August 2015

Anthony Trucks Tips for Athletes, Preparing for the Transition

Dr. Mark: What advice can you give athletes in preparation for the transition?

Mr. Trucks: 1) SWALLOW YOUR PRIDE! You are NOT too good to work. I don’t care how may touchdowns you scored, or who has your jersey. If you don’t learn the ability to swallow your pride and drop your ego to get a real career like every other hard working individual in this world, then you are going to die a slow financial death. So many people get out of sports and have a chip on their shoulder, which becomes the biggest hindrance to their post sport success. I had to train and serve 9 years old for 6 years to earn my right to be successful in this world because I needed to make a living and feed my family. I could have easily tried to ride the “NFL” tag, but no one cares what you did if you’re no longer doing it on the field.

That would be like a CEO walking into another company and saying, “I Built that company to greatness so I can definitely do it here, but I’m not going to work as hard because I don’t want to look like a low level person.” If he wants to make his new company just as big he’s going to have to work HARDER because its necessary to achieve the same level of success.

2) REDEFINE AND USE YOUR SKILLS. Sports taught you amazing tools that you need to redefine for the working world. The athletes who don’t tap into the strengths that ALLOWED them to have success in their sport always perplex me. Things like punctuality, problem solving, working as a team to succeed, determination, communication skills, etc. These are qualities that employers LOVE, yet we get to a place in our minds where we assume others don’t “get us”, so we shut people out and/or shut down and eventually make it harder to succeed. Next time you are in a hard spot think back to what you did in a game when things got hard and redirect that energy and focus to your current task. You’ll be amazed at how fast you succeed and even get the same rush you did when you were playing.

3) FIND OUT WHO YOU ARE WITHOUT THE GAME. When I got done playing it was a HUGE shock to my system because I didn’t know who I was without football anymore. Everyone knew me as the NFL player, as did I. So when I finished I was internally struggling to find out who I was without it. I felt like I wasn’t whole. Then I started to realize that the person I was inside allowed me to do what I did, not just the body I had. The great part was that this person was still there. I still had all the tools that made me the “football player”. I was no less of a person, I just had finished my first career. I started to write down things that I enjoyed doing and what made me happy from the “game”. I liked training, sports, and people so I decided to open a gym and train others to become the best version of themselves. I in fact got a better sense of fulfillment helping others than I did when playing. I was still the “football player”, but I was also now a man helping others to do what I had done. So dig deep and find out who that person is and what that person enjoyed about the game they played. Then find something that afford you the ability to get those same things from the non sports world.

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Someone Has to Sit on the Bench

By Dr. Mark Robinson PhD

[av_dropcap2]F[/av_dropcap2]or many athletes, sitting on the bench as a reserve can be a painful and lonely reality check. I often work with athletes who develop personal and social developmental issues from sitting on the bench waiting to play the sport that they love. It may surprise you that allowing athletes a safe place to discuss playing time issues can bring them comfort while they adjust to the difficultly of sitting on the bench.

The biggest problem for student athletes, especially high school and college freshman, who receive limited playing time are their parents. Yup, the parents of these athletes. These parents have invested time and money during their child’s pre-high school experience in youth leagues and travel ball. They felt untold excitement when the high school coach expressed interest or when their child was offered a scholarship; a free education.  These parents now fully expect their child to walk onto a high school or college campus and play, be an instant starter, regardless of the number of returning players on a team.

Parents usually have no idea what a child is experiencing through social media, peer relationships and skill development regarding sitting the bench. Instead parents blame the coach’s inability to see true talent and immediately think about the possibility of selecting another AAU program, high school or transferring colleges.

Athletes sit on the bench for a variety of reasons. Some think that they are sitting on the bench because they are not good enough, and need to work harder to get better. For some, a place on the bench is due to the level of talent of the upper or senior class athletes. For others the claim is that the coach doesn’t like them, or that politics and favoritism are at play. All of these things can, and will, race through a young athlete’s head over the duration of their high school or college career, until they get the opportunity to play.

How each athlete copes with sitting on the bench is uniquely different, but they all try their best to deal with their own situation. The feelings an athlete has about sitting on the bench is not something many want to discuss, nor is it something helping professionals or parents are ready to embrace. As an example; ask any kid who sat on the bench on a High School or College team if anyone other than their mom or dad ever discussed how sitting and watching others play made them feel?

