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The Five I’s of Athletic Identity: Initial

The first perspective of the athlete’s worldview is termed the Initial Perspective. At this point, the athlete has usually played club sports, youth sports, Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) sports while in high school, and has entered their first year of college. These athletes believe they have a very good chance of competing in professional or Olympic sports once they complete college. The entitlement contributors reinforce this belief as discussed in the previous chapter.

 

The mentality of these athletes relates to the sports they play. This mentality began in elementary school, and in many cases continued on into college. Once in college, these athletes see school as a way of fine-tuning their athletic skills to enable them to play professionally. As far as the athlete is concerned, attending college is only a means to an end. Academics and any non-sport related activities are of no real interest to athletes in this stage, primarily because the main reason they are attending college is based on their athletic ability. The elements that make up the athlete’s mindset in the Initial Perspective are outlined in the figure below. In this perspective, athletes possess a serious thought process focusing on athletic development, a feeling of personal freedom related to being away from home for the first time, and a cautious approach towards academic and professional development.

Although their academic pursuits assisted these athletes in gaining entry to college, athletics was the number one reason they were recruited. More importantly, athletics is ultimately the reason they will continue to persist on campus. Lack of academic or athletic performance could result in the loss of a scholarship, unless the student is attending college on an academic scholarship. Therefore, the number one priority for college student athletes is maintaining a mental focus on their sport.

The student athlete attending college on an academic scholarship also has a state of mind connected to the Initial Perspective. According to Athena Liao, a former student athlete at Yale University in swimming from 2009-2013:

All of the Yale athletes are smart and work hard in the classroom, [and] although they don’t give athletic scholarships, people still complain about being so busy in sport. But at the end of the day, we are really students first, and that’s a big difference between scholarship athletes and non-scholarship athletes. Another difference is how the scholarship athlete is tied to the university through sport. If I wanted to quit the team and just continue to go to school, I could have at any time and my decision would not have affected my status at the institution. This is something that happens with non-scholarship athletes all the time. I guess the pressure is less to perform in some cases, because you know your sports participation is something you can walk away from at any time. People come and go all the time. If someone decided to leave, there’s really nothing the coach can do, and you can continue to attend school.

The Initial Perspective of the student athlete is compounded by the desire to please the coach or coaches. These student athletes will virtually do anything the coach asks because in their mind the coach or coaching staff is their ticket to the next level. Attending extra film sessions, shooting extra shots, running extra sprints, etc., are all done with one goal in mind: to play as much as possible. In certain situations, athletes will agree to redshirt or not play their first year of college just to stay in good standing with coaches. They will ignore the fact that coaches will still recruit athletes for the following year. This places the redshirt athlete in a position to battle for a starting spot or playing time, reinforcing the fact that nothing is guaranteed.

The Initial Perspective of the athlete’s worldview can be deemed as genuine and normal for student athletes, particularly competing in signature sports such as football and basketball. Athletes who are lucky enough to have the opportunity to compete in these environments worked hard to get there. Through hard work, they deserve the scholarships offered based on their athletic ability. Student athletes in the Initial Perspective are still naive to the realities of sport.

 

 

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Damany Hendrix, The Pain and the Game

Damany Hendrix is currently the varsity head basketball coach for the Justin-Siena Braves.  As a player he has experience at the high school and collegiate level.  As a coach he has experience with club development, AAU and NCAA coaching.   His experience as a player and now a coach influenced him to publish a book, The Pain and the Game.  We wanted to know more about the book, coaching and AAU basketball.

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Dr. Mark: Why did you write a book?

Coach Hendrix: I started writing the book because I was in a really bad space at the time mentally and I thought it would be therapeutic.  As I got into my story I thought that this could be a good tool to help young athletes navigate through the ups and downs of high school and college athletics.  Many young athletes have no idea what it takes to be prepared for college in the classroom and in their respective sports.  Many of them have never even thought that their preparation may not be sufficient.  I believe that my story could be a tool for them to use in order to be better prepared for any obstacles that may be put in front of them.  If my journey can make these young people take an honest look at themselves and evaluate where they are academically, and athletically, and say “I need to buckle down to get where I want to be”, then the book was used for its proper intention.

 

Dr. Mark: What message can readers expect from your book?

Coach Hendrix: I believe there are a few messages that readers can take from my book and the first one is perseverance.  I have been through a lot because of the game of basketball, but I still devote lots of time and energy to the game because it’s what I love to do.  I love to teach the game, and help young people become better players.  The message I took from writing the book is that life is not perfect.  There will be things outside of your control that may attempt to block you from getting to your goals, but you have to learn to deal with those situations and not let anything stop you.  It also teaches that even if you put your all into it, you may still have to take an alternate route to your destination.  Lastly, we should always take an honest look at ourselves, evaluate the part we played in the outcome of all the decisions we make, and learn from our mistakes.

 

Dr. Mark: You took a run at D1 coaching, what happen?

Coach Hendrix: I could write a ten-page paper on all of the things that happened while I was pursuing a college coaching job, but I will try and summarize what happened.  College coaching is a network, and if you are not in the network or highly connected within the network, it is very difficult to get into the business. There are hundreds of guys that hold all the spots in the network, whether they perform well or not.  If one staff gets fired for not doing well at a particular school, many times all of those coaches land on their feet at another school where they have a connection.  It makes it difficult for any new coaches to get jobs because all of the available jobs are filled by guys who just got let go, want to move schools, or guys who were in part time positions such as graduate assistants, or director of operations.

The best way to get in as a new guy is to take a Grad assistant job right after graduation, and grind your way to the top.  I didn’t attempt to get into the coaching game until I was 3 years removed from college.  I had an interview with my old college coach who was going to hire me, but the athletic director made him hire another guy that was a graduate of that school.  That is another obstacle, politics play a big part in who a coach can hire.  It has to “make sense” to the institution to hire a new coach that’s just getting into the business.  So, it is very difficult to get hired unless you can hand deliver a high level prospect, which is how many guys get into the business.  I wasn’t going to attach myself to a player to get a job because once you do that, you have to be able to deliver a player at all times and I think your basketball acumen becomes devalued.  You become a “recruiter”.  I have put in too much time mastering my craft as a coach to be simply a “recruiter”.  After 9 years of chasing it, I decided to take a high school head coaching job and put all of my energy into becoming the best coach possible.  It was very rewarding being able to put into practice all of the things that I had learned on my journey, and it further let me know that this is my gift and I need to continue to put my all into becoming a great basketball coach.

 

Dr. Mark: Is AAU basketball good for the players and the college game?

