There’s no ‘I’ in “team,” as they say.
There is an ‘I’ in “tennis,” however. And in “golf professional,” if that’s not too much of a stretch.
If you’re setting out on the long, lonely road to collegiate and/or professional golf or tennis, you’ll need to do some things differently than your team-player peers.
For starters, you may need to find a sponsor for your ambitions. A career in tennis or golf doesn’t come cheap, after all: tournament entry fees, equipment, coaching, travel all cost money.
If you’re in the market for a single sponsor (or composite sponsorship) for your career, follow these tips.
Turn to Friends and Family
Entrepreneurs look in all manner of places for early-stage funding. Why should aspiring solo athletes be any different?
For many budding business owners, close friends and family members serve as irreplaceable sources of seed capital during the pre-revenue “death zone.” If you’re blessed with a relatively well-heeled network — or one or two loaded relatives — you’d be remiss not to do the same. Make it clear that their investments are loans, not grants, and you’re good to repay ‘em once you start placing in tournaments.
Consider a Self-IPO
Once you’ve exhausted your friends and family, make like a true entrepreneur and opt for a self-IPO. Sports entrepreneur Ryan Nivakoff helped pro golfer Daniel Mazziotta avoid a self-IPO, but Mazziotta told the Fort Myers News-Press that he was fully onboard with the strategy. Perhaps you’ll be the one to show him just how well it works.
Start a Crowdfunding Campaign
“There’s an app for that,” ran the old iPhone commercial.
These days, the slogan might as well be: “there’s a GoFundMe for that.” Sporting aspirations are a fair bit happier (if no lower-stakes) than cripplingly expensive health emergencies, it’s true, but the idea remains the same. Another upshot of crowdfunding: the option to offer rewards to individual investors.
Hustle, Hustle, Hustle
Use the meager moments you have off the court or links to hustle your way to solvency. Pick up a part-time job or freelance consulting work to make ends meet. Every dollar you make on your own terms is a dollar you won’t have to beg for later.
Network With Boosters and Alums (But Stay on the Right Side of the Ethical Line)
Your college or university alumni network almost certainly includes deep-pocketed fans willing to support your athletic endeavors. The tough part is staying on the right side of the ethical compact to which you must adhere as a student athlete. It’s probably best to connect down the line, once you’ve severed your ties with your alma mater.
Be Your Own Brand Ambassador
As a solo athlete, you don’t have the luxury of leaning on a front office or athletic department staffed with marketing pros. You’re your own best brand ambassador — perhaps your only brand ambassador, save for the friends and family members you’ve convinced to sport your swag.
You could look at this at yet another obligation that your team-player peers don’t have to deal with. Or you could see it for the opportunity that it is: an opportunity to set yourself apart not only from your fellow competitors, but from the non-athletes who’ve chosen the easier, less exciting path.