, and they need to learn a few vital things they do not know. They will learn, and it is the opportunity and responsibility of universities to prepare these young people in a way like never before. The game of life is coming at these student-athletes faster, and we need to help prepare them to be winners in the long term.

#Leadership #Team #ShiftFromMeToTeam #Maturity #NCAA #StudentAthletes