Coach Hendrix: I used to think AAU was hurting the game, and it was a bad thing for the game.  My views have changed slightly, but I still think it is doing more harm than good.  AAU basketball has become more of a business and has taken away from the development of 95% of the kids that play it.  The top 5% are taken care of.  They have the best resources to improve their game ie. Trainers, elite camp, great instruction, and many of them good quality high school coaching.  For these kids, I believe that AAU has it’s place.  It gives them an opportunity to compete with and against the best players in the country consistently, and it gives the college coaches and accurate assessment of these kids abilities.  With that being said, it also has created the pampered athletes that we see today.  The best high school players get treated like royalty.  They are pros from the time they are 16 years old and are treated as such.  It causes entitlement issues among the kids, and they have trouble taking criticism, being disciplined, and small failures.  I believe that this has led to the 700+ transfers that we have seen at the division 1 level this year.

The EYBL is the greatest and highest level of high school basketball I have ever witnessed.  Nike has organized it in such a way that every game counts and winning is a bit more important, where in the past it wasn’t, it was more about showcasing your talent. Coaches want winners, and when you devalue the importance of winning it’s hard for coaches to see which kids are truly about getting the W.

For the other 95% I believe we are spinning our wheels, creating bad habits, and creating bad basketball players.  I am not saying that these kids aren’t talented, I am saying that they are playing a bad brand of basketball.  Over the course of the summer kids play up to 50 games, vs 30 high school games where there is a little bit of structure.  Hopefully, the high school coaches are teaching good defensive principles, and rotations because on the AAU circuit (outside of the EYBL) they are not.  Many of them sit in a zone and rarely even play man.  There is very little offense being run, and it’s mostly 1 on 1 iso on each end.  It’s hard to watch.  The ball doesn’t get reversed, it doesn’t go in the post, and now with all of the warriors success, most of the time it’s a bunch of kids jacking 3’s.  It’s the worst brand of basketball I have ever seen.

Many high school coaches have to spend the first few weeks re programming their kids to buy into a structured setting.  You have to re teach the good habits, and try to eliminate all of the bad habits they picked up over the summer.  Most high school coaches do not like AAU for this reason.  There is a disconnect between the two, and I am on the side of the high school coaches because if it’s not high level AAU, most times they aren’t  being taught to play the right way.

Middle school basketball is almost like recess.  It is hard to find quality basketball minds who want to teach at that level so most times it’s a dad who coaches these teams, and many times they know very little about the game on a technical level.  This isn’t a bad thing all the time because the elite talent gets scooped up by the better programs who have some decent instruction, but the other kids are left to fend for themselves.

I have a great passion for the game, and I am a bit of a purest, so my opinions may come of as the old guy screaming “get off my lawn”, but I have been observing all levels of basketball for over a decade now and I can see the change in the athlete.  I can see the change in the game at the college level as well.  I watch all levels of college basketball, and I have seen a decline in the skills, mainly the shooting at the college level.  There is also a lack of back to the basket scoring, a lack of ability to create your own shot, and poor knowledge of how to move without the ball and get open.  I have seen the emergence of the specialist, which isn’t a bad thing.  Every team appreciates and can use a “3 and D” guy on their roster to spread the floor and hold his own defensively.

I hope that the game moves more towards skill development of our young athletes and less playing games.  It hurts the non elite athlete and produces kids that are less prepared for the next level whether that’s Junior college or the four-year level.  With the emergence of the “trainer”, kids are getting skill instructions, now whether they are getting useful instruction or not is a case by case scenario, but I do know kids are working on their skills. I am encouraged by this movement.  But there are still too many unorganized, yet, organized games being played which is hurting basketball overall.

 

Dr. Mark: The biggest problem facing HS coaches today? 

Coach Hendrix: I believe that the biggest problem facing High school coaches today is a combination of AAU, parents/handlers, some skill guys and the limited amount of resources and funds.  Parents have become the biggest thorn in the side of the high school coach.  Parents have a different lens and feel like every coach needs to cater to their child.  A coach’s job is to do whats best for the group, not one individual.  Parents and players often believe that they are better than they are.  This isn’t a problem unless a parent of a player believe that the coach doesn’t value their skill set.  A player that believes that his coach should let him shoot more three pointers, but is shooting 28%, is a problem.  A parent that says a coach isn’t using his son right is a problem as well.  Players need to understand, you are your skill set, and your production.  If you are shooting in the 20’s from 3, any coach in their right mind will limit your ability to continue to shoot from behind the arc, not because he doesn’t care for the play, but because it’s whats best for the team, and more than likely the player.  I see dad’s coaching from the sideline which is my biggest pet peeve.  The problem with this is, it can confuse the kid, but more importantly, it could directly contradict what I work on daily in practice.  It could contradict the play I just drew up coming out of a huddle, and we need a basket because we are down two points.  Parents should be there to support the coach, and cheer on their child along with his or her teammates, PERIOD.

I have already addressed High school coaches having to break the bad habits of the kids coming back from playing AAU.  They also have to change the mindset as well.  AAU is about showcasing, and less about winning.  The high school season is about winning first, and then showcasing your talents within the framework of a team.  There is some reprogramming that needs to be done, and I have seen coaches not have success to the detriment of the team and the season.  It can be very frustrating.  It makes players difficult to coach when they do not put the team ahead of their own personal agenda, and on top of that you have the parents reinforcing this selfish mindset.  It can tear a team apart.  I have seen it happen.

We all know high school coaches put in countless hours for very little compensation.  There are some coaches that have the passion to push through this and still strive for greatness.  But who can blame a coach who is only receiving a $1200 stipend for 5 months of work for just making it through a season and not giving it his all.  It is a thankless job unless you are winning big, and you have to deal with ungrateful kids who give you attitude, and parents who think you are the scum of the earth because you don’t play their 5’5 son 32 minutes per night.  I have seen coaches get burned out, run off by parents, and frankly quit mentally mid season because of the factors I mentioned previously.  It can be very difficult to power through these things and bring it every day.

 

Dr. Mark: What does the future hold for you in the basketball arena?

Coach Hendrix: I feel like I have a wealth of knowledge, and I see myself educating young people in many ways.  I believe one day that I will be a division 1 Head Coach.  I believe that I will also travel around the country, and maybe even the globe speaking to young people  about what this game has meant to me, how to achieve their goals, and motivating them to be the best human beings that they can possibly be.  I see my self motivating young athletes to achieve 4.0’s and seek higher education beyond their Bachelors degree.  I believe I will be a household name among coaches. I truly believe that I have the basketball acumen, and the drive to become one of the great coaches this game has ever seen and I will not stop until I achieve my goal.  Everyday I strive to unlock my genius, which I believe to be coaching and educating people on the game of basketball. Whether they are young athletes, or coaches.  I want to share my gift with the world.

