By Chuck Warner//Special Contributor
This is the sixth in a series of themes that we discovered in the research and writing of the book …And Then They Won Gold: Stepping Stones To Swimming Excellence, a highly acclaimed book by swimming leaders around the world. It is written for swimmers, coaches and parents to learn the steps to swimming excellence.
The book chronicles the development of eight great swimmers that collectively won 28 Olympic Gold Medals, in all four of the swimming strokes and most distances. Their careers are chronicled from their start in swimming in summer leagues to working their way to the top of the Olympic podium.
The swimmers are: Matt Biondi, Dave Berkoff, Mike Barrowman, Josh Davis, Lenny Krayzelburg, Ian Crocker, Grant Hackett and Aaron Peirsol.
…And Then They Won Gold, Theme VI: BECOMING A PROFESSIONAL SWIMMER
In 1988 Matt Biondi, along with his friend and rival Tom Jager, pioneered professional swimming in the United States. Each of our swimmers in …And Then They Won Gold embarks on the pursuit of a post graduate professional career in some form.
A few fast facts on how they began as a professional swimmer:
Accomplishments: They were an Olympic gold medal winner or a prospective one by virtue of a world record holder.
Least Income: USA Swimming stipend per month that in the early 1990s was a approximately $1500 per month.
Most Income: This is hard to say exactly, but in our study this is likely Grant Hackett in Australia where swimming stars are handsomely rewarded. Most of our swimmers earned $100,000 or more.
Income Sources: Federation, sponsors and clinics are most common. For someone like Grant Hackett he was a regular on television doing commercials. Aaron Peirsol endorsed a variety of products. Swim suit contracts were high and more widespread in the late 1990s and through 2008 or so, than they seem to be today.
Interesting Income: Perhaps Lenny Krayzelburg, who was on several TV game shows after the 2000 Olympics. Lenny was also on the cover of TV Guide leading into the Sydney Games.
Following the 1996 Olympics, triple gold medal winner Josh Davis sought a way to continue to swim while earning income to support his new bride and forthcoming family. This excerpt demonstrates the struggle and serendipity of finding his way.
In February he was offered a second appearance. There was a huge hot-tub show in the area and Josh was hired by a hot-tub company to sit in the tub and sign autographs for two days. He lingered in the tub and smiled and waved at the people passing by. If they stopped, he signed autographs and chatted. During his breaks he walked from booth to booth shamelessly asking for free handouts of power bars, towels or anything that the various hot-tub sponsors would give him. There was an engaging young man working at a shoe booth and they struck up a conversation. His name was Evan Morgenstein. When Josh continued on his way, Evan followed him and they exchanged their contact information. A few days later Evan called Josh on the phone: “I’ve got three deals for you.” He listed off the deals for Josh, which amounted to more work than from all the time he had spent with [his current agent]Billy Stapleton’s firm.
Josh Davis was poor and hungry for a means to make a living and swim. But he was also very loyal. He wrestled with the idea of accepting work with Evan or waiting for it from Billy. Finally, he called his father for advice.
“Dad, I’m really torn. I made a commitment to Billy Stapleton and his firm to work with them. But I’m not getting any work,” Josh told him. “I have the chance to work with another agent with some opportunities that seem promising.”
Mike Davis told his son, “You’re responsible for your family now, Josh. You need to provide for them and if there’s work you should take it.”
Josh called Billy Stapleton, apologized for leaving his company but explained that he could get work through Evan Morgenstein and needed to accept it.
Josh and Evan immediately began a clinic company and set up dates for Josh to visit local clubs. The concept wasn’t new, but Josh’s love of teaching, children and superb public speaking skills produced a budding product that would serve swimming and his family wonderfully for years to come. Josh found through the clinics that he was more than just a great teammate, but an inspirational leader of thousands of young swimmers throughout the country.
Josh Davis continues to operate a thriving clinic business today and Evan Morgenstein has become one of the leading agents for Olympic athletes in the world.
For more excerpts, check out Theme I, Theme II, Theme III, Theme IV, Theme V.
For more information or to order …And Then They Won Gold, go to www.areteswim.com (access Books * Media), Swimming World Magazine or the American Swimming Coaches Association. The author is Chuck Warner, who has also written the highly regarded book Four Champions, One Gold Medal, the story of the preparation and race for the gold medal in the 1500-meter freestyle at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.