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LPGA: PROFESSIONAL ATHLET FORUM
December 7, 2005
DR. BETSY CLARK: As a follow-up to the Commissioner's view, we felt it very appropriate to delve a little bit more deeply and probe a little bit more deeply into the issues.
So we've put together a panel, an expert panel, that represents experts from the academic world or the professional sport leagues or associations. They will share with us from their varied perspectives the challenges for the phenom or rookie in transition and the strategies and initiatives and professional development programs that are in place that assist the young athlete in transition.
Our panel consists of Dr. Maureen Weiss, Dr. Carol Otis, Dr. Yolanda Brooks, and Dr. Sara Hickmann. Just to start this, I'm going to ask them each to say a few words about themselves and their position and their emphasis.
DR. MAUREEN WEISS: Okay, Maureen Weiss. I'm a professor of sports psychology in the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Over the last 25 years, my research has focused on the psychological and social development of children in adolescence through their participation in sport and physical activities.
The topics that I've extensively studied are issues like the influence of significance others like parents, coaches and peers; issues related to motivation; self-confidence and self-esteem; and emotional responses as well; also character and sportsmanship.
Currently, I'm engaged in a five-year longitudinal study looking at the effects of a life skills education program on positive youth development through sport. We're following 12- to 16-year-olds over the next five years to look at how various life skills that they've learned through the context of golf - this is a national youth golf program - might transfer to other areas of their life like social relationships, school, and jobs.
Besides my academic background, I was a collegiate athlete in basketball, tennis and softball at the University of California at Santa Barbara, coached college basketball and administered a children's youth sport program for 15 years while I was also a professor at the University of Oregon.
DR. CAROL OTIS: I'm Carol Otis. I'm a primary care sports medicine doctor, which means I'm the type of doctor that won't operate on you, so it's okay to come and ask me about your problems.
I've worked in the past in college athletics, primarily focusing on women's sports, and I've had the opportunity to work for the last 10 years with the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour both as their medical advisor and also as chairman of their professional development advisory panel.
I've worked with other sports as well, with figure skating, with track and field, gymnastics, and have been the U.S. Fed Cup team physician. For those of you that don't know the Fed Cup, please come and ask me later.
DR. YOLANDA BRUCE BROOKS: I'm Dr. Yolanda Brooks. I work with the NBA as a professional development consultant. Prior to my tenure in this role, I worked for seven years with the Dallas Cowboys as a program director there. I am a clinical and consulting psychologist. My specialty areas and interests beyond professional and personal development are also in program design and research.
Dr. Sara Hickmann: Hi, I'm Sara Hickmann. I currently work as a manager of career transition in the NFL in player development.
Prior to that I was working in college athletics for about 15 years. And for my dissertation, I studied impulsive behaviors in professional football players and have interest in...(laughter).
Yeah, I watched games for about a year and a half and was more concerned about if guys got ejected or had a fight than what the final score was. But it was a very interesting study.
Just really very interested in player development and working on our programs, which we'll talk about a little bit later.
DR. BETSY CLARK: I thought it was very important for us to start from the research base; thus, Mo Weiss, who will start our discussion this morning relative to the challenges and the issues relating to rookie transition but from a research base.
DR. MAUREEN WEISS: Okay. As Betsy mentioned, my comments are going to stem from the research on intensive training and psychosocial development of youth and adolescent athletes, but also my comments are going to stem from the general knowledge about child and adolescent development because those issues, as revealed by the commissioners early on, they're adolescent issues in an adult world. We need to understand some of those general adolescent developmental issues.
I have five main points I want to make. They're kind of a challenger issue. I'm going to state the issue, clarify in a sentence or two, then end on an implication.
The first one is that chronological age is not equivalent to social, emotional, cognitive and anatomical age. We need age eligibility rules, but we also know that chronological age, while we use it as a main index for classifying athletes, is not reliably associated with these other age or maturity levels. Two adolescents of the same age can be widely different in terms of social and emotional types of maturity.
