This is my second and final installment about the decision to turn “Pro.” See my first here. It’s also a topic which others have reflected upon. See Hallie’s here. And I’m sure there are more to come.
Without the money and fame of professional sports, what actually lures athletes towards professional triathlon status?
I think you just have to decide what your personal reasons are for making the jump. I wanted to keep racing, and this was the easiest way to allow me to do so, minimizing my financial costs. BUT it has really made me question whether it is the sport that I enjoy, or winning. Because I really love winning. – Kathrine (Moose) Warren.
Competition was amongst the most mentioned reasons to turn pro. “It’s definitely motivating to be racing against some of the best athletes in the sport and raises your game” says Kristen Andrews, whose been racing professionally since 2011.
There isn’t a doubt about it, placed amongst competitive peers, whether in the office or at the starting line, we become more competitive. It’s human nature. Adapt to your surroundings and overcome them.
I have a twin brother who in school was smarter than me. By most accounts he’s still smarter than I am, but it raised the bar set for me at home and at school. I was constantly compared with him. Anyone who’s had a successful sibling knows the feeling. If you’re not a raging psycho, a dose of competition is healthy. For some it’s encouragement to work harder and become better. For others it’s reason enough to change career paths, find a new hobby, or selfishly blame other people for failures.
As Moose illustrates (with jest, I’m sure) we must realize that not all professionals turn pro for the same reasons. A rare few see a lucrative career path. Others see a viable way to make their hobby into a dream job. Yet still others do it solely to, yes, win.
Fame. Not a single triathlete I corresponded with mentioned it. In fact, I think most folks pursuing pro status are less interested in their fan base than almost anything else. Being famous doesn’t appeal to Kristen Andrews, but what motivates her most is that “as a pro athlete you’re going to have more visibility, and can therefore really use that visibility for whatever it is that’s important …a cause, sponsors, or whatever it is you want to express.”
There’s a trend in triathlon, as with most sports, where athletes personally identify with a charity or cause. Defining oneself is rarely about the sponsors printed on a uni-tard. It’s about caring for something and fighting for it. If fame exists in triathlon, then it is a noble cause to use it for something other than our ego.
My Answer. Getting to the point where I can even ponder the question of turning pro has occasionally required me to redefine the reasons I participate in the sport. Initially it was to stay in shape and surround myself with an active group of friends; competition was rarely a motivating factor. It hasn’t been too many years since just finishing was enough motivation to train and race. But as with any hobby, the motivational well can quickly run dry if not infused with fresh enthusiasm.
So to answer my initial question: yes, I’m going “pro”… sometime in September. Stay tuned.