A Tough Way to Make a Living
Before Vickery won the National Junior Championships and was able to play in Grand Slams, she played in International Tennis Federation (ITF) events, and Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) tournaments. Players earn prize money depending on how far they advance. They foot the bill for the majority of their own expenses and travel, as well as the expenses, travel, and fees, of their coaches and agents. Vickery says the tournaments could easily cost thousands of dollars each, so they had to pick and choose carefully, weighing the costs against the opportunities for prize money.
“In other sports, like football, you make money upfront, before you even start the season. So, obviously if it’s that way, it’s much easier to splurge. Tennis, you make money based on how you perform. You don’t really get that opportunity to splurge, because you don’t know how much you’re going to make one week. It fluctuates up and down,â€ says Vickery.
When Vickery got into the Grand Slams, after winning the National Junior Championships, the money began to change. “In a Grand Slam, you’re guaranteed at least $30,000, in the others, you’re guaranteed around $2,000,â€ says Liverpool.
Vickery has also been able to earn points in ITF, WTA, and Grand Slam events bumping her world ranking to No. 133, and prize winnings totaling $328,948. This has allowed Liverpool to stop working and travel with Vickery full time.
In addition to her prize money, Vickery has sponsorships from Nike, which provides her with clothes, and Technifiber, which provides her with racquets, and Lagardere Unlimited. The prize money, sponsorships, and ranking, however, have not changed their lives as one might expect, or drastically changed how they live.
“I would say we cover 99.9%,â€ says Liverpool. “The ballpark figure of what it takes to play tennis at this level is $150,000 to $170,000 a year,â€ she adds.
“If you’re ranked 100th and below, you’re pretty much breaking even. If you’re ranked 100 or higher, you’re making money,â€ says Martin Morse, Â CEO of The MM Group. “Your ability to make money affects your play. If you can’t pay for the best coach, you aren’t going to keep getting better, and break into that top 100,â€ he adds.
Pulling Together to Get to the Top
Liverpool and her children say the secret to their financial balancing act is largely threefold.
1. Communication: “We run the family like a business,â€ says Mitchell. “Whenever there’s money coming in, we have a family meeting or a phone meeting to discuss our financial needs, how we’re going to spend the money, what it’s going toward, and how much we can save. We’re doing this all the time. We meet, have phone meetings, whatever it takes to keep everything as close knit as possible. If there’s no communication, you don’t know where the money is going,â€ he adds.
2. Budget and Frugal Living:Â Liverpool and Vickery often stay with host families instead of hotels, and use discount housing opportunities like Airbnb, so that they can save money by cooking their own meals when they’re on the road. They also use Wi-Fi as often as possible to cut down on data usage costs for their cell phone plans. In addition, they hold each other accountable to their budget. “I was planning to remove the carpets from our home and put wood floors in for $6,500. Dominque pointed out that we don’t need to do that right now and were bumping up against our budget. We decided to save the money instead,â€ says Liverpool.
3.Â Keep Your Eye on the Prize: The family says the most important factor when it comes to staying on track is for them to keep their eye on what they are trying to achieve.
“Just to be a top player. I just want to be a top player,â€ says Vickery, and she’s got the game, set, and love of her family to help her keep pursuing her dreams.