John Rembao, fondly called “Coach John” by his athletes, is a talented, knowledgeable, and passionate coach of track and field. John has been all over the country assisting various division 1 track programs to championships. He has coached at six different schools including Cal Poly (SLO), University of Arizona, University of Texas, Southern Methodist University (SMU), Stanford, and Cal Berkeley.
It’s safe to say John Rembao has witnessed a fair share of student athletes make the journey through college athletics and then into the job market or the professional platform. He has seen the rise of post collegiate greatness in some athletes as well as others who experience hardship and struggle. In the following piece, John opens up about his experiences and the struggles athletes face as one phase of their life ends and another begins.
You’ve seen many athletes make the transition from student-athlete life in college to the “real world.” Some may be more successful at that transition than others. What are those successful ones doing right that make the difference post-collegiately?
Coach John: Athletes who successfully transition to the “real world” imagine the future they want and build a team who can make their dreams come true. Building a team sounds simple enough. But because most athletes spend their careers focusing on themselves, they are not very skilled at building teams. This lack of practice usually leads to doing what is convenient or leaning on someone who makes them feel good instead of someone who can provide sound professional guidance.
If you could give current student-athletes some advice about life after their collegiate sport, what would it be?
Coach John: Long before they get to the end of their career, they should imagine what they want their life to be like after college. It doesn’t have to be heavy thinking and shouldn’t be. It just needs to stimulate questions on how others will help them go to the next level.
Who will be their team? The team should include anyone who can move the athlete toward their dreams. How will the people on that team be compensated for their work? What are the industry standards for what they provide and, how much these professionals get paid?
Keep a journal of what you find out. Student-athletes who leave this task to others can and will most likely be taken advantage of in some way, shape, or form.
Have you seen athletes struggle with the question of ‘if going pro is realistic for me or not’?
Coach John: Many Olympic sports athletes struggle with “going pro.” The biggest reason why is that they have an unrealistic expectation of what being “pro” in an Olympic Sport means. There is not a lot of money pursuing one’s Olympic dreams unless you are at the very top of your sport.
That is not to say an athlete cannot have a nice living. If done right, a high-level Olympic sports athlete can make as much as an average entry level job right out of college and improve their earnings over time.
The next issue is one of money management. Most people are terrible at managing their money, so this can be particularly challenging for athletes. With many training expenses such as agents, coaches, therapists, travel… athletes, through a lack of experience, can have difficulty making good financial decisions.
For example, I know a NCAA Champion, who received a pretty good contract from a major shoe company. Before they graduated, they didn’t imagine their future and didn’t build their team. Once the monthly checks started rolling in, they started buying everything they ever wanted and partying like there was not tomorrow.
Well, you can imagine the partying didn’t lead to solid training, and the lack of solid training didn’t result in high-level competitive marks. The athletes inability to save money came into play once the shoe company reduced the contract for a lack of performance, until the point where the shoe company finally dropped the athlete.
At the end of it all, the athlete was in debt and almost had to quit the sport. Fortunately, they athlete eventually imagined their future, started to build a team, and committed to changes in their life to the point where they began to improve again. Unfortunately, because of the earlier experience with the shoe company, it has been difficult to secure another shoe sponsor.
Why do you coach?
Coach John: I coach because I enjoy the pursuit of excellence. There is nothing more rewarding to me than to witness people pursue their potential and create excellence. I love helping people reach their potential. Partly, because it is a challenge for me, and it is nice to get paid for what you love to do.
And what is the most meaningful aspect of your career?
Coach John: I love to watch people grow and challenge their mindsets. It is my hope that after working with me, my athletes will have more courage to challenge themselves to be the best in whatever they pursue in life.
What does it mean to you to help athletes succeed personally and professionally?
Coach John: I have a great sense of satisfaction from helping athletes pursue their personal and professional dreams, and I enjoy the long term relationships that result from the pursuit.