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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

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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

 

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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.

 

 

 

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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

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Scam Alert: Warning ALL Basketball Players

[av_dropcap2]L[/av_dropcap2]ast year a professional basketball player was offered a contract to play for a team in the United Kingdom.  The player called me and asked if I would look over the contract to make sure he was signing a fair contract.  As I reviewed the contract I noticed one thing that stood out, the salary.  The salary was $70,000 and with bonuses, worth around $90,000, after tax.  Many teams on the international market pay this type of salary however in recent years I have not seen a contract from the UK totaling such an amount.

Although the contract had the team logo, Presidents name and address on it, (who I know very well) I was still unsure as to the validity of the contract, but I told the player  the club could have landed a big sponsor and might be able to pay such an amount.  Some might ask, why didn’t I call the President of the club?

As a PPD Specialist, my role is to provide personal development services for athletes, not act as an agent.

After signing the contract and sending it back to the club. The player was then asked to send money through Western Union to pay for half of his flight to London.  Huge red flag!

I checked around and my international contacts informed me this is the scam, which has grown into big business.  Unfortunately, a group of people (Nigerians) have blank basketball contracts and use them to trick players into thinking they have a job playing overseas.  After the player signs the contract, the Nigerians quickly request money from the player, stating “the money is for half of the amount of the flight and the player will be reimbursed once they land” soon after receiving the money these Nigerians end up disappearing.

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Since the summer, I have spoke to ten players who have been asked to send money to a team for a flight and none of them were real playing jobs.  Just the Nigerians trying to trick them into sending money.  These folks are based in London and will tell you they are officially a scout for the team.  In actuality, they have nothing to do with the team.

Every college basketball player passed over by the NBA, wants to have an opportunity to play overseas and these folks know that.  They will tell you everything you want to hear and provide a contract that looks real.  Don’t be fooled, check and recheck the people your doing business with.  Look on the internet and see if the team is looking for players and most importantly be realistic.  If you have any questions contact me @drmarkppd or drmark@ppdmag.com. You can also join our Facebook group.

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Dr. Tommy Shavers: Part 2

Dr. Tommy Shavers is the president of Tommy Speak LLC., a speaking and consulting company which focuses on leadership, teamwork, communication, and personal development. He is also the co-founder of the Atlas Group Advisors.  Dr. Shavers has been involved with helping athletes for decades which is why we consider him to be one of the few pioneers in the Personal Player Development industry.  This is the second of a four part interview, it only gets better.

Do you believe very few people are out to help the athlete in the area of personal development?

I think there are very few people currently who are actually qualified to able to help athletes in this area. I believe there are very few truly qualified in this area because it’s never been a primary focus area of development for the athlete over the years. We have progressed over the years with the focus on athlete development. We started with athletic development, and then we moved to physical development, academic/educational and then mental/emotional/clinical. Today we are moving into the social/behavioral era of athlete development. It often takes some major issue to see that an area is lacking and in need of addressing. Today more than ever, behavioral risk management is becoming a primary factor in talent acquisition across industries. With the growth of a global and instantly connected society, organizations have to really invest in figuring out if a prospect can not only be an asset performance wise, but will they not be a liability socially– how do they handle life, how do they interact within the greater society, how are they developing as an overall person?

They also have to discover what is the social/personal/behavioral atmosphere of their organizational culture, and how can they best create culture of positive social, personal, and behavioral outcomes. Issues like domestic violence and sexual assault are examples of the social and behavioral era of athlete development now being the focal point of the sports world. So I believe this is the next evolution in the total development of today’s athlete for today’s sports organizations. In this fast and growing field; I can see social/personal/behavioral development becoming the foundational development criteria and focus of all major sports.

Coaches often say, the number one ability they look for in a player is availability. This couldn’t be truer in today’s sports world where a player’s behavior off the field has in some ways eclipsed their importance or value on the field. I believe most in the sports world want a solution, however just like with any new paradigm shift; someone has to pioneer this solution into reality. Individuals like yourself with the PPD Magazine and the work you do, myself, and a handful of other extremely qualified individuals are in the process of making that happen.

Who benefits from the college athletes participation in sports?

