I’ve worked for free. I’ve received no financial compensation for thousands of hours of work amongst a number of organization that have collectively generated tens of billions of dollars during the length of their existence. Many organizations can afford to pay you, but why should they pay you when there are thousands clamoring for an opportunity to prove themselves.
The reason any organization pays their employees is because the employee provides a value to that organization, one that requires them to motivate you to work for them. You provide the organization with the service, ideas etc. and the organization compensates you in order to motivate you to stay with them and not leave for a competitor or to pursue other interests.
Once you have outlived your usefulness or fail to provide value, the organization will replace you. This is how a business works and is not specific to the sports industry. There are different segments of businesses that require specific skill sets that can not be replaced. There are some positions that certain individuals have advantages, such as a journalist with a larger social media following, which provides that individual with a larger reach and a greater perceived value than someone with no social media presence.
While it’s great to find an organization that is willing to invest in you as an individual in order to pay for your professional development, this is not a given. Sometimes you must invest in yourself, whether this is a monetary investment to pay for relocation or to travel to certain events in order to get experience or perhaps it is a time investment of working for free. Be prepared to make sacrifices to follow your dreams and to do something that you want to do.
Sacrifices might be missed holidays, working multiple jobs, or working harder than anyone else. Sometimes that will mean sleeping on the floor, in the office or in a car. For others it will require you to work 24, 36, 48 consecutive hours maybe at one job or split between multiple. Finally it will sometimes have you coming out on the losing end financially in order to gain a certain experience. I’ve taken off from one job to work another job, due to a verbal commitment that may have a negative financial outcome because reputation and long term goals are more important to me than the short-term value of my checkings account.
The decisions are yours to make and will ultimately impact the final result of your journey. Keep an open mind and look at the long term goals before making a decision or judging someone’s decision or perspective.