A parent once told me;“My son was never recruited to sit on the bench, and the coaches never told me or my child that he would be sitting on the bench. In fact, we were told during the recruiting phase that he would be a big part of the program.” Actually, being on the team and sitting on the bench is a big part of the program; it’s just not the part she nor her son had intended on playing.

Often, mom and dad are the only people athletes in this situation can turn to. However, unless the family has a plan moving forward away from sport, they can sometimes make the situation worse. The conversation should be concerned with the positives associated with playing on the team and a focus on getting better, or the honest truth regarding talent and ability. Possibly a better avenue to take would be focusing on developing a passion outside of sport and accepting the role of a bench player.

Have you ever overheard this conversation?

Q: Do you play on the basketball/football team?

A: Yes. I am on the team. My role is to work hard in practice, pushing the starters and our star player to perfect their craft for game day. I make sure the other players on the bench are involved in the pre-game dance during the announcements, and I am responsible for getting the starters and the home crowd hyped up. I am a big part of the walk through process and I am a star on the scout team during the week. The experience I am having just being on the team is wonderful. I have a great group of guys I get to travel, work and laugh with on a daily basis. But on game day you would never know this because I sit on the bench.  We never hear this conversation because we are failing to teach the true value of the athletic experience.

There is value in sitting on the bench, but often players, parents and athletes never see that value until a playing career is exhausted. A player sitting on the bench can take advantage of this opportunity to learn the game, and see the inter coaching dynamics that take place during, while getting better and gaining the much needed confidence through practice.

The next time you attend or watch a sporting event on any level, look at the bench and appreciate the unseen efforts these players give. The bench player on the high school and collegiate level will never be inducted into the respected athletic departments’ hall of fame for their efforts. The bench player will most likely never be drafted, which means he/she won’t receive a multi-million dollar contract playing sports. However, the bench player can improve their skills, have time to focus on a new passion and truly admit that they were a part of something bigger than themselves.

 

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Coach Stew Robinson: Coaching the 21st Century Athlete

Coaching the 21st century athlete is much more complicated than one might imagine.  We caught up with Stew Robinson to get his perspective on the politics, athlete behavior and needs of coaches outside of the game

PPD Mag: Do you believe athletes need assistance transitioning when they exhaust their eligibility?

Coach Robinson: Yes. The main reason is that they have been programmed to perform in a certain sport since they began playing competitively. They have strived to reach an ultimate goal in going to college or playing professionally without really looking at other alternatives to making a living. Even if they do achieve their goal, most aren’t prepared to go in to another career for the next phase of their life. For example, in my own experience as a college level athlete, when my eligibility was exhausted there was no counseling from the University for the next phase of where I wanted to go with my life.

I believe if there had been some assistance it would have saved me several years trying to figure out what I ultimately wanted to do and how to go about doing it.

I instead had a variety of jobs I had no passion for and ultimately started my coaching career at a very late age. I would argue the current model is very similar to the model implemented when I competed.

PPD Mag: Do coaches require the same type of assistance when they are fired from a job?

Coach Robinson: Yes, especially the assistant coaches or any head coaches that can’t afford an agent. Having a person in your corner and going through your career with you can really help you plan and be prepared for your next job. This person is able to show you all the options available whether it is another coaching position or any other options that you may be interested in. For myself, being in that position currently, having someone on a daily basis with ideas and connections would be beneficial in helping me land my next coaching position or another job of interest.

PPD Mag: How much politics are involved in college coaching and is it sometimes a good thing or always bad?

Coach Robinson: There are a lot of politics in college coaching. It is a really good thing when you have a friend in a hiring position that can give you an opportunity over a more qualified person. It can also be bad when you know you are the more qualified candidate and you are looked over due to politics. For example, often times an AAU coach will be given a position they are not qualified for but have a player they will commit to bringing to that particular program.

PPD Mag: Should a personal player development specialist be part of the teams coaching staff?