 

 

Damany Hendrix is currently the varsity head basketball coach for the Justin-Siena Braves.  He graduated from Vallejo High in 1998 and was an All-Monticello Empire League player. After high school, Hendrix accepted a scholarship to play for Gonzaga University. At Gonzaga he redshirted as a freshman, then transferred to Junior College, where he was the conference MVP and an All-State selection.  Hendrix completed his collegiate basketball career at Lamar University where he was selected All-Southland Conference, twice.

 

Social media links

Instagram:coachdamany

Twitter: @coachdamany

Facebook

The Pain and the Game link

 

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Kristy Belden, The Reality of Athletics

“Here today.  Gone tomorrow”

Today you are a key part of an athletics department staff.  Your cell phone doesn’t stop ringing. Your inbox is forever full.  To put it simply, you are getting things done and the program can’t run successfully without you.  In a blink of an eye, you have been replaced.  And just like that, your student-athletes are depending on someone else and you’re left questioning, what just happened?!?  This, my friends is the reality of athletics.  As professionals in this ever-changing field, we are often the ones preaching to our student-athletes to get their degrees because their athletic careers won’t last forever; to select a school based on everything BUT the coach because we know all too well that those change like the wind.  Yet, here we are in the same boat having to take our own advice.

“The reality of athletics is that often change comes swiftly with lots of collateral damage”

The nature of athletics is that EVERYONE is replaceable, from the Athletic Director, to the Coaches, to the Staff, the Graduate Assistants, the Student-Athletes, and EVERYONE in between.  In many cases, change in athletics often is a trickle down effect and has little to do with YOU (or your résumé, your accolades, and how long you’ve been at Athletic University College).  The reality of athletics is that often change comes swiftly with lots of collateral damage.  In the high-profile sport of football alone, a head coaching change can immediately effect upwards of 100 lives, when you add in support staff, spouses and children.

The business side of athletics encourages change in many regards.  The myth is that a shiny new coach fixes everything…the “boo bird” fans are excited again, donations start rolling back in, there’s a ton of media coverage.  It’s a win-win for everyone except the old staff.  In many, many cases, any and everyone associated with the previous regime is let go.  It’s not personal, and you’re fooling yourself if you think it is.  Why do you think turnover in athletics is as high as it is?  People try to move up, move out before they end up unemployed when the writing is on the wall that change is inevitable. Nowadays, spending more than five years with the same program is an anomaly.  An old coach once told me, “if you haven’t been fired, you haven’t been in coaching long enough.”  As the pressure to win gets higher and unreasonably higher, the reality is that you will be fired.  Just as our current student-athletes get replaced by the latest 5-star stud, the sad truth is you will be replaced at some point in your career as well.   You can pout about it or you can be prepared.

” You will not be the Senior Associate of ABC’s at Athletic University College forever”

If we’ve heard it once, we’ve heard it a thousand times…”it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”  This too is the reality of athletics.  The best advice I can offer is to stay connected with as many professionals (coaches, administrators, support staff, etc) as you can on multiple levels (high school, collegiate, professional). You never know when your guy knows a gal who knows a guy that might need a gal like you.  And just as we teach our student-athletes to not be tied to their identity as a student-athlete, we must take heed to that advice as well.  You will not be the Senior Associate of ABC’s at Athletic University College forever.  The blunt truth is that if you plan to have a long, successful career in sports, then you must understand that change is the Reality of Athletics.  Embrace it and enjoy the ride for as long as it lasts.

“Kristy Belden is currently the Dean of Students at Bishop Moore Catholic High School and spent 5 years as the Director of Player Development with the UCF Football program.  She was one of the first female full-time player development directors for a NCAA Division IA football program.  Prior to that role, Belden spent 9 years as the Associate Director for Multicultural and Academic Support Services, and Academic Services for Student-Athletes at the University of Central Florida.  She is a former collegiate track athlete and has her Masters degree in Educational Psychology-Sport Psychology.  

Follow Kristy on twitter @KristyBelden

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Notre Dame College, Humiliation, Pt 3

How did you go from being a division one quarterback to a division two punter and not even a quarterback?

It is hard to revisit my experience at Notre Dame College. For a while I would refuse to revisit it, I could not do so without feeling bitterness or extreme pain that tainted the overall experience. Ultimately, the feelings evolved into numbness and a sense of not being able to acknowledge the fact that the experience occurred. It was the only way possible that I could move on and live. I am grateful that today, I am able to speak of the experience in terms not tainted by feelings or numbness.

Commitment is something that must be fulfilled to preserve friendship and relationships. The impact friends have on our everyday life can be so great that decisions are often made out of obligation. Unfortunately, decisions made out of obligation to our friends can lead to a traumatic experience and or humiliation. However, adversity even of the worst kind leaves one with a lesson to grow from and become a better person.

Before graduating from high school and upon committing to Miami University, I gave my word to four friends/teammates/brothers who were going to be student-athletes at Notre Dame College. I gave them my word that if things didn’t work out at Miami I would join them at NDC and once again play football with them. January 2011, I committed to Notre Dame College accepting a full ride scholarship. Once again, I had a duty to fulfill and a commitment to something much bigger than myself. I can recall my best friend who I also happened to room with stating, “man I didn’t think you were serious about the promise you made last year”. Of course when I made the promise I wasn’t planning on a time where I had to follow through with it but when the time came I did and was glad…. At first.

 At the time I felt nothing more than excitement and a sense of happiness. I thought to myself “this is like a home away from home”. I had anything and everything a collegiate student-athlete could ask for. I felt like I not only belonged but more importantly I felt like I was wanted and needed. All was good. I was the big man on campus, only an hour away from my family and hometown, classes were manageable, and I was more than happy with my decision. The first year had a couple of bumps in the road but nothing that couldn’t be overcome by persistence and sticking to the commitment of the process for success.

Entering into the 2011 football season I was in a quarterback battle with a talented returner. Eventually I would not be chosen as the starting quarterback for the first two games, however, this would soon change during halftime of our second game. I became the full time starting quarterback and one of the team captains after leading the team to victory the second game. As the season progressed, I became more comfortable as a student-athlete and leader at Notre Dame College. We ended the season with a better record than the previous year and had a lot to look forward to going into the offseason. Still, things were going well and I was a happy or as the saying goes at NDC “Falcon for Life.”

