Calvin Smith II is making the transition from amateur to professional.
Track's Calvin Smith II learns to fend for himself
By BILL WARD/STAFF
Tampa Bay OnLine
June 22, 2011
GAINESVILLE -- Rent. Groceries. Car repairs. Bank accounts. Utility bills. Travel arrangements. As a full-time professional athlete, these are just a few of the things Calvin Smith II has to worry about now.
When he was a track star at Freedom High and, more recently, the University of Florida, most of those needs were cared for. Either Smith's parents took care of those details or, as a scholarship athlete, his college coaches did.
Now, as Smith heads into this week's USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Ore., he's on his own for the first time.
Sure, he still works out at Florida's track and is guided by his former Gators coach, Mike Holloway. Smith also has an agent who helped him sign a sponsorship deal with adidas, and who arranges his entry into meets around the world.
But when it comes to the day-to-day chores with his life in Gainesville, the 23-year-old Smith is self-sufficient.
"The main thing as a pro athlete is you have to be able to manage your money, make sure you don't over-spend on things and stay on top of your bills,'' said Smith, who graduated in May from UF with a degree in sociology. "Now that I'm done with school and have a lot more time, I might be kind of bored and I could be tempted to go out and buy things to entertain myself. But I still have to keep an eye on my budget to make sure I have the money to do that, and to make sure I have a little back-up money in case I run into something like car trouble.''
The transition from college to pro athlete can be a difficult one. But Smith's father, Calvin Smith, has been preparing him for this period. The elder Smith was once in the same situation. Just a few weeks after graduating from the University of Alabama in 1983, he broke the world record for 100 meters with a time of 9.93 seconds. At the time, he, too, ran for adidas.
Smith went on to win two world championship titles in the 200, another in the 4x100 relay and earned a gold medal in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics for the relay and a bronze in the 100 at the 1988 Seoul Games. Along the way, Smith traveled the world, earned a good living, started a family and learned how to manage his money.
He has passed plenty of advice -- about managing your life and your training as a pro -- to his son, who is just embarking on a similar journey after gaining a school record 18 all-American titles in track and field.
"I think it takes about a year to get used to the new schedule, the responsibilities and the differences in training and racing,'' the elder Smith said. "I think it'll be a lot easier for him next year because he'll be more used to it and will know what to expect and how to do all the little things you have to do on your own.''
Next year, of course, is an Olympic year -- London 2012. Calvin Smith II not only wants to be part of the U.S. squad then, he wants to be a member of the team that competes late this summer at the IAAF World Championships in Korea. To assure himself a spot in that meet, he needs to finish in the top three of the 400 finals this week in Eugene. A fourth-place finish would likely earn him a spot on the U.S. 4x400 relay team.
Smith, who was a member of the 2008 Olympic squad as an alternate on the relay, believes he can make this year's world team as an individual. Yes, he did suffer a slight setback earlier this season with he tweaked a hamstring muscle. And yes, there's a new crop of college stars -- including the Gators' Tony McQuay, who ran the 400 in one of the world's fastest times this season (44.87 seconds) at the recent NCAA championships.
Still, Holloway believes Smith has the experience, training and talent to run with anyone.
"When and who he trains with is a little different now and he's done with school but in the race itself, it's really no different now than when he was a collegian running against all the pros,'' Holloway said. "It's basically the same group of guys. Calvin has run with everybody in this competition before and he's beaten a greater portion of them. So if he goes in and believes in the training we do out here and just be who he is, he'll be fine.''