For me, this is most vividly demonstrated every year when the Little League World Series comes around. If you remember in August, actually you could probably see that on every team, but the Hawaii team, for example, they were all 12-year-old boys. One 12-year-old was about 4'6" and weighed 70 pounds, and the pitcher on his team, you might remember, was 6' tall, 180, and sported quite a nice mustache. Then we had everything in between, and we see that every year.
I might add that very few of those 12-year-old phenoms actually do make it to the Major Leagues. So the predictability, there's lots of bumps along the way.
So the implication of this idea is that age eligibility rules and policies need to consider the wide variety of individual differences in these various age indices and strategize ways of ensuring that the adolescent phenom is ready for the transition to professional. This might be done through other kinds of interviews and other kinds of standards than just age.
As Commissioner Bivens said, she said that these individuals are experts within the ropes or on the field or on the court. They certainly are outstanding in their sport, but they're still 15- and 16-year-olds socially, emotionally and so forth.
In terms of maturity, we might also interview or screen parents. Although they are adults by chronological age, obviously we heard there are some variations in parents' reactions to kids as well.
My second point, peer relationships, the social currency of adolescence.
We know that acceptance by one's peer group, developing close, emotionally supportive friendships, and feeling a sense of belonging within one's groups are essential developmental characteristics of adolescents in particular. The adolescent who doesn't feel like he or she fits into the group or hasn't had a chance to develop a close, intimate friendship, may be at risk for loneliness, poor social adjustment and low self-esteem.
So the implication here, well, who exactly is the phenom's peers? We heard the commissioners say that often the 16- or even 20-year-olds are playing with individuals much older. Who does the phenom adolescent talk to about life and professional issues? How does the phenom fit into the team structure, and how does that affect overall group cohesion? So how can we ensure the healthy, social development of the adolescent phenom?
This issue, however, also raises for me the importance of identifying the really positive role models among our older veteran players and athletes, because it's these individuals that the adolescent athletes are going to look to for exemplars and mentors.
So in terms of some of the programs in place, even though we're focusing today on the adolescent phenom, certainly the older veteran players play a huge role in that modeling effect.
My third point, feelings of entrapment, coping with expectations of others. All the commissioners mentioned the word "expectations" this morning. We know from research that children and adolescents begin playing various sports and continue because of the love of the game; they enjoy doing sports for the intrinsic reasons.
As young athletes become more and more and more committed to their sport, sometimes there's a potential for that "love of the game" commitment to translate into more of a feeling of obligations to others to perform. These feelings of entrapment may occur because of perceived pressures by parents, by coaches, by teammates, by fans to perform well. It may occur because of the young, elite athlete not feeling a sense of personal control over their involvement. For example, coaches control playing time, and owners may control other kinds of things like dress codes and other kinds of behaviors.
It also may occur because of the young, elite athlete developing an identity that's exclusive to that of an athlete. These factors - identity, control, and pressure from others - come at a time, adolescence, when these individuals are trying to actually reclaim autonomy from authority and where self-discovery about identity is a very valued commodity.
I was long on that, but it's an important point. The implication is that identity, autonomy and pressure from others are all related to feelings of entrapment or the obligation to others rather than the motivation coming from within. Feelings of entrapment are unfortunately associated with burnout and disengagement from the sport. Without multiple identities to fall back on, having options to fall back on, the young adolescent phenom may be at risk in terms of developing negative emotions like anger and anxiety about the future, and decreased motivation to participate.
The next one, recovering from injuries. Psychological rehabilitation trumps physical rehabilitation. My sense as an outsider in watching about the various leagues is that all the sport organizations have tremendous medical personnel to help athletes cope with the physical nature of their injuries. But I can tell you from extensive research in sports medicine and sports psychology that it's the emotional coping with injury that really troubles athletes the most. The take-home message here is that perceptions drive reality. If the athlete perceives that he or she is not rehabilitating as quickly as they want, even though the objective indicators are showing that, that is going to predict their behavior like adherence to their prescribed program and so forth.
Some of the issues, emotionally coping, is the fear of reinjury, worries about letting everybody down - teammates, coaches, parents, etc. - and simply some of the anger and anxiety about not being able to have sufficient playing time. So if the young elite athlete has this exclusive identity as an athlete and injury occurs, then you can see that it sets a lot of things in motion. So the implication here, it's essential to educate athletes about some of the setbacks related to the psychological rehabilitation from injury.
