The three months leading up to a rookieís first camp can be littered with distractions.
By Jack Bechta
I am representing two players who got drafted in the 2013 draft. They are smart, conscientious, hard-working, and professional. These young men, along with 252 others, will have a lot thrown at them over the next several months and how they manage it can make the difference between success and failure, wealth and the poor house, and happiness and depression.
Here are some of the trappings rookies must overcome and some advice on how to manage it:
Have a plan for your signing bonus: Whether a player receives $5,947,616 million (average of 1st round), $413,877 (average of the 4th round, or $53,507 (average of the 7th round), itís money that the majority of players, and even some of their families, havenít seen before, especially in a lump sum. Because of the 2013 flat cap, contract deals will be done at a record pace this year. Therefore, many draft picks will be flush with cash before the end of this May or June. Thatís enough time before camp to make some bad financial and social decisions. The feeling of having readily available cash can be intoxicating. Even those players who are not materialistic, those who are smart and those who are humble can start off on the wrong foot.
There are true stories where players have spent their entire signing bonus before camp started. Part of that money can evaporate quickly because their agent or financial advisors started lending them large sums of money the day they signed with them. One large firm even encourages large credit lines up to $500,000. Another mid-west based agent woos his new clients with a blank check. Therefore, in many cases the signing bonus is used to pay back the loans taken out over the last 5 months.
Then there is the feeling of guilt. Many players feel compelled to share their new riches with family, friends and/or their church.
I encourage my clients to sit down with a financial professional to iron out their plan prior to receiving their bonus. That plan doesnít have to include making investments, buying property or even a car. However, it should be simple; like paying off any outstanding bills, setting up a direct deposit savings account not tied to a checkbook or ATM, and setting up a monthly budget for the summer until camp starts. NFL rookies have very little overhead because their teams take care of most expenses while they train with the team.
Manage every single day between now and the first day of camp. There are about 70 days left before a rookie has to report to camp. 37 of these days will be spent doing team activities. And actually, players will have weekends off during this period in May and June. How these rookies spend their time will be crucial as to how prepared they are for their first camp.
I had one client tell me that he regretted attending as many social events as he did the year he was drafted. We actually sat down and counted the days he invested into attending weddings, camps, appearances, fundraisers, and other social events he felt obligated to attend. For him, it added up to 25 days and most of them were weekends that also required getting on an airplane.
When you become an NFL player you are usually the most popular person in your hometown and on your campus. Everybody wants a piece of you and it's truly hard to say ďNo!Ē Attending teammates/coaches football camps (which occur throughout June and July) are great ways to give back but usually involve working all day and drinking beers all night. When attending camps, golf tournaments, and weddings, there is usually a day or two of much needed recovery time before regaining oneís rest and stamina.
Having 25 days or more of working out, getting proper rest, studying a playbook, polishing your skill set and eating right can make a rookie properly prepared for camp.
I tell my clients to just pick one camp or fundraiser to attend and limit it to two days and just one night. The same goes for other events. Players do need to have fun, blow off some steam and meet family obligations, but the days can really add up and take away from their focus and preparedness.
Family and friends also need to be sensitive to the demands of being a rookie.
Invest into body management: When 185-pound client, WR/KR Tim Dwight, was drafted by the Falcons in 1998, he wanted to bring his body mechanic from Iowa City, IA with him to Atlanta. My first reaction was, ďTim, you canít afford that expense being a 4th round pick.Ē After explaining to me how badly his body was banged up after throwing it all over the BIG TEN for the last four years, I relented and got on board with his program. We found other clients for his personal body mechanic and worked out a deal that was feasible for Tim and his guy to move to Atlanta and work on Tim five days a week. In talking to Tim just yesterday, he said having a body manager in his rookie year really helped him in being physically healthy and mentally ready for camp for his first 16 game season, which also included playoff games and a trip to the Super Bowl. Tim said he could have never played 10 years in the NFL without having a team of body mechanics work on him year round.
I encourage my clients to get on a stretching, workout, yoga, massage and/or ART (active release therapy) routine. When a rookie returns home for a few weeks before reporting to camp, itís imperative that he has a specific plan for his body. The cost of hiring a personal trainer, massage therapist, and or yoga teacher is a great tax-deductible investment for any rookie. Furthermore, itís important that they have a structured environment when there are no coaches around to give them one.
On a special note to this article, itís a fact that several NFL owners and General Managers wait as long as they can to get a rookie contract deal done with their draft picks. And even when they do get it done they slow-play in getting the signing bonus to the player and/or spread payment out over a longer period. They do this for one reason: They fear that a pocket full of cash, coupled with a lack of structured environment along with some free time can result in players losing their edge and losing their hunger to keep working hard.