Leveraging with Lubahn
By Andy Lubahn /// Professional Soccer Player
My path to professional sports was circuitous and unique compared to traditional trajectories. I dove head first into sports seriously when I was 16. Because of my high-minded ambition and goals, I quickly pushed myself towards a challenge I was perhaps not fully prepared to overcome. I graduated from Youth National Teams to Brad Friedel’s Soccer Boarding school, and upon graduation ended up as a 17 year old kid living in Brugge, Belgium sharing my mornings and early afternoons with grown men playing professionally. Reality as so often is the case has a way of crashing into you whether you’re prepared or not. I learned quickly the zero-sum paradigm of sports, and the resulting professional and financial risks. Although I was driving around a European city on a black mo-ped, learning a new language, culture, and way of life, I was also acutely realizing the struggles of my fellow athletes. After a year of living in Belgium I quickly realized leveraging my athletic ability to pursue a scholarship at a prestigious university marginally outweighed the economic opportunities for players in my position.
Financial lesson #1
Leverage your skill-set economically while also maximizing value in other arenas. The US college athletic system is unique in the world. There is a natural tension between academia and athletic programs across the country particularly at elite universities. I maintain there is room for both students and athletes on university campuses provided both the Student and the Athlete honor both sides of the agreement. More on this discussion at a later time. As the situation currently stands, a high-level scholarship outweighs the economic benefit of a professional contract straight out of high school. For example, several universities currently honor a system whereby once a student-athlete is enrolled said student-athlete may return to their alma mater after their athletic career to finish their degree at the financial obligation of the university should they leave early. My decision to pursue my athletic career while also securing a degree seemed particularly prudent as I suffered three injuries in succession. I was now almost an entire year removed from high-level soccer, well behind my peers who were pursuing their athletic goals simultaneously, and close to quitting to pursue other options. However, because I leveraged my skill-set coming out of high school I was now afforded the luxury of pursuing my athletic career with the comfort of having a useful degree to fall back on should further setbacks arise. The clarity and sense of calm derived from a future career outside of sports was invaluable. I now pursued my professional career because I loved to do it, not because I needed to. The same logic and application of leveraging your skill-set coming out of high school and receiving a scholarship is similar to the pro level except the “scholarships” require more effort and strategy to find.
Financial Lesson #2
Your rookie year in sports is a challenge. Nearly everyone in your profession exhibits some form of predatory behavior towards you whether casual and fun-loving or more sinister in nature. As a result, its wise to be on your guard. Learn from older experienced pros whom you trust. Your financial standing with the organization is no different. Leverage your position as best as possible. Leverage your position in the community as well. Businesses love sports. Take advantage of this relationship to ease your financial burden. As a result, both you as an individual and the businesses will benefit.
Financial Lesson #3
If you’re a good pro your work day ends around 1pm. Even if you supplement your team mandated training with gym work you still have ample time. Leverage your time. Pick up a side-hustle. Build relationships. Again, you’re not simply an athlete. Use your status to reach other markets whether to monetize your value or manufacture a greater positive impact.
In summation: Leverage your privileged position as an athlete to reach additional avenues and revenues for greater magnitudes.
Andy Lubahn is currently a professional soccer player for San Francisco Deltas in the North American Soccer League (NASL). Lubahn spent four years at Wake Forest University studying medicine. He spends his off time leveraging his current position following his passions in writing, medicine, and volunteering.