I think there are too many to name in this interview. For starters, we can refer to those gatekeepers I mentioned earlier. These individuals have monetary incentives tied to athlete participation. However, there are numerous other individuals and industries who indirectly benefit from athletes participating in sport.

Does society see athletes as products or people?

This one is kind of tricky because many in society treat athletes as products; making money and opportunities from their success. However, at the same time, they are expecting them to act like normal people. However, if you understand power cultures, this wouldn’t be surprising as individuals with power often dehumanize people and see them more as objects to use and leverage as oppose to individual to help and empower.

Can the domestic violence and sexual assault problems in sports be address the same way society is addressing domestic violence and sexual assault?

Great question. The answer is no and here’s why. The issue or question isn’t is this a sports issue or a societal issue as most have tried to make it out be. While we can admit that there is a general societal problem in these areas, the real question is are the causes for these issues the same in all walks of society? We know the answer to that is no. For example, there is crime in every city in our country, while this is a general societal problem, there is no such thing as a general societal solution. Each state, city, town has its own set of unique variables and factors that are necessary to understand if their goal is to address the crime in their particular community. What would work for one community would not work for another. This is the same when it comes to domestic violence and sexual assault in sports. Rather than focusing on it being a bigger societal issue, we have to discover what the unique factors are attributing to it in the context and culture of the sports community.

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PPD MagDr. Tommy Shavers: Part 2
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Dr. Tommy Shavers: PPD Pioneer, Part 1

Dr. Tommy Shavers is the president of Tommy Speak LLC., a speaking and consulting company which focuses on leadership, teamwork, communication, and personal development. He is also the co-founder of the Atlas Group Advisors.  Dr. Shavers is a published author, a member of the NeuroLeadership Institute, and a contributing author to Linked2Leadership, one of the nation’s top leadership blogs.  Dr. Shavers has been involved with helping athletes for decades which is why we consider him to be one of the few pioneers in the Personal Player Development industry.  He has created and brings a unique perspective to his areas of PPD expertise.   He took the time out of his busy schedule to give PPD MAG a four part interview, this is a must read!

Dr. Mark: Tell us about Atlas Group Advisors and it’s purpose.

Dr. Shavers: Well, Atlas Group Advisors was recently founded by long time friend and high school alum Bobby McCray Jr. who played college ball at the University of Florida, was drafted in the NFL by the Jacksonville Jaguars and eventually won a Super Bowl as a key member of the New Orleans Saints Championship team. Bobby and I both attended Homestead Sr. High School where his father was the long time successful coach. His father Coach McCray Sr. was and still is a personal mentor and father figure to me. While Bobby was in the height of his professional playing career, I was being the nerd that I am and researching the behavior of influential people after my college career had ended at the University of Central Florida (Go Knights…Charge On!).

I really wanted to know why people began to behave differently when they acquired some new level of status, power, or influence. I was seeing it so vividly in the three of the main areas of my life at the time; sports, faith, and business. I was seeing people change and began to behave  poorly, treat people poorly, and make horrible business decisions once they had this newly acquired influence. After Bobby finished playing, he realized that during his time, he had missed out on taking advantage of a lot of opportunities that could have benefited him long after football. He decided that he was going to focus on helping other athletes in the game avoid some of the practical pitfalls he had seen and experienced. When I found out we had this mutual passion for helping athletes, we merged our practical, professional, and educational experiences and expertise and started AGA. It was a perfect partnership and a seamless transition.

Atlas Group is a unique high profile consulting firm for individuals who live or work in high power cultures, and live high power lifestyles such as athletes, celebrities, politicians, law enforcements, and organizational leaders. At AGA when we refer to power we are referring to a level of influence and control someone has over others and resource. So, examples of power could be wealth, fame and notoriety, status, and authority. The name Atlas represents individuals who live their lives under the weight and expectations of the world while being expected to produce positive outcomes.

