All posts tagged: Dr. Mark Robinson

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.

See more Interviews, Articles or Videos

Back To PPD Mag

PPD MagCounseling The Black Student Athlete
read more

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
read more