Spring 2012 was what I have previously labeled the beginning of the end. My best friend had decided to leave the school for personal reasons. This crushed me and at the time I considered it betrayal and selfish. I recall thinking, “how could you leave when I came here because of you?” After that I was never the same. You see, he was the person who I could always count on whenever I needed anything. When times were hard and I felt the weigh of the world on my shoulders, he would make sure I didn’t falter. He never allowed me to do anything stupid or reckless. He cared about me more than I cared about myself. To sum it up in a word, he was my brother, and when he left a part of me left with him.

A couple of weeks before spring practice was to begin, I was punished for breaking team rules. Allow me to explain… One night my suitemates and I decided to host a little get together in our suite involving refreshments of a kind that weren’t permitted on campus. But we were too cool and too much of a big deal around campus to ever get caught, let alone written up. Well, we got caught. When the time of confession came my new roommate and I took all the blame. If I hadn’t then a few guys in the room would have been caught, they would have been immediately dismissed from the team and possibly school. So, knowing this and being a team captain I decided to take the blame.

A captain goes down with his ship. Our team policy was that if at any time a player got in trouble with the school or team, that player would automatically be moved down the depth chart at the start of spring ball. As always the first string gets more reps than the backups, this is a fact even if coaches preach otherwise. Accordingly, as the spring season progressed coach and I became more and more hostile. It seemed as if I was not getting a fair shot to compete for the position. Many Teammates including the three teammates I had made the promise to, saw and felt this was the case. Often times behind closed doors where they could not be heard by anyone of authority who could punish them, my teammates would say, “Rob I know how they are treating you and it is wrong, but things will get better.”

Things never got better, only worse and worse. At the end of spring ball and the semester before summer, Coach called me into his office and told me I was being moved to wide receiver but still staying as the punter. I wasn’t going to be given a chance to compete over the summer and into fall camp. The decision was made that my days of being the starting quarterback were over and done. So began the summer of 2012, I came home and broke the news to my family. Upon hearing the news and thinking about what comes next, my parents pushed me to transfer elsewhere and that I didn’t come there to be treated in such a way. Most of the summer I spent weighing out options and trying to decide what I should do.

Eventually I would return to Notre Dame College as a “full ride” student athlete. I put emphasis on “full ride” because this was the main reason I decided to go back. How could one not turn down a full ride scholarship being a student-athlete? Everything was paid for which meant upon graduation I had no student loans to pay back. Common sense would tell anyone to not pass up the opportunity of a lifetime. However, the price I had to pay for this decision was something that would become a lifelong lesson. A lesson that not many people consider as a good lesson because the impact it has on the heart and psyche of a person.

Humiliation has such a stinging ring to it when spoken. Try feeling it and experiencing it even just a little, I promise you or whoever experiences being humiliated that it will change your life and the outlook you have on life. Throughout the 2012 season at Notre Dame College there were times that I thought about getting in my car and just driving away to somewhere far away from there. But I didn’t, for some reason I was meant to be there at that time. I was meant to be that guy who transferred from a division 1 school where he won a championship, who then transferred down a division to become the quarterback of Notre Dame College, who then was knocked off his pedestal and brought down to become not even a quarterback let alone the starting quarterback at a school who couldn’t even break the five hundred mark of a football season. It was humiliating to show my face in public and know that everyone knew what happened to the once “big man on campus.” It was humiliating to be the starting punter every single game that season and after the game shake hands with our opponent and be asked by players and coaches “what happened to you being the starting quarterback” or “how did you go from being a division one quarterback to a division two punter and not even a quarterback?” Such questions at first angered and hurt me to the point of tears flowing down my face. Eventually the tears subsided as did the anger and hurt. What they became was nothing or a sense of numbness with no feeling at all. I had reached a point of no return and kind of died inside.

Friends, teammates, coaches, fellow students, etc. felt bad but did nothing to help. Not even those I made that promise and commitment to in high school, they knew and felt the position and psyche I was in but did or said nothing to me or anyone because they feared that what happened to me would happen to them. And so there I was humiliated and miserable. I needed some type of release from the hell I was in.

A week after the season I received a call from a past teammate and friend who had transferred from Notre Dame College (NDC) to Hiram College the summer of 2012. We talked for a bit just catching up on each other’s lives asking how things are going, then he asked if I would come down and visit him at Hiram College. I figured sure why not, it was somewhere away from NDC. So I visited him. We had a great time and I met a lot of good people… different people than what I was used to at NDC. People who acknowledged me and said hello and asked how I was. During the day we ate in the dining hall where I ran into a football recruit, he immediately recognized me and began talking to me. He asked questions about my experiences at Miami and NDC, then he asked my opinion on several matters. Of course I gave him my opinion, why not, what did it matter? It was just my opinion about what he asked me. Or so I thought…. Little did I know this conversation would cost me a full ride scholarship leading to my dismissal from NDC.

After the weekend on Monday coach called me into his office saying he needed to speak with me. Our meeting lasted for fifteen minutes and consisted of him asking if I visited Hiram College over the weekend, If I spoke to a recruit and what I said, and then my scholarship being pulled. That was the last straw, I was completely humiliated and a fool in most people’s eyes. However, a sense of relief and hope came over me as soon as I walked out of his office. I remember thinking, “its over… I was free.” At the end of the semester I left the place I once called home, my three teammates I made that promise to, and the worst experience of my life. I had been humiliated and broken. However, the lesson of humiliation and being humiliated was something that would be vital to me becoming a better person, a better student-athlete, and the leader Hiram College needed.

To be continued…

Written by Robert Partridge, follow Robert on twitter

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Ronnie Stokes, Former Ohio State Buckeye Standout

Ron Stokes has been the expert analyst on the radio broadcasts of Ohio State basketball. Stokes also is the CEO and president of Three Leaf Productions, a Columbus-based printing, marketing, and advertising business. Mr. Stokes played basketball for Ohio State from 1981-85, served as a captain for two seasons, and was the team MVP and all-Big Ten as a senior. He ranks among the top six all-time for the Buckeyes in assists and steals, and in the top 25 in scoring.  PPD Mag caught up with Mr. Stokes to talk about athletes and personal development.

PPD Mag: Why are athletes getting into so much trouble outside of sports?

Mr. Stokes: I quantify that things today were not around when I played.  Social media and cell phones are a big issue.  This generation of opposing fans has much more access to student athletes as well as professional athletes.  The athletes personal business is more exposed and socially, the general public  are now noticing a lot of the negative behavior athletes are exhibiting away from the sport.

