I say this from personal experience. Not every situation will be fantastic. There will be some teams that you go to with some really bad situations. There will be many things you cannot control.
And I feel bad to tell you this but, you have to be professional even when the team or the situation is not. You will only hurt yourself and your reputation if you act out the things that are probably rolling around in your mind. You can control how you behave, but you cannot control if the team pays you late each month.
Here is a real-life example. I have a client who shall remain nameless…I will call her Onmylastnerve. She is playing in a country that is known to be difficult for Americans to play in. The ball is great, but the conditions are sometimes challenging to say the least.
Onmylastnerve has not been paid on time yet. She gets paid late, and when they finally give her something, it has never been the whole amount. She got the rest of her first check a few days before her second check was due. Her apartment situation is…hmm how should I put it…terrible. Up until a few days ago, she had no bedroom of her own and was sleeping on the couch. Zero private space. On top of that, her agent and the team are beefing, so she is caught in the middle. Her situation is not ideal, to say the least.
She and I talk VERY often! I am by her side whenever Onmylastnerve needs some advice. What do I advise her? I tell her to thug it out, be professional, go to practice on time, play games, and do that to the best of her ability for as long as she can.
Why would I tell her that? There are a few reasons.
- The money issue…As long as she is flat out not getting paid, and this is over a few months, there is not a WHOLE lot she can do. Yes, she can ask her agent to get on the phone and tell them to pay her on time…But does that mean they will? Probably not. I can imagine that she will not get one check paid in full and on time the whole season which is why I tell her to budget accordingly. If you KNOW it will be like that, you can also prepare.
- The apartment issue…I advised her to talk to the team directly. She should inform her agent but because they are beefing, it might be better if she handles it. Since then, the issue has been resolved and she now has her room alone in the shared apartment. Is it ideal for the player that had to trade and move to the couch? Nope, but that player is a citizen of that country and her advisors and parents will have to deal with that on their own. In this sense, especially as a foreigner, she should be a bit selfish and have her own room.
- Agent/Team beef…This is not her responsibility. The agent has ways to solve this problem and if she gets caught up in it, it will affect her play on top of everything else she has to deal with. If she and her agent deem that because of all the problems, Onmylastnerve should leave the team, then they will deal with that, but in the meantime, she will not be doing herself any favors by stirring the pot. Like it or not, her job is to play basketball to the best of her ability. I always say, “What you do today is for your next contract.” If you let the unprofessionalism of your team and situation affect your play, your contract next season will suffer.
Some of you may say it is wrong of me to advise my client to stay and I can understand that. In this particular case, however, there are two reasons why I have (up to now) advised her to stay…basketball and the current player market.
- Her team is winning. She plays good minutes. She is playing well. Her stats thus far have been decent. My mother used to say, “Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.” It would make no sense to leave due to the unprofessionalism of the team at the moment. She is being paid (late and never in full) to be a professional basketball player. That side of her situation is actually not bad. There are players back home that would KILL to be in a European city that is crazy about basketball, get to hoop, and get paid for it, no matter how late the money is…No matter where they had to sleep, and no matter who had beef with who. Most unemployed ballers would do it for a fraction of what she is earning.
- She is a rookie, so she does not have the resume that would support her leaving right now. If Onmylastnerve leaves, it might be difficult for her to get another job as quickly as a vet. The prospect of her going home and not having another job is probably worse than what she is going through with her unprofessional team.
If Onmylastnerve would retaliate by being unprofessional as well, she would take more of a hit than anyone. So what if the relationship with her agent is strained, there are a million other agents that they can, and will deal with for players. She, however, only has one reputation. Once a player, especially an American player, gets the reputation of being difficult, it will follow that player for the rest of their career. No one will ask WHY that player was difficult though.
I by no means think or advise players to take everything thrown at them in the interest of being professional. Once I found out the true nature of her living situation, I stressed to her to make the change although she was hesitant. I advise her on how she should approach the team about her money as well. And I tell her to stay out of the beef with her agent and the team unless the time comes that she should remove herself from the team.
And speaking of which, there may come a time when she and her agent decide it is best to remove her from the situation, and she should leave the team. If that time comes and her agent can negotiate her release, then leaving will also be done professionally. I will make sure that Onmylastnerve does not burn a bridge.
Onmylastnerve stresses me out with all her questions and everything (hence the fake name given for this piece), but she knows I am there to bounce things off of. She knows that as soon as I see her mental health suffer, I would be the first to advise her to leave, whether she is playing well or not.
Onmylastnerve will be reading this and she will know it is about her, and I am sure she will have a big laugh, and then hit me up after with some kind of weird story that she needs to get off her chest, and you know what? I will roll my eyes as I listen to the 495848th voice message, and I will calm her down.
If you are in a similar position, please talk to someone knowledgeable about it. In the end, you have to decide how much unprofessionalism from the team you can deal with. In the meantime, do your job to the best of your ability.