You go to work, clock 40+ hours a week, and when the first of the month rolls around...you DON'T get paid? Could you imagine that? I'll tell you what. First of all, you probably don't WANT to imagine anything so crazy. Second, doing so would probably cause you to drop a couple of four letter words totally inappropriate for this blog, and third, some of you really COULDN'T imagine such a thing.
The point is, when the first and 15th roll around, most folks are taking checks to the bank, going to the mall, and hitting the club. And I get it...it probably isn't like that so much anymore with the recession and all, but that's how it was.
Anyway, I remember those days...way back when I was a bag boy at Tom Thumb up until I quit my job at Demo in 2004. That was me and my hustle. Track was always there, but I had to be sure I made some extra money...and I now I can appreciate the convenience of having a pay day circled on the calendar... because, things aren't like that anymore.
Sure I upgraded my income a little bit when I turned pro, but it was a modest upgrade, so I kept working a "regular" part time gig just to stay busy. But as my times dropped and my training intensity increased, I had to drop the day job. And as soon as I did that, I was introduced to the "perform now, pay later" process.
It's not uncommon for me to run up to ten meets...shoot, sometimes a whole season, without seeing a payday. I'm not talking about contract stuff. Your sponsors are like angels. They'll always take care of you - but when it comes to prize money and appearance fees....don't bank on it until you have something to take TO the bank.
It's an ugly side of track and field - something most folks would never know or expect to hear about, but it is very real. And it to be honest, it is frustrating. Of course I am, and always will be, grateful for the opportunities that I have AND my God-given talent that allows me to get paid for performing - but real talk? I have a family, a car note, a mortgage and an uncle named Sam that has an non-negotiable approach to due dates and pay days, you catch my drift?
That's one reason why I appreciated Ato Boldon's honesty in his "10 Commandments" tweets. Managing money is a crucial part of managing professional success, but the flip side of that is making sure that there is some kind of accountability where the meet promoters are concerned.
Take this for example. I ran a race in 2006 and was not paid until 2008. That's TWO years later. Truth is, I had forgotten about the check, but most folks probably wouldn't have been so forgetful.
Put it like this, in any other situation, an employee would have concrete and legitimate grounds to take action against a employer for non-payment. As track & field athletes, our "grounds" are no less legitimate or concrete, but the road we have to take to get paid is far less traveled and much more...bumpy.
Now, as with all my blogs, I do have to qualify my thoughts and say that not ALL meet promoters fall into this category. I've had the pleasure of working with some great meet promoters over the years, but there are many who do fall into this category.
So what's the ah-ha of the story? I have my own thoughts, but I've done most of the talking...I'll let you take it from here. I'm just trying to stay true to my promise to tell yall stuff you don't know - and would probably never know about this sport called track and field. Peace.