Dr. Mark:  How important is the male influence for the athlete?

Mr. Stokes: Having a positive influence during the developmental stages at home especially having the male influence or lack of influence plays a major role.  I would add, not having a male in the household is an issue.  Mom and grandma are great but having a male involved in the developmental process is in some ways a separator.  Unfortunately we are seeing a lot of athletes getting into trouble and they happen to be African American athletes.

PPD Mag: What core element is missing from college and professional athletics?

Mr. Stokes: A person who is dedicated and focusing on working with athletes in an area of personal growth.  At the moment we could see this person as a mentor.  I think a mentor is someone that can give the kids something that they need, if someone who has had similar life experience that they can share with athletes, it can be useful to a kid.  However, it is important to understand that, mentorship has a lot of responsibility and people attempting to fill that role need to understand all the components involved.  More importantly, the mentee has to be able to accept the information and help which the mentor is providing.  Its a two way street.

PPD Mag: Do you see a need for transitional support services for athletes? 

Mr. Stokes: Yes, transitional support services are vitally important, unfortunately kids leave college ill-equipped in certain areas, they are thrown out and expected to survive in a number of areas and the transition is an ongoing process.  I know some coaches help athletes but I also know some coaches that just don’t.  I had mentors who taught me and prepared me for life.  These were things that I couldn’t learn on the basketball court.

During a four or five year process it would be an extra bonus for the school to provide pre-transitional services.  Once they leave the university, student athletes do not engage with the institution.  Services should be in place allowing athletes to engage with the university.  By that I mean, the institutions should have programs in place to support former athletes once they have completed or exhausted their eligibility, due to the amount of issues former athletes encounter.

 

PPD Mag: What are your three suggestions for student athletes?

  1. Write down your goals, short, medium and long term.
  2. Find 2 or 3 people in your goal areas and identify someone to include in your circle.
  3. Find mentors you can trust and believe in, stay close to them and act on what they tell you.

 

You can find Mr. Stokes on twitter 

This interview was arranged by Jay Keys

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PPD MagRonnie Stokes, Former Ohio State Buckeye Standout
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Gregg Simmons of Hire Ethics

Hire Ethics was created to support underrepresented college students. The majority of these students were completing their education but lacked the skills to obtain employment.  Hire Ethics became that bridge between education and employment.  After a few years in business, they realized that other populations were also lacking these same career management skills, particularly athletes.  In 2016, a new division of Hire Ethics will be launched, “Hire Ethics Pro” dedicated to career, education & employment services for elite & professional athletes. Gregg Simmons is the Executive Director of Hire Ethics and agreed to talk to PPD Mag.

Dr. Mark: Is it difficult to prepare athletes for a career outside of athletics?

Mr. Simmons: I don’t believe it is difficult.  I believe it becomes difficult when information is not available, when the discussion happens toward the end of their athletic career, and when there is a lack of support from their immediate circle.

Dr. Mark: Why is the transition to the career world difficult for athletes?

Mr. Simmons: Transition / change is difficult for most people, it becomes increasingly difficult for athletes because no one wants to talk about or plan for the inevitable, retiring or leaving their sport.

Dr. Mark: Can you tell us your thoughts on campus speakers who are former athletes?

Mr. Simmons: Athletes, like most people, like hearing from their own, so athletes are most receptive to listen to what former athletes have to say.  The benefits occur when the message or the story is so unique or special that the athlete gain empathy or not a sense of “I can do that too.”  The bigger issue is when a former athlete provides a good message but fails to provide or articulate a way for current athletes to be successful too (If that is the message from a former athlete).  There should be next steps or “how to” incorporated within any presentation to benefit or help the athlete.

Dr. Mark: Why is personal development important to the athlete?

Mr. Simmons: The main reason is in the title of the question “Personal.”  It has to be personal and athletes have to own it and be actively involved with their growth & development.  The same effort and time they put into being the best athletes has to go into their personal development.  Transition is inevitable, so preparing, training and getting ready for life after sports is important.

Dr. Mark: Do you believe people currently working with athletes have been properly trained to help athletes in the area of personal growth?

Mr. Simmons: I believe the majority of these people have not been trained properly.  It’s widely believed that being a former athlete is the main criteria to work with or speak to other athletes, this should not be the case.  A perfect example is when sport teams hire an All-World athlete as a head coach mainly due to their athletic success and they turn out to be an awful coach.  Being a former athlete or an athletic administrator is a great hire if they have been properly trained.

Dr. Mark: How does the family effect the personal development of the athlete?

Mr. Simmons: Family and individuals in their immediate circle influence, shapes and effects the athlete’s decisions, reality, direction and growth.  When an elite athlete transitions from sport so does everyone else in their family and immediate circle.

Click here to learn more about Hire Ethics 

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Miami University 2010: Commitment and Paying the Price for Success Pt 2

December 7, 2010, I committed to Miami University (Oxford, Ohio) accepting a full ride academic/athletic scholarship. Upon committing I didn’t know how much of an impact on my life this would make. While a student-athlete at Miami University, I was part of a team that made history by winning the Mid-American Conference championship and finishing the 2010 season with a record of 10-4. A substantial improvement from the year before where the football team finished the season 1-11. However, what is less known or advertised was the price that had to be paid by each team member individually. At the base of success is a degree of commitment to an idea or goal. It is often that the slogan/motto “there is no ‘I’ in team” is shouted among teams and organizations. Selfishness serves as a monkey wrench in the operation of collective actions. Individual commitment to the team is a necessity to success.

As I reminisce and think back five years ago, I cannot help but come to the realization that the overarching theme for my experience at Miami University surmounts to one thing. Commitment. Not only commitment to the institution and its football program but also and more importantly, commitment to the process of success while paying the price for success.

I understood as an eighteen year old freshman what it meant to be committed to goals/aspirations, the process of success, and the price for success. However, the commitment I was previously responsible to fulfilling was something I had rooted and engrained throughout childhood. In fact, this commitment only added to the childhood dream. College was an entirely different animal. An animal that I knew had to be confronted and dealt with accordingly. For though I made the decision and commitment to Miami University, I did so naïve/ignorant to the process and price that came along with success. I committed to being a student-athlete because that was what I was good at and that was what those around me expected of me.

