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.