If they feel some control over their recovery from their injury, they're going to be healthier during and after recovery. Maybe most importantly, if they feel some control, they're going to be more likely to persevere with their prescribed treatment of recovery and return to competition and return so in a more timely fashion.
My final one kind of combines challenge and solutions. Developing life skills, an investment in the present, in the future.
Often times we assume that certain skills like interpersonal skills and developing character and goal-setting are acquired automatically from mere participating in sport, but we know that's not true. We need to deliberately or definitively have programs that teach athletes how to engage in effective goal-setting, how to have resistance skills, especially resistance to unhealthy choices and unhealthy behaviors. There are so many stresses in a young athlete's career in terms of there could be difficult relationships, the stress of competition, expectations from others, injuries, the list that the commissioners talked about and that my colleagues will talk about. The skills need to be taught deliberately.
So the take-home message is that professional development - and I actually believe strongly it should start much earlier on - must include a life skills curriculum for explicitly teaching athletes how to engage in these various types of skills.
Now, these various types of skills can be customized for the sport domain, but life skill by definition means that they can be transferred to other life domains - social relationships, jobs, school, etc. So that's why I've titled it, "An Investment in the Present and the Future."
In summary, my five big challenges or issues had to deal with "age," in quotation marks, because I'm talking about multiple ages, peer relationships, potential feelings of entrapment and the consequences of that, the psychological rehabilitation from injury, and the need for developing life skills through a curriculum.
DR. BETSY CLARK: Thank you, Mo (applause).
Again, I asked Mo to start because she's laying the groundwork from the research perspective of what some of the issues are.
Now, I'd like Carol to expand on that, to the issues relative to her perspective.
DR. CAROL OTIS: Thanks. For those of you that are taking notes, all the slide material is in your CD handout so you'll be able to look at it when you get home or print it out.
I'm going to speak primarily from the perspective of a sports medicine physician and someone who's seen adolescents develop over time.
We know in the professional arena that to win, a champion has to develop healthy. There has to be a healthy progress through all the phases of development. We know that the education of that athlete has to start early, perhaps at the very beginning of their stage of development when they're a child, when they fall in love with the sport, when their primary role model is the adult or the coach.
If they don't successfully meet the developmental goals through all the stages of adolescent development, then they don't develop as the whole person and will not be a healthy champion.
The second stage of development would be, say, the middle stage of adolescence, when an individual is just going through the challenges of puberty, changes in their body and their whole orientation changes naturally from the adult as a role model to the peer group. That's an expected developmental process. If someone skips that, if they never connect with their peer group, you may see problems later on when they're 30 and they're still connected to the wrong role models.
Then in the later stage of adolescent development, after the hormonal changes, somebody starts to self-identity, to be able to make their own challenges, make their own decisions, and at that time they are more the individual.
We see some of the challenges that face the individuals who start playing professionally earlier who get identified early. There are high stakes out there. That's not news to anybody in the room. The high stakes include people mortgaging their homes and moving to academies, big pressure to be signed with agents and sponsors early, parents devoting their careers to developing that adolescent. There's also a lot more visibility for a young athlete now than there was 10, 15, 20 years ago. Programs have to balance that out with the realities of the world.
The second is that this is an adolescent who's going through all the cognitive and social, as well as body changes, going through that in a very adult world, and one that they might not have been prepared for if they didn't start planning and getting developed early.
There's also the very real risk of injuries, both physical injuries that we see all too commonly, usually the injuries are of overuse particularly to the growth plates or developing skeleton; but there's also very significant psychological injuries that can occur at this stage and that we need to be preparing for in a proactive manner.
Body image is a huge issue for both boys and girls as they go through adolescence. That's a primary focus they all have. We know too commonly that the emphasis on men is to be bigger and more muscular. We see the epidemic of steroids. And for women, what are women told to do in order to be more successful at their sport? They're usually told to be thinner and smaller and more attractive. So body image is a huge issue for these adolescents, and one that must be dealt with proactively.