 I was a collegiate student-athlete at Miami University for six months. During this time, I, like any and all college freshman, evolved in many aspects of life both positively and negatively. At the time my major or field of study was undecided, however, I did find a course or two interesting. Throughout my time at Miami I struggled academically. I continually asked for tutors and or academic coaches, never was I granted one. Nonetheless, I made it through the season and did what was asked.

Athletically, I competed every morning during practice at five a.m. I was privileged enough to travel with the team for away games and sometimes having the chance to play. Additionally, I was voted by teammates to be a member of the Redhawk leadership council, which was a group of guys who met weekly to discuss team issues and come up with solutions to produce positive outcomes for the program. These weekly meetings were the highlight of my week. I had the opportunity to get to know my teammates on a different level. Without the once a week leadership sessions I would not have made it through the season and semester. The lessons I would learn from those meetings I would carry  throughout college and still carry with me today.

I mentioned previously how I evolved while at Miami University academically and athletically, but I did not touch on how I evolved personally. The purpose of the next section is to speak of this subject. And so let us begin…

Academically, I was scratching the surface of becoming a student. Athletically, I was learning the intangibles and sharpening the skills needed to lead a program. However, though both academics and athletics are key subjects in a collegiate student-athletes life, one subject that is often times forgotten is personal development. While at Miami I failed to grow as a person and think about who I was becoming. Never did I tell myself “one day your football career will end and you will have to enter into real life”. Never did I question who I was as a person and what I wanted to become. While I was living the life of a student-athlete, I failed to embrace who I was as an individual. This was the something that was swept under the rug along the process of success. This was the price that I paid for success. Yes, I went out after games, hung out with friends, and tried to “live it up”, but not without second-guessing myself thinking “how could what I am currently doing effect the team and disappoint those who trust me to represent the program? ”.

Coach always told us that we as athletes (football players) have a duty to be great ambassadors for the athletic program and football team. Every action anyone or I committed either on or off the field was a representation of the team NOT JUST YOURSELF. Coach made this very clear by demanding before practices and every game that we “look around, to our left/right/front/behind, and say to our brother I TRUST IN YOU”. As a team leader (leadership council member), quarterback, and varsity player, I had an obligation to the team, both on and off the field. I assumed this duty upon committing to the institution whether knowingly or unknowingly.

            As the semester and season came closer to ending, as did my time at Miami University. And so upon the semester ending I made the decision to leave Oxford, Ohio. I would close a chapter in my life and begin anew. Though I would depart Miami, the lessons I learned while there wouldn’t depart me. Above other lessons, I learned what it meant to be committed and the price that came with it. I would carry this lesson with me to Notre Dame College.

To be continued…

Written by Robert Partridge, follow Robert on twitter

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An Account of a Collegiate Student-Athlete’s 5yr Experience: Part 1

Someone or something inspired me, like many young people. Sooner or later, this someone or something evolved into a burning desire or dream of sort that I could not go a day without thinking about. We all have fallen under the spell of such phenomenon that has captured the heart and consequently directed our actions with the purpose of making the dream into reality. No matter how little or large said dream may be, the pursuit of making the dream into a reality can only be justified by the dreamer.

Some of us are fortunate enough to see our dream become a reality. Others let go of the dream and are able to shift focus elsewhere either by creating a new dream or abandon the act of dreaming altogether. Through commitment, humility, and resilience the dream that made up my childhood came true. Personally, becoming the starting quarterback of the storied Massillon Tigers was my dream come true. Since I can recall, all I ever dreamed of was becoming the starting quarterback of the team my father coached and the only thing I knew growing up. However, the purpose of this writing is not to narrate the process of my childhood dream becoming a reality. Rather the purpose of this writing is to share what came after the dream, the trials and triumphs that constituted a five-year journey, and ultimately made me into the person I am today.

I, like most recent college graduates, am adjusting to this thing commonly labeled as the “real world” or simply put… Life after college. After five years of being a collegiate student – athlete at three different institutions (Miami University, Notre Dame College, and Hiram College) I have matured and come to the realization of what defines my passion. The time to utilize the lessons I have learned throughout my youth and experience as a student- athlete up to this point are now being put to the test.

I am aware that mistakes are evident and will come as I begin and go through the next chapter of life. However, the key difference is now I can’t accept points off for a late assignment submission nor can I merely run a gasser for every minute I am late for a team meeting. For in real life, a late assignment submission or tardiness to a meeting could result in termination, unemployment, and lack of an income to payback student loans.

My name is Robert Partridge; I am a recent graduate of Hiram College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and a minor in public leadership. I desire to develop student-athletes through strategic leadership development and tactful team building. Since graduating this past May 2015, I have meticulously researched ways in which to best grasp, understand, and mend to my liking; the “Real world”. I have found a full time job that I am blessed to have and am learning lessons from everyday. However, not a day goes by that I don’t think about what burns inside constantly evolving into what could be labeled a dream or something along those lines. For now, it is my duty to stay committed to the job and team of co-workers.

At times, taint thoughts formulate within my mind of what other job I could be doing; but I quickly diminish these, for it would be humiliating for such thoughts to produce an attitude and ultimately, actions. When times like these occur I think back to my playing days, more specifically, a time when I had to be resilient and overcome adversity for not only myself but also more profoundly, the team collectively as a whole. Having revisited such a time along with remembering the process and what it took to overcome adversity, I then am able to relate it to myself currently in the work place and do what needed to be done to refocus and execute the job.

As previously mentioned in the previous paragraph, “I desire to develop student-athletes through strategic leadership development and tactful team building”. Accordingly, over the past several weeks I have meticulously researched and sought out people who can guide me in the direction needed to go for my desire to come into fruition.

Several weeks ago, I came across one person in particular who compelling caught my attention. Dr. Mark Robinson is a global leader, pioneer, and expert in “Personal Player Development”. The weekend of my birthday I had the privilege and honor of speaking with Dr. Robinson in a phone conversation. Dr. Robinson and his words of wisdom not only inspired me to write this discourse, but more importantly, the result of my time with Dr. Robinson was a sense of direction and spark to a much needed idea. Thus, I am morally obligated to give thanks to him and dedicate a great part of this discourse to him. Thank you, Dr. Robinson.

In a recent interview with fitacrosscultures.com, Dr. Mark Robinson profoundly stated, “The sport industry needs to stop using athletes only for their skill, but start to support them to be better people. It’s a challenge because it’s an area that is often overlooked. Athletes sacrifice a lot of their free time to get better players that they could invest in their own development”.

Being a former student-athlete at three different institutions of all three NCAA divisions, I confess that Dr. Robinson’s words are indeed true and shine light on a key issue.

