January 2016

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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The Joe Asberry Project 

Joe Asberry left the USA in 1991 to play international basketball and has not been back since.  He has played in Switzerland, Japan, Germany, Finland and Luxembourg and to this day lives in Berlin.  He is currently a social worker, who is an international guest speaker on drug prevention and sports motivation.

Dr. Mark: Why are your youtube videos so Hard Core?

Mr. Asberry: I try and just keep it real and its a rage.  I really felt I was not treated fairly in the college system.  I also think it stems from my experience at Pepperdine University where I was redshirted and then the next year they shipped me out!  Now, I made mistakes, but I think they could have had someone on campus working with me on the issues I had.  It was clear that I had a substance abuse problem back then as well as a lot of other guys on the team. I won’t name names, lol.  The reason I am speaking after years is to show them they did not stop me from achieving my goal. I also want to help educate and inspire the next generation of ballers.

Dr. Mark: Playing basketball in Europe, what are the key issues athletes need to understand?

Mr. Asberry: One, off the court issues

Financial Issues:  are you going to get your money on time or at all and most often players money is late.

Health Issues:  Most teams have health coverage but I have heard too many stories of guys getting hurt and soon after, they are released from the club.

Social Issues: The club life will kill you and the women really, really are interested in you and I have seen guys get caught up in that and I was one of them but the social seen didn’t dictate my success.  Some guys can handle it but some guys can’t.

Cultural Issues: Athletes coming abroad have to be willing to embrace the culture.  The American culture is something they should leave in the USA, if not players never last on the international level.

Mr. Asberry: Two, on the court issues

Coaching and communication: some coaches don’t speak english and so it makes it tough to communicate in games.

Knowledge of the game of basketball:  Many of the coaches don’t understand the game in the same manner that US coaches do.

Teammates: Most of the teammates will be envious of your journey through basketball development and the major factor is your American and most Americans playing abroad get all the attention.

Knowledge of the game of basketball: the international rules are different and the style of play is a bit more technical from a fundamental stand point.  The USA has athletes on the court but many cant think the game.  The international game involves a lot more thinking while playing as oppose to just playing.

Dr. Mark: Can we expect more, of Joe’s Basketball Diary in 2016?

Bet on it, LoL…..

Click here to listen to Joe’s Basketball Diary 

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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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