Coach Robinson: Yes a specialist is needed for every team or at least one individual for every athletic department. It is important they interact with the student athletes on an everyday basis from the time of the arrival to campus to their departure from campus.  This helps the specialist get a good understanding of each individual athlete’s interests, skills and personality in order to provide the help needed after graduation. A personal player development specialist is a full time job.  The emergence of social media and having to monitoring what each athlete is putting out there is one aspect a specialist should assist athletes with. Student athletes today need individual attention in order to maintain and develop personal growth but also to develop and protect the athlete’s reputation but the university’s reputation as well.

 

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The NBA’s Gary Harris: First Year NBA Experience, Advice for Athletes and Parents

Dr. Mark: Tell us about your first year in the NBA.

Mr. Harris: It was tough. When you enter the NBA, and you have always been the best high school, college, and AAU player on a team, you expect to have similar results. For me, that was not the case. I was inactive for the first 7 games and had to sit on the bench in a suit. That was something I had never experienced in my basketball career. Then, when I finally did get the chance to play, it was not a lot of minutes. We had several veterans on the team who played my position, so my minutes were very small. Around the All Star break, some veteran players were traded, so I saw more minutes but not a dramatic increase. I finally did get a chance to start the last two games of the season, and I played well.

Dr. Mark: Can you tell us about the emotional side of your experience?

Mr. Harris: You go through many emotions. There was some uncertainty surrounding my game. Not from management or coaches, but personally. I knew I could play, and I put in the work and continued to put in the work. But when you’re worried or unsure if you’re going to play in a game, then worried about making a mistake or messing things up as well as trying to play perfect for the small amount of time you’re on the court, that brings up all types of personal questions.

But I believe in putting God and family first and then basketball. Also, people around me kept telling me to be patient and that I was a rookie, but I wanted to play because I knew I could play. I started to just focus on playing as hard and smart as I could, and that emotional uncertainty faded.

Dr. Mark: Complete this sentence: Parents and Athletes…

Mr. Harris: Have to put everything in perspective. They have to have that balance, and the earlier the better. For me, it was football. Early on I played basketball and football, and it wasn’t until my freshman year of college that I focused full-time on basketball. I knew basketball was the sport I wanted to excel in. I wanted to get better; plus, I had one of the best trainers in a guy named Christopher Thomas (CT) who really worked with me.

Dr. Mark: You worked with a basketball skills trainer. Do basketball players need a skills trainer?

Mr. Harris: I think so, because you have so much to learn about the game and what is needed to become a good player. Apart from basketball skills training, I enjoyed my relationship with CT. He pushed me to become better. If players are serious about improving, they have to be pushed to their limits and keep building. Having a trainer builds confidence, which is a huge part of becoming a good player. I understand everyone can’t have a CT as a trainer, but finding a really good trainer that actually knows what they are doing is really important.

Dr. Mark: My son, Nathan, is 15, plays HS and AAU basketball. What message can you give to him and his peers?

Mr. Harris: School, first and foremost—you have to get the grades if you want to have an opportunity to play college basketball. The short amount of time you are in high school should be enjoyable, and if you desire to move on to the next level, the foundation you set regarding academics will pay off in college. If you get recruited, take your time. Don’t take the first offer that comes your way unless that is an offer you really want. Selecting a college has to be the right fit for everyone. Finally, don’t grow up too fast. A lot of kids—especially athletes—want success now, and need to realize success takes hard work and patience. Above all else, have fun, and never take it for granted.

Dr. Mark: What is the Gary Harris Brand?

Mr. Harris: I am in the process of defining that now, and at the moment it is centered around God and family first, and then basketball. I have an AAU team that I am involved with. This gives me an opportunity to give something back to young athletes who are trying to go down the same road as I have. I want to share my experiences with them, so they can hopefully have the same or similar opportunities. In time, I plan to expand my brand to other specific areas, but for now, my focus is on assisting young athletes in their overall development and continuing to work hard toward establishing myself in the NBA.

 

This interview was made possible by Jay Keys

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Sports Do Not Have A Domestic Violence Problem

In 2014 we witnessed a number of issues and concerns in sports, specifically issues surrounding domestic violence and criminal activity of current and former players. Athletes today have made it easy for the media and sports journalists to claim the athletic sector has a domestic violence problem. The NFL has had this issue for many years, but social media and the like were not as aggressive in showing the issues of the NFL or athletes from other sectors of sports. Domestic violence in sports is an issue, not the problem.

