Our Articles

Lead and Grow with Fortitude

Athletic Cancer

Cancer is an awful disease that claims the life of too many people around the globe. I pray for the cure.

There is an Athletic Cancer. It kills the possibilities of too many teams, individual athletes and their families. We, those of us who follow any sport, are familiar with Athletic Cancer. We can all think of the team that had the one player who seemingly single-handedly caused such a dramatic disruption in the locker room, or in their private life, that the team’s play on the field was negatively impacted, franchises and families humiliated.

Athletic Cancer’s impact on the player themselves leaves the player unwanted by other teams, ending a career quicker than the three to five years most will play at elite levels. Worse, most will find themselves filing for bankruptcy within three to five years at the completion of their career. And many will eventually find themselves in jail. Consider this, 60% to 80% of professional athletes will file for bankruptcy within three to five years after they retire from their sport. The Cancerous player is at greater risk. The impact on the family is devastating.

Why should anyone care about this particular form of cancer. After all, the various sports franchises have a never-ending supply of elite athletes to field a competitive team. The fans continue to show up and support their team. The players make annual salaries that most of us could not make in a lifetime. Franchises continue to be profitable, and leagues make profits into the billions of dollars. Most of the players, if not all, have agents, financial planners and lots of friends giving them “sound advice.” In view of the overwhelming numbers filing bankruptcy and ending up in jail, this includes the non-cancerous players, the athletes need something more than the sound advice they have been receiving.

I ask again, why should anyone care?

We should care because we love our children. Right or wrong, children have a strong connection to professional and elite athletes. They see themselves as one day being just like them. This can be a scary thought. I think of the vast number of children growing up in poverty seeing sports as the way to succeed in life.  In the professional and elite athletic world today that can be likened to going into the delayed entry program for the penal system.

What can be done?

Cancerous Athletes are rarely a surprise. They show signs of the disease in college, minor league, or farm systems. The best course action when you have a person stricken with cancer is to get them into treatment. Athletic Cancer is no different.

Teams from every sport have world class coaching. It may be time to invest in world class Leadership Development Coaching. Athletes need to know how to lead themselves first before they can be expected to be a healthy part of a team and, in time, a team leader. More importantly, to the families, and communities they play in these athletes are seen as a positive part of the community. Think of what that can do for the bottom line of all involved—winning teams, winning families, winning communities.

The Olympics is nearing an end. Baseball season is closing in on the playoffs and football season getting ready to start, I cannot help but wonder, how many teams will not play up to their potential because of one player. I wonder how many of these amazing athletes have Athletic Cancer. I wonder how many will be filing for bankruptcy and be in jail within the next five years? Statistically, the number will be between 60% to 80%—Sad.


I am going to end this piece on a positive note, with a name—David Robinson.

David Robinson, of course, played professional basketball for the San Antonio Spurs. Drafted by the Spurs in 1987, the team did not have a good reputation. Their record the previous year was 28-54 and finished 6th in their division. It was a team with more than it’s fair share of Athletic Cancer.

Within two seasons, the Spurs finished 1st in their division and had been 1st or 2nd every year to this day, with the exception of the 1996 season. Why such a dramatic and lasting turnaround—David Robinson!

David was the chemotherapy for a team riddled with Athletic Cancer. David Robinson was a trained leader. His father, a career Navy man, first taught him great leadership skills at home. Those skills were further developed as a student at the U.S. Naval Academy.

Leadership is the cure for Athletic Cancer. Anyone can learn to lead. Athletes and Franchises have a choice, live with Athletic Cancer or develop leaders.