Three local riders for whom I have deep respect are the perfect example for this article. Freeriders Andrew Shandro and Wade Simmons and trials innovator Ryan Leech are three guys who are both humble and hardworking – on top of being amazing ambassadors for the sport.
Andrew Shandro smiling at the Ripper Super D in 2007.
All three have been sponsored a long time. In my opinion Wade and Andrew got freeride sponsorship started and the fact that they are so well sponsored today, with their best years are behind them, shows how truly respected and awesome they are.
Wade Simmons loves coming out to events and meeting his fans.
When I ride with them they are never are out to prove they are the best. They often slow up to let others enjoy the trails in front of them. Both genuinely enjoy watching new riders progress. This is something that you don’t find with a lot of athletes these days.
All you have to do is visit the Whistler Mountain Bike Park to see athletes yelling at others to get out of their way or passing less experienced riders in bad spots and trying to show off how much better they are. Would you want an athlete like this on your roster?
Ryan Leech has time for everyone – and it’s no act, he’s genuinely happy to meet people.
The guy you yell at or pass who is new and nervous then goes home after renting the bike for the day and says ‘screw this sport.’ Now you’ve lost a guy who could have spent years riding, traveling and spending money in your sport. When you push new riders away your days of sponsorship are numbered.
Nike pays Tiger Woods over 20 million dollars a year to represent them. What was Phil Knight smoking when he put his name to that deal? The fact is that when he signed with Nike their sales in golf went from 71 million dollars to over 300 million dollars. The more people you have in your sport the more money your sport will have at all levels.
Dave Norona representing his sponsors. Photo ~ Dave Silver.
Ryan Leech is one of the best examples of an athlete who has it all. He is smart, funny, a great businessman, and an amazing athlete with a huge work ethic. Ryan has taken it upon himself to design his own programs that he promotes in schools and at shows all across the country. He does it all himself and when he is out there he’s always smiling. I have never heard one bad thing come out of his mouth. He must have his bad days but you’d never know it. If you are a young inspiring athlete, in any discipline, I encourage you to look at him as a role model.
Sponsors are looking for exciting individuals who work hard and who are out there pushing the limits. That won’t do much good unless these athletes know how to bridge the gap between what they do and what the masses enjoy. Being a good rider should not define you but should be just one of the things you do in life. Wade, Andrew and Ryan are great riders but more importantly they are great people.
Dave and his Marin. Photo ~ Dave Silver.
Most athletes I see out there have huge entitlement issues. They think that because they do something well, someone should take care of them. This is the first big mistake many athletes seeking sponsorship forget. If you want to be a sponsored athlete in any sport it takes a ton of work. You have to have the work ethic in many different areas to make it all click. If you’re not prepared to work as hard in promotions as you do in your sport then don’t expect sponsors to jump on board. Darren Berrecloth said it best in “Seasons” “ You need a little talent and a huge amount of discipline and work ethic.”
I hate hearing athletes complain that they deserve sponsorship or that they can’t compete if they don’t have the money. These are just excuses. If you go to school to become a lawyer, graduate and then sit on the side of the road whining that someone should give you a job how do you think you’ll fare? Even if you graduated with honours you still have to apply to companies and interview for the job. Why should it be different for an athlete?
Going down in Pemberton. Photo ~ Dave Silver.
The truth is that you get paid what you are worth. If no one wants you then you need to increase your worth by doing something differently. Sitting on the sidelines complaining or writing about it in the paper is not going to help. Learning what companies are looking for will help and is the first place you should spend your energy.
A few years back I remember reading an article about a junior downhill ski racer who wanted to go to the next level. He was complaining that some of his sponsors were not stepping it up and that he needed more otherwise he could not continue. I looked at this article and if I were one of those sponsors I would have dropped him immediately. If he is going to let money stand in the way of his dreams then he is definitely not determined enough. Imagine if he showed up at the Olympics and dropped out because the course was too hard.
Keep it straight Dave. Photo ~ Dave Silver.
I may sound harsh but the reality is no one gets a free ride. Working harder and smarter will get you there 100% faster than complaining about it. Athletes are like art; what may be awesome to you is junk to another. You are only worth what someone will pay you. It is a harsh environment but you chose it. The other alternative is to get a real job and pay for your sport that way. Millions of athletes do that every day.
More controversial opinions about sponsorship from Dave Norona. Can you think of talented sponsored athletes who aren’t humble nor hard working? Does this apply to NBA players as well? Who best exemplifies these qualities in your eyes? Call it in humbly here…