The difference between an issue and a problem is quite simple. When you have an issue, you generally can readily come up with the solution. Often, you even know how you would solve an issue before it even presents itself. A problem, on the other hand, is not something that you can solve without forethought and even a certain amount of guesswork.¹ Sports administration on the collegiate and professional level are implementing policies to address issues, but they are not investigating solutions to the problem.

As an example, an athlete exhibiting poor choices away from the field/court [an issue] has a simple solution dictated by policy: suspend the player, fine the player, or get rid of the player. The assistance needed when the athlete makes a poor choice in the first place [the problem] is rarely, if ever, addressed through such policy.

Professional Sports 

The NFL has addressed the issue of domestic violence with policy; however, it would be more productive for management and more beneficial for athletes and society to address the problem through policy and education. The problem is bigger than domestic violence for the NFL and other sporting leagues. The problem is the lack of holistic education engulfed in personal development specifically catering to the personal, social, and professional needs of the athlete.

Quite often when athletes become the subject of criminal or morally corrupt behavior, we try and look at the national average and compare them to their peers. While this may be a good starting point or indicator that athletes do not commit crime more than the national average in their comparison group, it’s not fair, simply because the average Joe is not making millions of dollars, has not been catered to from an early age, and is not in the spotlight 24/7. The elements that assist in athletes’ behavior are so complex and deep-rooted that it is very difficult to judge them based on the statistics of the national average. As an example, the average 22-25 year old African American male is not earning the type of money an African American male professional football or basketball player is earning.

College Sports 

At the collegiate level, comparing student athletes to non-student athletes is another way the media and athletic personnel minimize behavioral issues. College athletes are treated much different from their peers, because their peers and faculty on campus understand the value of having a successful athletic program. According to Professor John Cunningham, who teaches communication studies to around three-quarters of Baylor’s football players, “In the last five years, since we changed football coaches and started winning, the admissions at the university have soared.

“The football team has a direct effect on the number of students that we brought into Baylor this year, and that helps everybody at the university. More students mean more tuition dollars coming in, which means more faculty and staff being hired.” ²– Professor John Cunningham

However, the more popular and successful the program, the higher possibility out-of-sport behavioral issues can occur.

According to Aleem Maqbool of BBC News, away from the football field, many students on the Baylor University campus said their football players were made to feel that they were the university’s most valuable asset. One student reported, “People kind of treat them like celebrities in college, so they think they’re higher than everybody else, like ‘we can do whatever we want.’”² This type of thinking on the collegiate level has a direct connection to the attitude and behavior we have witnessed with the professional athlete.

College and professional sports is a business, and athletes are the driving force behind the revenue generated, like it or not. Up until recently, professional teams have not suffered financially when an athlete displayed unwelcome behavior. However, sponsors and fans are starting to wake up to the lack of personal development afforded to the athlete. The NFL’s mishandling of the domestic violence issues has had a small financial impact on the league. However, for athletes involved in criminal or immoral behavior, the financial impact has been huge. Sports agencies and agents must realize their clients [athletes] need more from them than multi-million dollar contract negotiations. Why negotiate a multi-million dollar contract only to have it terminated because of poor choices away from the sporting environment?

Collegiate officials are also starting to see the need to take a closer look at athlete behavior and, in the case of the University of North Carolina, an even closer look at the athletic personnel responsible for assisting student athletes.

I fear the attention of the athlete’s overall needs has been minimized and classified as a need for policy surrounding issues such as domestic violence, bystander training, or a workshop on dining etiquette. Although this type of training would be useful, I caution that these topics are only a small stem of the root of personal development. Professional leagues and the college sector need to introduce proactive policy regarding the personal development of the athlete.

The time has come for us to stop making excuses, reverting to the national average or a comparison to students on campus, and address the real problem. Only then can we successfully deal with the issues.