Early specialization. By that I mean that the athlete is specializing in one arena of their life, being proficient in sport, but they may lack the social or the cognitive or the educational abilities to develop.
Then, finally, early retirement or burnout can also be a huge issue for someone who's invested the majority of their life, up to age 18 in the sport, but they haven't developed the skills to then transition out into the next arena.
We looked at what some of the stressors were in one arena, and that is of professional sports. Commissioner Larry Scott discussed that. We found in 1994 we asked players and we also asked people of the tennis community and sports science community what were the biggest stressors facing the young phenoms. The players really identified external factors: media, parents, travel, and loneliness. And so programs were put in place to deal with those. Very interestingly, the other respondents listed similar factors, but put them in a different order.
We then put some strategies in place, and this could be a template for what you're already doing, and you might be able to expand on it in the areas you're working on, but we thought it was very important to strengthen what were the support systems known for the players. Their primary support system, and I think it would be true for any athlete, is their health care staff, their support services, that occur through sports science and medicine. We also thought that education was the next key to put professional developments in place to educate not just the athlete, but also the team members.
Prevent. We've talked a lot earlier today about being proactive, seeing what's coming ahead, and putting something in to prevent what the known bumps in the road are.
Most of us have been professionals in the field and seen dozens, if not hundreds of athletes and their families go through the transitions. We can expect where those bumps are going to be. It's our job to put policies and plans in place to prevent the dead ends on the bumpy road.
We also feel it's very important to connect to other governing bodies, to review any programs that have been put in place so that they can be judged to be effective or not effective, up-to-date, or needing revision.
We also have the programs on the WTA Tour reviewed by legal advisers as well as sports medicine and science professionals.
We've also found that it's necessary to regulate, not just to put programs out there, but to enforce them and make sure that they are followed and followed consistently by all members of the community. That includes some of the educational programs, as well as following the rule.
And then, lastly, there needs to be incentives so that people want to follow the programs; that there's a carrot so that individuals get a benefit from being in a program or from accomplishing something. What we've done on the Tour is use the philosophy of earning your way in. If you are good enough to play up, if you're good enough to be in an additional tournament, then you also must be up to date with your educational requirements.
Lastly, the standards are set consistently across the board for all athletes.
We just looked again to see what the stressors were after programs had been put in place from 1994 where the stressors were primarily external stressors that the players identified. And then in 2004 when we went back and asked the players, their stressors had changed. In large part because of the programs dealing with the external stressors, we are now seeing stressors that we would expect to see in any professional sport - the stressors of injuries, the length of the season, the amount of travel, and expectations, meeting expectations that people are putting on themselves as well as external expectations.
And then, finally, we saw that other members of the tennis community and sports science world saw that there might be other stressors in there, but the top two over and over again were injuries and expectations from both professionals playing on the tour to the individuals who are agents and coaches and parents.
So those will be a guideline to the future, where to put more programing and more effective action, is to deal with the expectations and some of the issues that occur with injuries and the length of the season.
Lastly, I just wanted to address some of the challenges that face the phenoms that we really have seen over and over again. Besides media, injuries, and premature retirement, there could be legal issues.
Then for some of the challenges facing the business of sport entertainment is the wannabes, the individuals that believe that they can play at that level, but are not quite ready to do so but yet are challenging the leagues. We have found one strategy of dealing with that is to have very consistent standards, to keep them enforced, and to work with your legal advisers to make sure that the standards are there as accurate stepping stones to a successful professional future as well as ones that help keep people playing at the appropriate level.
I'll be glad to answer any questions in the question and answer session, but I'll be glad to turn it over to Yolanda. Yolanda Brooks is going to present her next material (applause).
DR. YOLANDA BRUCE BROOKS: Thank you.
Before I get started, I wanted to emphasize something that Russ said earlier in talking about basketball being a team sport and the NBA being a component of the team sport.
I'd like to acknowledge the team that's here for player development. If you all would stand so you can see who is here representing player... (smiling)...yes, stand up. Let's not be difficult. I'd like you to see. Come on, everybody, please stand (applause).
