The Standard for Professionalism is Flawed

I just wanted to take a minute to respond to the article by Jim Lubinski since he did use my tweet as a main focus in his article.

Jim said, “With Tweets like the one above by @TriMatt18 does it look like professional triathletes are respected for their talents, ability, and dedication to being the best? I’d say no, because no one is cultivating that respect within the sport let alone outside of the sport.”

For me this could not be farther from the truth. As someone who competes in everything from local 5k’s and sprint tris to Iron distance tris, I know what it takes to compete these events. I am not a misguided AGer who thinks that if I did not have a job and could train all day, I could be a pro.

I am also a huge fan of the Pro races. I stream every race that’s available and watch repeats on YouTube. I also pay for the ITU races. I read Thorston’s ratings and follow most of the sport like I follow the main 4. I am passionate about Triathlon.

My problem is with the system.

I do not think that a person who does well at a few races should be able to declare himself or herself a pro. There are more and more “Part Time Pros” as I like to call them because they cannot make a living on the few sponsors that they have and the few races that even pay past the 5th place finisher. I saw this first hand at a local race where a pro triathlete blew the field away. Later that week in my “real” life, away from triathlon, that same pro was a defense attorney, representing a bad guy that I had put away in my…Real Life.

This guy was/is a great athlete and is probably making some money racing and being a pro, but he is also a lawyer, a coach, a consultant…who has time for that? Will he ever reach his potential as a pro burning the candle at both ends like that? I know not everyone has the aspirations to win Kona but when you show up at a race, the guy on the line next to you may be.

My athletic career is similar to that of a lot of pro triathletes. Never made it playing a mainstream sport and decided to do a triathlon after my career was over. I played baseball at a high level. I won all sorts of awards and made All-“this” teams and All-“that” teams. I played NCAA Div. 1, traveled around the country playing for scouts at pro days and showcases with the best ball players in the country. I did not make it to any level of professional baseball and I understand the sacrifices, dedication, and some luck that it takes to make it.

At the end of the day, it didn’t matter how good of a game or series I had; I could not declare myself a Pro.

The system did not work that way. The system was not like Triathlon in the USA. Professional baseball players do not moonlight with other jobs to make ends meet. The pros are the best of the best because there is a system in place that says they are, and pays accordingly. I’m not talking about the top tier guys either, because the Crowie’s and the Macca’s of any sports are doing ok. I’m talking about the guy who is just barely hanging onto his roster spot.

When a person is the fastest at his local race, or even regional races there has to be some perspective. With proper training, could that guy make it in the endurance world…Maybe? Is it right for every person who ever won a race to pay their pro fee to WTC and race 15 Ironmans to get points that the top guys earn in 2 races? It’s not fair and sponsors know this. “John Smith” who won Bumblefuck 70.3 is not selling anything for them. The Sponsors are taking a chance on a part time pro just by backing some of these “pros.”

Triathlon should look at cycling.

If you want to be a real pro, start at the bottom and work yourself up. Create a system for elites and pros to climb the ranks at smaller races and “CAT up” as they do well. Then, when some part time pro smacks the crap out of some top tier guys, heads will turn and money will follow the next “big thing.”

The sport is great and gives an outlet to a lot of people, but the Pro system is broken and can use a fixing.

About the Author

Matt Forger is a detective with the New York City Police Department and an age-group triathlete who has been competing in Triathlons for 10 years. Matt is a proud father and founder of the NYPD Triathlon Team. Follow him on twitter @trimatt18.

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