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Counseling The Black Student Athlete

[av_dropcap2 color=”default” custom_bg=”#444444″]Dr.[/av_dropcap2]Paul Harris is an assistant professor in the Counselor Education program at the University of Virginia, in the Curry School of Education. His research focuses on the intersection of education and sports, with emphasis on the college readiness of black male student athletes.

Dr. Mark Why the emphasis on the black male athlete in your research?

Dr. Paul Harris: When we look at sports participation from high school through college, the literature is replete with examples of how beneficial it can be, such as connecting individuals to significant others, building work ethic, networking, etc., all of which is true. What I find particularly interesting with the black athlete is that those benefits do not always occur. The educational experience, which is what I focus on in my work, often suffers in the case of Black males. It doesn’t mean we should discourage black males from pursuing sports: in fact, I think quite the opposite. But we need to figure out how to structure, organize, and deliver sports in a way that sports are a mobilizing mechanism for black athletes instead of an exploitive one.

This is not to say that we are to disregard the needs of all other student athletes, however, because I think the experience of all student athletes is unique enough for all to receive some type of targeted intervention and service. But I do think that there is a bit more of a nuance and history to the black male student athlete experience that deserves particular attention.

Dr. Mark: Do athletes need counseling other than academic counseling?

Dr. Paul Harris: That’s a good question. When we look at just the developmental needs and tasks of any student compared to student athletes, they are pretty much the same; for example, identity development, developing a sense of purpose, and developing integrity, are concerns that every student needs to address.. But when you think of student athletes, they such This creates stress that is very unique to the student athlete experience, and warrants targeted support; support, that I would say, could be delivered in the form of counseling.

I think there can be a lot more counseling done outside of the academic realm. I think we first need to demystify the notion of counseling. – Dr. Paul Harris

I think we first need to demystify the notion of counseling. Oftentimes with many populations (but definitely with student athletes), there is a hesitance to access counseling services. It is often deemed as a weakness or a threat to one’s ego, which contributes to many student athletes not even reporting their personal and emotional concerns.

The personal concerns, transition issues, and other areas that the average student deals with need to be addressed by student athletes as well, and in some cases more so because of the unique stressors student athletes face. They deal with all of the developmental tasks I mentioned on center stage, particularly at the college level. Every misstep or challenge they face is occurring in the public light, whereas other students not so much, they can exist privately.

Dr. Mark: How often do you work with student athletes in the area of counseling?

Dr. Paul Harris: Prior to coming to UVA, I was a high school counselor, and I coached a city high school basketball and a college women’s club team. My current role involves training future school counselors. My focus is on training students who are going into the field so they understand how to meet the needs of all students and, in this case, the needs of student athletes.

Last year, I designed a course called Counseling Student Athletes, where I was able to interact more directly with student athletes at the university level, and also with students who are going into the fields of sports counseling, higher education administration, and other capacities that work with athletes.

Dr. Mark: Have you worked with the N4A Student Athlete Division in training student athlete development personnel?

Dr. Paul Harris: I have not, but I look forward to opportunities to do so.

Dr. Mark: What type of counseling do student athletes need when making the transition from competitive athlete to noncompetitive athlete?

Dr. Paul Harris: That’s a good question. I came across your book because I was looking for some information on athletic identity. That’s something I have run across in my own experience, and I have been studying it recently. It is something that I believe we need to really pay attention to, and in reading some of your work, I definitely agree that counseling toward a healthy athletic identity early on—the proactive, preventive type of counseling—is really what’s needed.

Certainly there are other aspects, but I am focusing more on that now because of what I have seen in my personal experience, experience as a counselor, and a scholar. We know a strong athletic identity can be very useful to being successful athletically. However, identifying solely with one’s athletic identity often detracts from establishing other strong identities. As such, there may not be as high a sense of self-efficacy in the academic and career domains, for example. As a result, we can see difficulties arise when it is time to transition out of sports

I think a lot of the counseling could be in creating space for student athletes to strive in these other areas where they have strengths, and then reinforcing such successes. Such opportunities for success in a variety of domains could be facilitated by educators as early as elementary school. Personally, I make a concerted effort in the classroom now to provide a safe space for student athletes to express their intellectual curiosity and then be reinforced for being very intelligent young men and women who happen to be reinforced mostly for their physical and athletic attributes.