Okay, this is just a few of the 15, between the directors and coordinators, managers and consultants, that work directly with the players at the team level, and we all work under the leadership of our captain, Mike Banham (phonetic spelling), who was here a little bit earlier.
It's really important that you recognize that at the league level these individuals have a unique opportunity of working with the players throughout the tenure of the players' professional careers in the NBA. The players may get traded or go from team to team, but through the league office, there's continuity in the relationships that are ongoing because of their ability to work with all the teams and the players on each of the teams.
Let me shift gears and create a context for you in terms of how we address some of the challenges of these young phenoms as we look at our programs that we develop and implement.
The average playing career in the NBA is 4.7 years. The average retirement age is 27. Three out of five retired players have no work experience. Four out of five retired players do not have a college degree. Transition into a new career takes three to five years.
So what are some of the major challenges as these young players transition into the NBA? Well, you've heard previously, and even from Sara and from Mo, the expectations. You have expectations from others, you have expectations that the players have of themselves. But the key thing to consider is are these expectations not only reasonable, but are they also realistic?
And as you can come to appreciate, there is often distortions around how this translates once the player enters into the professional world.
Image is another component, whether it's positive or negative. The perception of the player's ability or the misperception is something that gets perpetuated by others, by the player, by those with whom he is surrounded by, or in the media as well, and they have to contend with that. Within that context, you also look at the globalization of the sport. That perception is being projected worldwide almost instantaneously. Therefore, dealing with the media surveillance, as you might have it, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, can be quite overwhelming, particularly as you heard Mo mention and Carol reemphasize. When you're going through the developmental stages, whether a later adolescent and young adulthood, that can be compounding the challenges of addressing the sport just in and of itself.
When you talk about the talent, the skill sets, you also have to look at the psychological and emotional adjustment that's a component of that. As a psychologist, that's something that's very inherently integrated in the programs that we develop and design. I think one of the strengths of our programs is that not only are they integrated structurally, systemically, but also looking at the person, looking beneath the surface, trying to identify who that person is, what component they represent, and their system, their family of origin.
Also recognizing that their issues and challenges that were preexisting prior to their tenure in professional sports, so are there skill sets that have to be acquired, that have to be created, that have to be enhanced, or perhaps thwarted that could create negative consequences, if you will, as it's magnified in the global arena worldwide of the sport.
So when I create this context for you, when you look at some of the challenges - obviously there are more - but I want you to appreciate that even before you get to the actual game plate on the court, that there are other components and elements that certainly are considered, evaluated, and we try very hard to integrate into the programs that we implement.
So here it is, our program overview. What we really try to do in our program development is really to try to enhance the personal development. I mean, when they enter the league, that's their job. Most of the time it's their first job that they've had, being employed. They have to undergo a mental shift, first of all. Thinking of themselves no longer as basketball players, but also as employees, as business people perpetuating a major corporate entity that is the National Basketball Association. So they have to get into the business of the sport, not just as players and developing skills at this level.
So these programs we try to design to enhance the personal development, reduce health risk factors, which you heard Carol mention, try to manage the pressures. And in managing the pressures, we have to identify what stressors the players may experience. Some of those stressors are intrinsic things that they create themselves that they're responding to, or extrinsic, something that they are responding to externally whether it's the expectations from their family members, the coaches, the media, other sponsorships. There's a myriad of pressures that they experience. Identifying those helps us identify what interventions may be warranted to help thwart and minimize these pressures.
As you recognize, the demands of the lifestyle are great. With each team averaging 15 players, you can imagine the demands of their time and their attention beyond the training of the sport. We try to provide critical resources and support to assist them in their personal and professional development.
So you look at the program categories, and there are three major categories we try to address: Training and Development, Counseling and Assistance, and Education and Career Transition.
As I mentioned, these categories, these are also implemented in conjunction and collaboration with the NBA Players Association. Within each of these categories there exist a number of programs which are also implemented at the team or league level. Let me just mention that at the team level there are also directors, as Russ mentioned, that oversee and implement these programs. So in conjunction and collaboration with those at the league office, you have people on site with the teams that - at least one person - that implement these programs.