Our strategic, philosophical, and practical approach to consulting, life coaching, and behavior management are built on our understanding of the significant influence that power can have on power holders in the areas we refer to as their culture, character, and conduct. Many individuals are acquiring power and are unaware of its effect on their mindset and actions. And because they are unaware, they are also ill-equipped and unprepared to prevent some of the unwanted behaviors that can come from being what we refer to as HPI’s (High Profile/High Power) individuals. So our goal is to help our clients help themselves by equipping them with the resources and advisement to better manage and leverage being individuals of power and influence.

Dr. Mark: What is the problem with this generation of athletes?

Dr. Shavers: I know what I’m about to say may seem a bit long winded to some, but it is the best way to fully articulate what we see going on today with this sudden fame phenomenon. In the same way that the game has evolved; the culture around the game has evolved as well. From a societal perspective we are living in a time that is unlike any time before, where the average person can acquire the fame, wealth, and power of the kings of old; without the lineage, pedigree or preparation that came with it.

In the past, there were few ways individuals could acquire such power and influence. This kept high levels of power in the hands of a small few. This is not the case today. Today someone can go from the outhouse to the penthouse instantly with a tweet or an uploaded video (or lottery). While they may receive quick fame and notoriety; it rarely ever ends well when it comes to their actions and behavior.

The reality is, most people are not prepared mentally, emotionally, and most importantly socially, to handle being powerful people living in a power culture. This is what often happens with today’s athlete.

Many of the athletes today (who are minorities by the way) are often unaware and unprepared to become individuals of such high status, power, and influence. What makes the situation more challenging is that these young athletes often come from very power deficient cultures, where they have little to no power in the form of wealth, fame, and status. They are often depraved of opportunities in pursue of achieve their wants and goals. So when they become big time athletes (as early as youth ball), they begin to experience the newly found intoxication of having status and power. At this point the world that was once closed to them in every way now is catering to their every need; providing them with pretty much whatever their hearts can imagine. So these kids leave one un-normal culture and are placed within another un-normal culture, and are expected to do what…act normal.

This is a difficult reality and unfortunately many athletes have fallen victims to their own culture while creating victims as a result of their actions. You see what’s normal behavior in a power culture, isn’t normal behavior in traditional culture. It’s when those two worlds collide we see what normal society calls poor and unacceptable behavior of athletes. If left unaddressed, it’s almost as if, the culture is setting the athlete up for eventual behavioral failure due to the unrealistic treatment they receive from individuals such as fans, women, coaches, money people, friends, teachers, and others who are enamored with them and their status.

What many fail to understand is that the behaviors we are finding appalling and unacceptable; this has been normal behavior in their culture for years. As one athlete said to me during a research study, “we didn’t create the culture, it was already here when we got here.

Dr. Mark: Who are the gatekeepers, in athletics? 

Dr. Shavers: Ok, so I see the gatekeepers as the individuals who have a direct influence over the athlete and have a responsibility for seeing them have positive outcomes personally and professionally. So who are the gatekeepers; they are the sports agent, the money managers, financial advisors, coaches, and management. My thoughts about these gatekeepers are not real favorable in general. Now I know there are some good people in the list I just mentioned, however, for the most part, I haven’t seen these individuals take responsibility for the outcomes of these athletes. I know some will say that they are their own people and should be responsible for themselves. Here’s my thought to that…

First most of these athletes are kids when they enter into the hands of these gatekeepers. They are not experienced, mature, or knowledgeable on how to live the life of a high profile athlete. We keep hearing about athletes ending up broke right; my question to you is at what point did they ever become financially savvy? At one point did they ever learn to manage millions? Never! Just a few months prior, they could barely afford a dollar menu meal.

But yet society keeps saying, these guys are stupid, reckless, deserving of their misfortunes. I disagree, I am wondering how does someone who doesn’t know about managing money, lose it all while having professional money managers.

This isn’t an issue of guys going broke, this is an issue of unprepared athletes being exploited by people who get away clean with little or no accountability for their actions. So I think that the individuals that have such high investments in these athletes should be obligated to better manage all aspects of the athletes’ life and face some of sort of repercussions for not doing so responsibly. There has to be more of an accountability incentive on these gatekeepers to make them care more about the outcome and wellbeing of the athlete.

Read part 2 next week.

 

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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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PPD MagSomeone Has to Sit on the Bench
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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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