Counseling on that front, both individually and in groups, is just unearthing the strengths that already exist in student athletes so that they can see them, and leverage them for future success. Student athletes should be able to see multiple avenues to success. When they get outside of sports, there is going to be a sense of loss, no doubt, but the goal is for that sense of loss to not be devastating.

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Greg Taylor, Senior VP Of Player Development For The NBA


 

 

Greg Taylor, the Senior Vice President of Player Development for the National Basketball Association, gives PPD Mag an interview on Personal Player Development at the NBA level and the future of the programs and services offered to the pros.

Dr. Mark: How important is PPD to the athlete?

Mr. Taylor: I think Player Development is essential to the athlete. As we commit to developing the whole person; both the athlete and the non-athlete, Player Development and our commitment to respond to as well as support the players needs and challenges they face off the court is a really critical piece.

What we’re excited about is developing strategies to respond to the social and emotional development of our players. I would say it’s absolutely essential. I would also say that a player that is effective at managing their entire life and all the issues and challenges that effect them off the court, is also a better player on the court.

Dr. Mark: What role do family members of athletes play in PPD?

Mr. Taylor: We know that family support is critical for the player, whether it’s their parent, caregiver, significant other or friends. We know that the family role is critical and that the family often has the greatest influence over the player and when the player has down time or is going through a challenge, they will reach out to family members simply because they are trusted and familiar.

One of the reasons why the NBA is committed to Player Development that is responsive and inclusive of family members is because we are trying to build a strong safety net for those players to have informed members of the family. – Greg Taylor
One of our primary roles during the draft is engaging and educating family members on what that player was going through during such a heavy time.

Dr. Mark: At what age do you think PPD programs should be introduced to athletes?

Mr. Taylor: That’s a really good question. Conventional wisdom is whenever you’re trying to help a young person learn, the earlier the better and in this case I call players young people. The NBA’s perspective is to engage players when they first enter the league as rookies. We try and have signature programs throughout their playing career, all the way through transition and into retirement.

Dr. Mark: What specific PPD programs does the NBA offer?

Mr. Taylor: There is a range of programs we offer. We have an under-20 program for the players that are being drafted and recruited earlier and while they have tremendous basketball ability, they are also young men who need support to grow into responsible adulthood.

We offer programs around Rookie transition, which is one of our most well-known signature programs. It’s a three and a half day program where we really want to ensure all of the players understand what it means to be a successful professional athlete. You’re entering into a business, so we discuss how do you keep your body well tuned, how do you make good decisions, how do you handle the financial obligations and responsibilities, so all of those challenges are in our rookie transition program.

We also offer players affected by their poor choices a range of programs that are meant to really give them good sound advice, good information, a support network that is confidential and our substance-abuse program, which is one we’re really, really proud of and think is quite effective. So, there is a broad range. I think the headline I would want you to focus on is, we know that the players have a broad range of issues and what we have tried to do is put together programs that help solidify them and make sure they have a strong network they can reach out to and accurate information to help them make good choices as a result, and that’s the kind of platform of programs we offer NBA players.

Dr. Mark: What is the structure of the NBA Player Development division, at the league level, as well as the team level?

Mr. Taylor: We have a tremendous team here at the NBA office, just a wonderful team with decades of experience working with professional athletes. The way we’re structured now, is I am the Senior Vice President of Player Development and there are four Vice Presidents. Three of the VP’s are assigned 8 teams, while the other VP has 6 teams plus the D-league. It is our notion that each of the VP’s work to develop day to day to relationships and be responsive to the Player Development needs at the team level.

Each of the 30 teams has a Team Player Development Director (TPD’s) and we work very closely with them. We view ourselves as having an internal team and also external partners at the team level, that are all committed to making sure that Player Development is implemented in the strongest way possible, that we’re all on the same page and really, when the day is done, fundamentally committed to the player.

Dr. Mark: Does the NBA have specific modules that each team introduces throughout the year, so that they are all on the same page regarding player development?

Mr. Taylor: It’s currently a hybrid and one of the areas that we want to strengthen. We want to develop the programs that Player Development implement across the league to ensure they really are curriculum-based.