So in the past couple of years, not only do you have all 30 teams that have representatives, but at the end of last season, 14 teams upgraded these positions by either adding personnel, one or in some cases two individuals, to oversee and implement these programs.
The characteristics of these programs include training and social skills, which also would include media training, providing individual attention one-on-one. That's one of the things that our consultant does, in addition to our directors at both the team and the league level. Integrated services provided by the teams. It has to be a dialogue between the teams and the league level to understand and appreciate what, first of all, is needed, and also how we can go about implementing so there's not duplication of services. So we assess and determine what's being provided already at the team level, and we try to either enhance that or complement that.
So those are the community-wide or team-wide multidisciplinary collaborative approaches. Again, we try to expand in terms of what services are available, whether it's psychological, medical, health education. We want to make sure that those resources are available, and then life skills and daily living. Those are certainly more critical for the younger player entering into the league.
Our current programs, and these are - I guess it captures most of them, and I'll expand on just a couple of them - the Rookie Transition Program, which I would say is our largest and most comprehensive program. That is something that is required by all drafted players. It's quite intensive. Over five days, just before their training camps. It's held at a location. They are sequestered, and they go from six in the morning until midnight for five days straight. If you can imagine what that's like, I notice some of you in here shifting, getting up, leaving the room, etc. Five days for these young men, anywhere from 18 or 19 years old to 22 years old undergoing this intensive orientation where they cover the whole gamut of topic areas from how you dress, present your image, to financial management, financial planning. You have former players coming in, legends coming in, educational aspects, psychological aspects, sexuality, sexual health aspects, relationships, parenting, parents. You name it, that's what covered.
Not only are they given these opportunities to interact, their learning is evaluated through retention tests. Also they create games such as Jeopardy so that it breaks the monotony and it's fun and a little competition going there.
We're able to actually assess right on the spot what they are able to retain in these lectures that are provided to them so we can evaluate the content to make sure that we are achieving the objectives that we set out in accomplishing that.
I think that we do a very good job there headed under the leadership of Rory Sparrel (phonetic spelling) here today.
We also have the 20-and-under Program, which we're very proud of, headed by Chris Lachin (phonetic spelling) and Dr. Hilliard. That program, actually they go out, home evaluations are completed. They go out to the players' homes and apartments to make sure they have more than an empty refrigerator and an unmade bed there, to make sure they have some fundamental living arrangements.
As you heard, Russ mentioned earlier, some of these guys are going straight from their parents' homes into their own living situations where they're on the road at least 40 games out of the year, living by themselves. The only way they know how to obtain food is maybe through the drive-through at McDonald's. So some very fundamental life skills have to be acquired while they're also dealing with the other aspects that I mentioned previously.
I don't know about you all, I'm a parent and I think about my children going through something like this, and I as a parent would feel overwhelmed.
We also have team awareness meetings which are held. Each team, it's mandated twice a year, in which all the players receive financial education presentations, sexual health relationships, education, coping, adjustment, career transitioning. Those are just three or four of the components that they are obtaining twice a year. And the team goes out to each of the 30 teams. We have career counseling and continuing education, financial management, substance abuse, which we just made some changes in the recent Collective Bargaining Agreement, sexual health education, personal professional coaching.
We have that not only for the players, but for the team directors. We have them going through management skill course that they take. We have a personal coach that goes out, works with the players. A professional executive coach works with the team directors. So a wealth of support that's provided for both the providers, as well as for the players.
I mentioned earlier media training. Business of basketball, which is another required presentation that the players get to appreciate their contribution to the company for which they were hired to work for and how that interfaces with the sport. Because it's also a sport, it's also business, and it's also entertainment.
The interaction of the three components is very important for the players to learn and understand their contribution whether it's meeting with corporate sponsors, whether it's meeting with season ticketholders, whether it's going out to interface and interact with them. Something as simple as signing an autograph for someone after a game, or giving them a headband can go a long way for a fan. So the player-fan interaction is something that we are recognizing increasingly to strengthen that amongst the players and the fans.
