Taking Financial Ownership

How Olympic athlete Alisha Tatham’s career helped define her money mindset

Written by Pauleanna Reid

Former professional basketball player and Olympic athlete Alisha Tatham has assisted in taking Canada’s women’s sports to higher tiers. As a guard, she played professionally until 2013, making her debut Olympic appearance at the London Games in 2012. Off the court, she adds coaching, public speaking and mentorship to her established resume. As the co-founder of the LevelUp Mentorship Program, she currently teaches female athletes how to reach their dreams and goals through personal development. We spoke with Alisha and discussed how she learned why money management matters, what her present and future financial goals are, and what app she swears by to track her spending.

Many Canadians have watched your career unfold through the lens of social media from empowering young women to speaking on stages across the country. For the readers unfamiliar with your story, can you tell us what you do?

I’m the Co-Founder of the LevelUp Mentorship Program for young athletes, a public speaker and mentor. On the corporate side, I’m a traffic coordinator at Rogers SportsNet.

LevelUp is a new initiative isn’t it?

At LevelUp we help female athletes between the ages of 14 and 21 to achieve their goals in sports, school and in life. We work with them to reach their dreams that they aspire to make their reality meanwhile helping them with their personal development.

What was the motivation for starting LevelUp?

I know what it’s like to be a young female athlete with big dreams and goals without much direction. There were a lot of things my sister and I had to figure out on our own throughout our process, not only on court but in our personal lives and experience. As women who have been through the process and came out on top, we wanted to provide a program for the girls to tap into. A place they can be coached and mentored by professionals who have walked the very same path they are currently on. Our goal in starting LevelUp was to help as many young women as possible realize their full potential both on the playing field and in their personal lives because we know that being a student-athlete isn’t just about sports, but everything else in between as well.

Are there specific areas of personal development that LevelUp focuses on?

LevelUp’s personal development focus is mainly on mindset. We help girls with:

  • Getting over an injury and the mindset shift it takes to get back on the floor
  • Transitioning from high school to post-secondary education
  • Improving communication with teammates and coaches
  • Bouncing back from mistakes and disappointments
  • Creating a plan of action for achieving goals with mini steps to avoid feeling overwhelmed
  • Leadership skills to create positive change within teams and the environment around them                                                                                                                                                            

That’s amazing. I’m sure growing up you had many people invest into your sports career. Take us back to where it all started. What did you learn in school that you applied to your career today?

So I went to the University of Massachusetts-Amherst on an athletic scholarship. I actually went in as a pre-journalism major and then I ended up switching to sport management. I felt like it was more interesting and related to the direction I wanted to take my future in. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Sports Management degree which at UMas was one of the top schools at the time in the nation with this program. It was hard to get into but I learned a lot and it included every aspect of the business including sports, especially professional and college sports. Finances was definitely a part of the curriculum.

What did that scholarship mean financially for you and your family?

Without it, I wouldn’t have been able to continue my studies straight from high school. I would’ve probably had to find a job first, and start working to save up to pay for it first. So the scholarship for us was an opportunity for me to get a free education that my parents couldn’t afford at the time. Going to school as an international student in the United States is not cheap. Everything was paid for; school, books, housing. My parents didn’t get the opportunity to go to university and so it meant a lot being the first generation to do so.

How did your career evolve after graduation?

After I graduated in 2008, I played professionally until 2013 and then retired. I started my job at SportsNet shortly after and have been working there ever since. On top of that, I’ve coached sports teams and spoken at various school events across Canada that has led me to having now launched LevelUp.

“My money mindset now is not perfect but I’m more willing to learn and ask questions.”

How would you define your money mindset and what has been the major shift since university?

My mindset around finance is better now than it’s ever been. Before I didn’t know much about money and it wasn’t as much of a priority. When I was playing professionally, I was making a decent income with few responsibilities. Most things were paid for such as housing, transportation, etc. I transitioned into the corporate world because my athletic career ended abruptly and I was forced to learn about money quickly such as how to budget with paying for a car. These were all things I never had to do before. When I didn’t have the answers, I asked for help and I also found books (my favorite author is Dave Ramsey). My money mindset now is not perfect but I’m more willing to learn and ask questions.

Was there a major impact or change in your attitude towards money since making the shift from an athlete to being a woman in business? What was that like?

The shift happened because my responsibilities changed. As an athlete the majority of my living expenses were covered, housing, car, food and travel. When I transitioned into the corporate world I was now responsible for everything including rent, car payments, groceries etc. No one was taking care of anything for me anymore. So, I had no choice but to change my attitude and relationship with money. It took a while to make the adjustment because it was so new and I felt like I was learning a lot as I went on. I rolled with the punches and I am much better adjusted to my new lifestyle now, where I have found more of a system and balance that is right for me.

What are some of your short-term and long-term money goals?

I travelled a lot in the earlier stages of my life and career. I’ve seen many parts of the world, but I’d love to travel for leisure. I’d like to save enough money to be able to have short trips often. I also have plans to develop an online mentorship program with learning modules. I’m working at expanding my reach to more Canadian youth so I’m saving capital to put towards growing in that direction. Additionally, in five years I’d love to be financially free. I’ve always had a passion to help my parents retire and give them the opportunity to be able to do more and see more. They’ve worked so hard.

Do you track your spending and if so how?

I use the Every Dollar app by Dave Ramsey. It’s helped me track my spending and get a good overview of what I have each month. I’ve developed more discipline now and it’s easy for me because it’s just in the palm of my hands rather sitting down in front of a spreadsheet.

Do you have any wallet hacks you can share with us?

Find a no-fee banking account and manage your money there! Also, figure out how much you can spend for the week. Put that amount of cash in your wallet so that you can visually see when your money is running low. Once it’s finished, you don’t have any more to spend.

Let’s talk about the workplace. Do you have any advice around negotiation when you feel like you’re underpaid?

Don’t be afraid to ask for what you’re worth. Somebody gives you a price and you feel like you have to be okay with it because you think that’s all they have. You know what you’re worth and compare it to the industry standard.

Has there ever been a time when you felt you were being undervalued as a women in the workplace?

Right now while I work in corporate, no. When I was an athlete, absolutely. It happened all the time. Women aren’t looked at or supported as much as men. This is why I have a passion for working with young girls. I’ve been there before and I understand that sometimes our confidence can be crushed. We won’t really see much in ourselves because people don’t see that in us, but I’ve learned over time that it doesn’t really matter what people think of you. What you believe you are and what you bring to the table is what matters.

Pauleanna Reid is the Co-Founder of New Girl on the Block, a mentorship platform for millennials. Follow her journey and continue the conversation on Twitter.

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