Furthermore, Dr. Robinson’s statement provides a lens to another key question/issue that I consider vital to understanding the nature of a collegiate student- athlete’s personal development. As collegiate student- athletes go through the college experience and assume roles amongst their team, athletic program, and institution certain tasks are demanded of them. Such tasks include becoming the best athlete possible, hosting recruits, going to class and doing the work ask of them by the instructor, and being a good representative of their team/program both on and off the field. Ultimately, their task is to develop themselves as a student-athlete so that in turn the program is developed so that it can attract recruits in the future.  After all, collegiate sports are a multi-million dollar business and the more a program wins the more revenue the school brings in and is able to attract students. Unfortunately, this is the harsh reality of the situation.

I assert that the problem a number of collegiate student-athletes are faced with is not only the “sacrifice of their free time” but more problematic and conflicting, the athlete sacrifices personal development and a loss of self-identity past his or herself as just an athlete. In other words, while collegiate student-athletes pursue and achieve objectives and goals set forth by their athletic teams, programs, and institutions; the student-athlete loses track of his or herself personally.

The price can be seen among “thousands of NCAA student-athletes who struggle with the emotional and physical transition from a life centered on athletics”. This is a topic that must be deeply considered, spoken of, and dissected rather than abandoned. Statements such as, “Unfortunately, we don’t really talk about it very much or prepare athletes for it” are disgusting, vile, and not acceptable.

In this discourse, I will share with the reader my collegiate student-athlete experience with the intent of helping solve the issue of loss of individual student-athlete identity and resolving the conflict of collegiate student-athlete transitioning into the “real world”. To do this I have structured the article into four installments.

In section one, I will begin by giving an account of the time I spent and what I learned while a student-athlete at Miami University (NCAA, division I). Next, in section two, I will discuss my student-athlete experience and what I learned at Notre Dame College (NCAA, division II). Following this, in section three, I will provide a narrative of time spent and lessons learned while a student-athlete at my alma mater Hiram College (NCAA, division III). To conclude this discourse, in the fourth installment and crux of the writing, I will take the previous three sections along with their themes, and correlate them with the above issues and conflicts intending on providing a possible solution…..

To be continued…

Written by Robert Partridge, follow Robert on twitter

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Dr. Tommy Shavers: Part Three, Culture, Sex and Power

In the third part of a four part interview, Dr. Tommy Shavers gives us a better understanding of the athlete in the areas of Culture, Power and Sex based off his research.  If you are working with athletes you should read this and share it.

How do we address the domestic violence and sexual assault problem in the culture of sports?

 

I will continue to come back to my hallmark statement; if you are unaware, then you are unprepared. The first part that is essential to addressing the issues of domestic violence and sexual assault in sports is accurate awareness on the issue. Being a college football player myself and being coached by one of the great defensive minds in football, our coach would always ask the question, “what do you see?” If we couldn’t accurately articulate what we were seeing on the field from our opponent, there was no way we could accurately prepare or respond to what we were up against. So it all starts with accurate awareness, does the sports industry really know what they are seeing when it comes to these areas. Currently they are not fully aware (which means to be accurately aware) of what they are up against with this issue.

 

In a research study I conducted with college football players, in which they talked about status, power, and sex; these athletes were unanimously clear that their status and social power as college football players was influencing their overall behavior as well as their sexual perspective, actions and behaviors with women. The things these young men stated during these interviews would bring chills to someone who is not aware that such a culture (which the kids didn’t create) exists. Listen, I lived the culture and I was a bit taken back by what I was hearing in these interviews. Most of them talked about entering into a world or culture they didn’t even know existed, where people (men and women) were willing and able to give them anything, just because of their status and influence as athletes. So in other words the way society began to treat these athletes changed (culture); which quickly in turn began to change them. Many of them admitted to being the focus of attention in high school, and they stated that it was at a whole different level in college. A unique issue that most may not understand about this culture is when it comes to sex. In this culture, most male athletes are pursued just as much for sex as they pursue sex. One player asked me a question, “what are you suppose to do when a beautiful, attractive girl wants to sleep with you; turn it down? That’s a hard thing to do; for one you look bad if you turn her down, and two who would want to turn that down?”

 

So for those who have lived in and experienced that culture, they know these things to be real and valid. Another thing that was emerging out of the study was that athletes are really polarized in the eyes of people socially (especially women). Some love them and want to be in their circle and others really don’t care for them and avoid them socially and relationally as much as possible. So what this creates is a generalized view of women by athletes because all the women that they engage with on a regular basis are women who are heavily influenced by their status and thus carry themselves or allow themselves to be treated in ways that other women who are not so enamored by athletes would carry themselves. As a result many athletes develop a dangerously false perception of women because of the culture of women they regularly engage with.

 

Now someone may want to jump on those statements as sexist or degrading of women, well before we can talk about how inappropriate such statements are, we must first ask are they true, and as unfortunate as it is, this is true. But it is not just about women. Everyone in their circles who are enamored with their status as athletes, treat them in such a way that this becomes the only world they know. I call it “living in a world of all green lights”. If this is the case, then what happens when such a person comes to a yellow or red light in their life? Well, yellow and red lights don’t exist in their life so they are unaware and thus unprepared to deal with yellow and red light realities of life. And the reality is yellow and red lights do exist for the rest of the world, which means that it is almost inevitable that the green light world will one day encounter a red light, catching up to the athlete and causing disastrous wreckage in their own lives and in the lives of those they’ve encountered. This is why this work is so important. We are trying to tell these kids to slow down and stop, when those things don’t practically exist in their world which makes them unaware that they really exist (for them) anywhere else in the world.

