October 2015

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

See more Interviews, Articles or Videos

Back To PPD Mag

PPD MagAn Account of a Collegiate Student-Athlete’s 5yr Experience: Part 1
read more

England Academy Football and the Pressure

In recent years youth football/soccer has grown tremendously in England. The game has always been popular but with the growth of sports channels and the internet the following of the Premiership League and the enthusiasm for the game has gone to another level.

Every local park has children as young as five dribbling through cones, a few years after these children are moving into playing in mini/local leagues. Football interest developed into neighborhood teams and now football academies have blossomed all over England.  These academies are looking for talented players to continue developing the game as well as making the academies attractive to the next generation of footballers.

All Professional clubs run youth academies and are also seeking the best of the best to groom for first team or the professional level. Due to the footballers salaries and fame attached to being a professional footballer, the competition is fierce. Professional club academies attract large numbers of young kids from various backgrounds with a variety of personal player developmental needs.

Through my years of coaching football and mentoring young athletes I’ve encountered  academy players missing a developmental component.  Most recently I’ve had an opportunity to get to know a young footballer who was willing to share his thoughts on what it’s like to play football at the academy level in the United Kingdom.  The name of the player has been withheld because we want to make sure he is not judged by his comments regarding the UK youth football academy sector and the area of Personal Player Development.  This young man is 13 years of age.

Mr. Gentle: When it comes to football what is your ultimate goal and what steps are you taking to reach it?

Academy Footballer: My goal is to make it as a professional footballer, in order to reach this goal I will work hard, focus and try my best to play well.

Mr. Gentle: How do players join a football academy?

Academy Footballer: Most players get spotted by a scout when they are playing for a well known local team or in borough competitions. Many local coaches also work for or have contacts in academies. If you play for a team that’s unknown I’m not sure if there’s any way of being spotted.

Mr. Gentle: What have you realized since you have been in the academy?

Academy Footballer: You realize that you’re not playing for each other you’re playing for yourself, because when you get offered a contract it’s for you not for the other person… just my name.

Mr. Gentle: How tough is the competition between players?

Academy Footballer: It’s a very big thing, if you’re not doing well you’ll be let go and around my age it’s harder to get into an academy than it was a few years ago. Academy teams already feel like they’ve seen the best players. If you started playing for an academy at a young age (8 or 9 years of age) you will have developed a lot quicker than someone who is joining at a later age.

Mr. Gentle: What support do academy Footballers receive from the club or organization?

Academy Footballer: They pay for your expenses and if you’re having issues in school they’ll visit the school to speak with the Head Teacher.  You really don’t receive any support regarding social media use or relationship development.

Mr. Gentle: Do you think players need support in other areas off the pitch?

Academy Footballer: Yes, encouragement and motivation. Particularly in my age group because one or two will make it and the rest will probably be released. I feel a great deal of pressure to get it right every game so I can make my family proud. A lot of academy players focused on nothing but football without consideration of other possible career options.

Mr. Gentle: Do you have a backup plan and how important is having one?

Academy Footballer: Yes. I think all Footballers should have a backup plan because it’s very hard to make it as a Professional Footballer. I think 10% of elite academy players make it in the whole country, the rest get released, but that number could be lower. If they have a backup plan they can go with that… but if they’re fortunate enough a lower league team may want to sign them.

 


 

It seems from this interview England football needs to start looking at a different approach to educating young footballers.  Personal Player Development is clearly an area all sport sectors in the UK need to address from three perspectives.  Personal Player Development training for helping professionals working within sport, implementation of programs and an awareness campaign of the issues and challenges athletes experience.

Interview submitted by Anthony Gentle

 

See more Interviews, Articles or Videos

Back To PPD Mag

 

 

 

PPD MagEngland Academy Football and the Pressure
read more

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.

 

 

 

See Part 1

See Part 2

See more Interviews, Articles or Videos

Back To PPD Mag

PPD MagDr. Tommy Shavers: Part Three, Culture, Sex and Power
read more

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

Follow Nick on Twitter

See more Interviews, Articles or Videos

Back To PPD Mag

PPD MagMemoir of an Athlete: When the Invincible Meets the Invisible
read more