Blessing of a Pulled Hamstring
By Andrew Goodman
In the parenting tome, The Blessing of the Skinned Knee, Dr. Wendy Mogel discusses the importance of children learning lessons of fortitude and self-reliance when they are allowed to face life’s complications unprotected. The message: let them learn early; don’t make everything so easy for them.
Charles Young, a former NFL prospect, understands that lesson all too well. As an un-drafted free agent of the Cleveland Browns in 2010, he had, until a training camp injury, been bubble-wrapped by his talent and size, never having to face football’s (or even life’s) complications, unprotected. Because of his injury, he was cut from the team even before he took to the pro-field.
At the age of 22, Young suddenly found out what it was like “to be a real person. Since everything had always been taken care of for me, for the first time I had to figure everything out for myself. I had always been the best. By the time I got to college it was still all laid out for me, my classes, my Pell Grant, my books, my schedule.”
Young had been raised “in a world where entitlement and competition abound.” It happens to be a quote from Mogel’s book about today’s generation of children, but it’s particularly applicable to pro-athletes. With the recent NFL draft, dozens of athletes will be handed salaries they have no idea how to handle. Statistically speaking, of those who “make it,” 78% will end up jobless or divorced causing them financial duress or even bankruptcy. Others will end up injured and forgotten, abruptly left to fend for themselves after a lifetime of coddling for their athletic gifts.
“Life really started to kick in when I got hurt,” says Young. “For the first time in my life I had to figure everything out myself, even how to pay bills; and time management, that was a rough lesson. In the real world, there was so much pressure, a different kind of pressure.”
Charles Young has gone on what some may call a reverse journey, learning the hard lessons of life before heading back to the football field. He understands what few pro-bound athletes understand, that he needs to plan for his life after football, before … now. And because of the blessing of his pulled hamstring, I’m betting on Charles Young to make it, not only on the football field, but off the field as well, as he looks forward to an invitation for a team’s training camp.
As the weeks progress through the NFL offseason, those fortunate enough to be drafted in the early rounds will be signing contracts for multiple millions of dollars. Most of these young men will not know how to plan for their eventual retirement from football (note, the average NFL player has a pro-career of only 3.5 years), how to invest their money or, frankly, even the basics of a checking account or credit card.
Charles Young’s reverse journey back to football is a lesson learned and a lesson that can and should be taken to the proverbial bank. Currently working two jobs, training for the NFL as well as working as a psychiatric specialist at Children’s Hospital in Washington, D.C., Young has one message: “learn early, start the hard part now.”
May 30, 2013