 

The last thing I say on that is this; the thing that surprised me the most about this study, was the reaction of the athletes after the interviews were concluded. I would ask each of the participants if they had any questions or anything additional they would like to add to the study. Unexpected to me was that the majority (I can’t recall one who wasn’t) were as surprised as I, about the realities that they were sharing about their own lives and the lives of others in this status power culture of sports. Many of them mentioned that they have never stopped and thought about their lives and actions in this way, they were use to just living in it, and it was normal for them, until they actually sat down and talked about it. Many of them seemed to be sobered and alarmed at their actions and the actions of others; now knowing how dangerously risky and abnormal their lives were. Many of them thanked me for opening their eyes to their own world. Think about that, they told me about their lives, all I did was ask if having status and power as an athlete affected them in anyway. But in the end, to them it was as if I had just made them (accurately) aware of their own lives in ways they had no idea. For example guys talk about sexual activity that in the eyes of most, would be viewed as gang rape. This didn’t hit them until they actually were made to look at their lives from an objective and not power influenced point of view. They are so accustomed to living on impulsive and desire that they rarely are taught to process things rationally and with awareness of the circumstances. But this is what all of the research on power tells us could happen to individuals like athletes. Their words were merely practical confirmation of what the research field has already learned and continues to discover when it comes to individuals with high levels of status and social power. This was why I realized that for most of these athletes, we expected them to rationally function in a world that’s not their norm and carry themselves in ways they rarely have to, in their normal daily lives as power individuals. Let me just add, this does not just go on in sports, but in all high profile, high power cultures. We see it with politicians, corporate executives, and sports leaders. We’ve seen it recently with law enforcement and the inability of some police officers to effectively handle having power. We see it in faith circles with the moral failures, behavioral abuses, and exploitation of people by ministers, pastors, and other church leaders. Some are aware and choose to use their status and power in appalling ways for their own corrupt desires. However, many are not this way; many have unfortunately inherited a culture that their character and conduct has adapted to.

 

 

 

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Memoir of an Athlete: When the Invincible Meets the Invisible

[av_dropcap2]T[/av_dropcap2]errier Activity Board Vice President, four year letter-winner on an Offensive Line that led Hiram College to its best record in 26 years, orientation leader, 2015 Most Outstanding Senior at Hiram College, 2015 nominee for Who’s Who In Colleges and Universities Magazine. Sounds impressive right? I’ll just start by being real and saying this; no one cares. This is a world where people only want you for what you can do and not for who you are. All of the college accolades I just mentioned mean nothing to anyone other than my family and myself.  The one thing I am always criticized for is being “too real” with my friends, family, and colleagues. I’m about to drop my experience and knowledge for you to have a better understanding of where I am at this point of my life.

My name is Nick Sebastian and I am recent graduate of Hiram College in Hiram, OH where I earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Management with a focus in sports and played football.  I made it to the top of the figurative mountain when it came to my involvement outside of football. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had severe struggles from freshman to junior year that you can ask me about, however, if I put all of them in this memoir, it would be 27 pages long. I don’t believe anyone wants to read something that long. I wouldn’t want to read it, and I’m writing it.

I am also a proud alumni of Poland Seminary High School in Poland, OH where I played four sports throughout my four years and earned three letters in varsity football. Poland is a great community that I would love to start a family in one day myself. The community is phenomenal and they love their sports just as much as Odessa, TX loves Friday Night Lights.

I’m guessing many of you have never heard of either one of those places until now. I come from an extremely privileged background where basically I was given anything and everything I could ask for. I remember specific moments during my High School career when I would ask: “Hey Dad, I need some tape for my cleats, can I have $20?” or “Hey Mom, do you have my Gatorade, pads in my football pants, and jersey ready for tonight’s practice?” Basically I was spoiled. Heck, I still am spoiled. But I am very fortunate and grateful for my parent’s involvement in my athletic journey. Without their help, I would not have come close to where I am today.

Where am I today you ask? Well, I work for a third party logistics company in Pittsburgh, PA. Although I am only a couple of months removed from my collegiate experience I have managed to learn a great deal about life in the real world. How does a student- athlete from the greater Youngstown area, who attended college in the greater Cleveland area end up in Pittsburgh, PA? Easy answer; I chased the money. I was told there was a great opportunity in a new city where I could make a name for myself. How awesome does that sound?! This is where the pampering and being put on a platform my whole life turned into more of a curse than a blessing. Yes, I know and display the value of hard work, team work, commitment, discipline, and all the life skills that football taught me over the years, but nothing could prepare me for what I couldn’t see but more importantly never experienced or was exposed to.

After exhausting my eligibility and graduating, I thought my plan moving forward was solid and in hand. I soon realized it wasn’t. My transition landed me in sort of a shock mode. I don’t expect anything to be handed to me but I thought I would at least get some direction.

Something everyone wants to do is build his/her own path right? Take the world by storm. Show everyone just how tough and knowledgeable you are. For some, this concept is easier said than done, some of us are fortunate enough have a path laid out for them when it comes to career choices after athletics. Some of us go into the medical field, political field, stay in the sports field, engineering, etc. Some of us make it in the 1% and compete in professional sports. But for the majority of us, we have to feel around for what we want to do. I am a firm believer that in order to know what exactly you want or don’t want to do in life, we have to try a number of things to determine where is the best fit. The only problem with this philosophy, it involves some type of short or long-term commitment. Commitment is a word and action that we have a hard time grasping and dealing with outside of a sporting environment. Or at least it was for me.

Why would I want to commit to a career path in which I am unsure of the passion and excitement it will bring me on a daily bases? Commitment in life is much different then selecting the college of your choice on signing day. This type of commitment to the real world was one I never experienced until about two or three months ago. It was much more than signing a piece of paper and wearing a cool hat at a table with your family. This commitment involved bills, taxes, 401k’s, 403b, saving accounts, spending accounts, so on and so on. I was clueless and surprised such things existed, mainly because so much was given to me in the past and my collegiate experience did not cover the real world experience. I was overwhelmed, I felt like I did my freshman year of college all over again.

One of the main differences that I haven’t come to terms with is life not revolving around football anymore. No more ball on the one yard line, 11 seconds left to win the game, no timeouts, one more play to run, adrenaline pumping, and a game winning touchdown run in front of thousands of screaming fans going wild because we just won a game. I am sitting at my cubicle, eight hours a day, five days a week making a ton of phone calls.  All to pay bills and impress my boss so he can analyze the amount of revenue and numbers generated. Coaches, Teachers, and Professors consistently reminded me that the skills and experience I have in college would carry over to the real world. They never expressed or explained how my passion, desire, and excitement would not carry over to the real world.  Nor did they give me the tools necessary to build a path full of similar feelings I had towards football.  Maybe they themselves did not experience entering into the real world as a former  student athlete and their advice was the best they could give.

The life that I once knew is slowly changing and I am currently experiencing what I imagine is something most athletes ultimately encounter during the transitional process.  The invincible joy and passion sport provided to us is being overshadowed and interjected with the invisible difficulties (athletes are ware of) of the entering the real world.  When the invincible meets the invisible, student athletes require assistance adjusting to the real world.  Although this memoir is about me and in many ways for me, student athletes experience the meeting of invincible and invisible across the nation. Preparation, focus and time must be allocated in building a new path and student athletes from all backgrounds can benefit from guidance and direction as they move closer to exhausting their athletic and academic journey.

By Nick Sebastian

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