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Who takes responsibility for misbehaving athletes?

Updated: Apr 20, 2023

How often do we see young athletes regularly damaging their personal brand with their lack of respect, tradition and manners?


It mystifies me that athletes worldwide still misunderstand that the actions they take and the strategies they adopt in managing their personal brand in the public arena can be the difference in a successful professional career - or not. How often do we see young athletes regularly damaging their personal brand with their lack of respect, tradition and manners?

Over many years in the sports management business, M5 has consistently been approached by parents, coaches and teachers of emerging sporting talent for advice on when is the right time for their child to take the leap into the world of professional sport. This question always comes from concerned parents that no longer have the expertise, contacts and understanding in dealing with the responsibilities and demands that young athletes in a digital world need to deal with.

The change from emerging to elite/professional athlete comes at a time when young sportspeople are at the greatest risk of receiving bad advice and are most exposed to making decisions that are not in their best interests. In many ways the transition to professional athlete can be so compelling and exciting, that the teaching of common values is forgotten, or excused in the quest to achieve sporting and commercial success.

It is not a good long term plan to sacrifice values along the athlete journey, with poor outcomes both commercially and personally for the athlete. So many of the sad stories in our Aussie sport come from our young talent, that simply have never been taught the behaviour and responsibilities that come with their sporting success. Like it or not, the Australian public has an expectation of behaviour that they may not be prepared for, nor understand. With the immediacy of digital media scrutiny we are seeing more stories of behavioural failures by athletes than on field/court successes.

M5 believes that the positive intervention and education of athletes at a time when they are moving toward a professional career in sport, is critical in creating the correct behavioural attributes. This will ultimately set the foundations on which they can build the correct habits that are identified with our most respected sporting icons.

So who takes the responsibility for educating our brightest talent?

The Parent? – As this article points out, parents are often out of their depth and it is a common problem that children do not take advice well from their parents!

The Coach? – The coach can instill some good values but often this is more about the disciplines of training and personal/team sporting performance and not personal brand performance

The Sport? - Only very few of our sporting bodies touch on the business of sport and those that do, are very generic in their education.

The Athlete Manager? Managers are usually the last in line to experience poor behaviour. The most successful managers tell their clients what they don’t want to hear – but need to be told. I educate my clients and their support teams both directly and via our M5 Pathway Program on the importance of exceptional behaviour 24/7 including the pitfalls of social media. I also remind them that bad behaviour equals fines, cancelled sponsorship contracts and reduced earning potential long term.

The answer is parents, coaches, teachers, mentors, sporting federations and athlete managers all need to take responsibility and to do so from the early years of the athlete’s career. Tough love, education and teaching from all parties on the importance of respect, manners, humility and gratitude should remain the guiding principle. The abandonment of these traits will see Australia leading the way in delivering arrogant, foul mouthed, spoilt and self serving sport stars that the Aussie public will gladly take the tall poppy knife to. Thank goodness the likes of Jason Day, Laura Geitz, Tim Cahill, Samantha Stosur. Ky Hurst* and Emily Seebohm* are balancing things out.

“I never thought about losing, but now that it’s happened, the only thing is to do it right.” – Muhammad Ali

* Clients under M5 management.

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