Right now, we certainly have best-practices and strong research and documentation behind all that we do, but we have to do a better job of ensuring that there is a curriculum that names what Player Development is, that really talks about outcomes and really pushes us towards a result that we are all excited about accomplishing. So the curriculum is a piece that as a league, we are working on as we move forward.

I think what the Team Player Development Directors do is driven by the team needs. One of the things that is really exciting about the team Player Development role is they are with the team and players each and every day and are in a position where they are naming and laying out what that direction and interaction looks like. We work very closely and in partnership with the TPD’s from the league perspective. There are some content areas like family demands and relationships, financial management, cultural diversity and inclusion, personal security and social media that we want to cover as effectively as possible and we push that information out to the teams in each of those areas.

Future of NBA Player Development 

Dr. Mark: In four years, what will success look like in your position?

Mr. Taylor: A couple of things would be to grow the number of players who have mastery over the challenges that they face, players who are effectively managing their financial resources and have players who are in healthy and strong relationships, both personal and professional.

We certainly want to be able to grow the number of players who are thinking about and preparing for life after basketball. There’s no question from that perspective, those would be indicators of success.

I think from an internal league perspective success is that curriculum I talked about, can that be developed and refined in a way that maximize player input, that we can create and document a way of doing this work that really has a profound impact on the lives of our players. And when the day is done, I hope Player Development will continue to be viewed as an absolute integral part of the business, recognizing that a player who is clear of mind, physically ready to go, has supportive relationships, has made good decisions financially and otherwise is just fundamentally a better player because they have balanced basketball and life challenges.

PPD MagGreg Taylor, Senior VP Of Player Development For The NBA
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Charles Way, NFL Player Engagement Director

Personal development programing is officially on the agenda for collegiate and professional sports organizations.  However, budgetary issues and other priorities have prevented personal development programing from climbing to the top of the agenda in the collegiate sector.  The professional sector has witnessed and clearly understands the need to move personal development programing for the athlete to the top of their priority list.

NFL: Annual Meetings

Rodger Goodell stands front and center when issues arise concerning NFL players conduct as any CEO of a multibillion dollar business would.  However, the CEO hires and delegates duties to a number of highly qualified individuals, who are responsible for making sure that the mission of the organization or the directives of the CEO are carried out.  In the area of Player Development or in this case, Player Engagement the man in charge is Charles Way.

Charles Way is head of the NFL’s Player Engagement division and oversees the continued evolution and implementation of the NFL’s support programing for players and their families. These programs include the Rookie Symposium, NFL Total Wellness, and career development programs. He is a former NFL player and for the past 14 years has served as the director of player programs with the New York Giants.

Dr. Mark: What do you see as your biggest challenge in this position?

Mr. Way: If we are to create a culture of excellence, then we must create an atmosphere that athletic achievement is just as important as academic and personal achievements.  As  a league we have a responsibility to create that standard and culture of excellence.

Dr. Mark: Does the NFL have a domestic violence issue?

Mr. Way: I think it is a societal issue, and I believe we have a great opportunity to take ownership and redefine it for our country.

I would also add that the entire process of personal development programing for the athlete should really begin on the high school level and continue throughout the collegiate level.

We are addressing a number of personal development issues at the youth level. We currently have our NFL Prep 100 and NFL-Wharton Prep Leadership Program. These youth programs are proactive and productive and address a number of sport-related and societal issues.

Dr. Mark: Do you think hiring caucasian females to address the domestic violence issue in a league dominated by African American males will be effective?

 

Mr. Way: We have to realize that domestic violence is color blind and is not just an African American male issue, it’s a societal issue and we have done a great job of putting the right individuals in place internally and externally to address this issue.

Dr. Mark: Should personal development programing become a yearly activity?

 

Mr. Way: Yes, however, at a certain point, it’s up to the athlete to take ownership of his career path. We all know the average NFL career lasts three years, which means athletes competing in the NFL do not have much time to prepare for life after sports, that’s why it’s important for them to start early and make it their priority when they come in as a rookie. I will also say, that for the guys that do have a plan, the transition is still a tough one, and that’s why the NFL, NFLPA, and other organizations have created resources to help them through that process.

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PPD MagCharles Way, NFL Player Engagement Director
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