Bradley Lum is president of Guardian Elite in Jackson. Lum is a former Ole Miss baseball player and teacher and coach.
Q — What kinds of services does Guardian Elite provide for amateur and professional athletes?
A — Our mission is to educate and equip athletes to leverage their skills and abilities into life-long success. With that said, our primary service is consulting. We are also in the process of launching a web-based platform that will provide more in-depth tools for the user.
For the young athlete, our consulting tools deal more with the mental and emotional issues the player goes through and the relationship between athlete, parent and coach. In this market, we have customizable consulting sessions designed for all three groups.
For high school and college athletes, we continue to educate them on issues they encounter as an athlete but we also have a curriculum that is designed to help them transition into life after sport. This may sound over-simplified, but for the majority of athletes, their identities are grounded in athletics and they become “lost in translation” when that aspect of their lives no longer exists.
For professional athletes, it becomes more of an advisory role. We are not agents and don’t want to be, but we do provide advice and direction for athletes during their playing careers as third-party, objective consultants. The transition to life after sports that an amateur athlete goes through is heightened as a professional athlete because of the fame and wealth that comes with the territory. We provide continued support and transitional help (helping them understand their career interests, business plan development, interview prep, etc) for those athletes as they prepare to redefine their identity as a former athlete turned businessman so that they can leverage their network and assets into future successes.
Q — When did the company start, and what gave you the idea?
A — We started the company in August of 2012 with the plan to specifically target professional athletes. Deuce McAllister, Quentin Whitwell and I determined that professional athletes need an objective, third party that could aid them in making personal and career decisions outside the scope of the agent relationship. My time spent as a college baseball player and a high school and college coach, along with the experiences that Deuce went through as a high-profile player in the NFL, led us to begin the venture. We brought on Ted DiBiase Jr. as a partner and later rounded out our team with both local and international sports psychologists.
About six months into the venture, we realized that an approach to changing the culture of sports should be more holistic. We refocused our mission to include student-athletes, parents and coaches. This stemmed primarily from the idea that a premium had been placed on the result of competition over the process, and that most people forget the value athletics plays in molding and shaping quality individuals who will later become contributing members of society.
As a former college athlete and coach, I noticed that there was a void in the culture of sports. Every athlete, regardless of physical skill level, has an acquired mental and emotional skill set that can be utilized after their athletic career ends.
Q — What are some of the more common problems and issues professional athletes encounter once their careers start and what are some of the common causes of those problems?
A — The answer to this question is easy to identify but the problems are much tougher to solve. Athletes face a myriad of issues once they begin receiving compensation for their athletic services. Getting paid for something you’ve been doing for “free” your entire life creates problems that the average person cannot identify with.
From a personal standpoint, the athlete is most likely not prepared to handle the large amount of money he is getting paid. He is also not prepared to make the necessary financial decisions required for him to be a good steward of his wealth. Couple that with the fact that he is attacked from all sides by people that want to “help” him with his career but, in many instances, he and his family are not prepared to make the best decisions for his future.
From a relational standpoint, the athlete is not prepared for the change in behavior he will see from friends, family, former teammates and others who now see him as personal cash flow. In many instances, the athlete will feel obligated to float the family financially because he is guilted into the feeling that he owes them for his success. This can obviously create a number of different domestic matters, as well.
Along with these issues, the athlete has now stepped into a world where everything is at his fingertips. The peer pressure within the locker room to live a certain lifestyle becomes a slippery slope for a myriad of personal and financial problems.
Q — What do you hope is the future for Guardian Elite?
A — We’ve been very specific when defining what success looks like at Guardian Elite. We believe that our company has the opportunity to make positive change within the culture of sports. We believe that athletes are special individuals, who have a special skill set, and, if equipped properly, can play a major role in affecting positive change in society.
For us to be a successful company, it will mean that the drive of sports at the youth and high school levels will be about the journey of creating individuals who are prepared for life-long success and not simply concerned about the score at the end of the contest or the performance on the field. At the professional level, it will mean we are producing responsible, prepared people who are not defined by their success as an athlete but by their overall success as an individual who is prepared for life after sports.
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