The predraft information program in the high school camps, again, that's an initiative where we recognize talented players. We have some of our directors go out and give presentations. Meetings with the parents to help address their questions and concerns regarding players and their potential in working in the professional realm.
The last thing I'd like to present, let me take a moment to do some branding here. This is a resource guide by the LA Clippers. Denise Booth is the team player development director there. Under the support of Andy Roser (phonetic spelling), this is what all new players to their team gets. It's a thick notebook that provides resource information - who's who on the team, where to go for what, some community resources, what player development is about, what it exists for, the mission statement.
So they have a resource guide to help them get acclimated not only to the team, but to the community. It's through the support of the team executives that these directors are able to perform their duties and services as they recognize and assess the players when they come into their team. They meet with them, take them out to dinner, their family members or whatever support networks that they have. Because as the game of basketball is a team sport, we recognize that the players also come from a team, and that's called a family.
Thank you very much (applause).
DR. SARA HICKMANN: Thanks, Yolanda.
When I told friends and family that I got a job at the National Football League, their first comment was, "Congratulations." Their second comment was, "Can you get me tickets to the games?"
I got my first kind of dose of one of the challenges players face in terms of dealing with friends and family and the pressures; tickets being a primary one.
I wanted to just say thank you for being here, for inviting the National Football League here today. I know the commissioner was very disappointed he could not be here this morning. We do have a couple members of our team here. Mike Haynes (phonetic spelling), Vice President of Player Development. Chris Henry (phonetic spelling), our Director of Player Development, we're just right up the road here. Leslie Sachel (phonetic spelling) from the Players Association is in the back. We're glad to have a couple of our team members here, and we welcome everybody to New York.
As Yolanda pointed out, there are a number of challenges that we face on this level, and even though we don't have 14-, 15-year-olds coming in and putting on a helmet and getting on the field, they still have a number of issues that they need to deal with and face during the transition from college to the pros. So I'd like to talk a little bit about what those are for players in the NFL and also about the programs that we have.
I'm faced with the challenge of including unique things, because everything that individuals have said today, the commissioners, Carol, Mo and Yolanda, are clearly also challenges we face.
Financial pressures, managing friends, family and relationships. Uncertainty about the future. We actually had an opportunity to attend the combine this year where players come in and try out, and surveyed players who were coming in about what was on their minds. The majority - or a lot of them - said uncertainty. "I don't know what the future is going to bring." It's very challenging to deal with the anxiety of the unknown, not knowing what's coming next or how long is this going to last.
Injury. Obviously, players, we did a survey a couple years ago within player development. They talked about just dealing with pain on a day-to-day basis. The season in the National Football League is longer than college. They're almost having to train their bodies now for a different kind of event or race. They really are coping with struggling with pain on a daily basis and playing through pain.
Then, lastly, obviously, dealing with media, the high profile of their job, are issues.
I wanted to elaborate on Yolanda's point in terms of the business aspect. I remember talking to a player who I worked with on the college level and he told me the distress that he felt about how to manage the management, the owners and the business aspect of it; that it was very difficult transitioning from what felt more like a family in the college environment, the coaches come to your house and they recruit you, they spend a lot of time with you. You pretty much know that you are going to be there for four years, you get to know your teammates very well. In this environment it's very different. You can be playing with somebody and then the next Sunday be playing against them. It's very hard to feel a sense of security or attachment to coaches and teammates in the same way. They really talk about "this is a business and I have to learn how to adjust to that."
So he actually shared a story that he was so upset that the head coach didn't say hello to him. He was very friendly, he would greet everybody. The head coach was probably on his way to practice and just, you know, thinking about other things. He was so upset and distracted, he got kicked off the field that way, because he was like, "Why didn't you say hi to me? I don't understand." Just even dealing with a different environment can be challenging.
As Yolanda mentioned, similar to the NBA, this league is a temporary job. It's something that they can make a decent salary, but for a short time.
The timeline of a typical NFL player, really, you're looking at 4.1 years. They start about age 8, and they are pretty much done, if they have a good career, around 30. So that's a long time to think about what are they going to do afterwards.
Really one of the challenges we face in player development is working with our player development directors at each of the clubs and our programs to try to get players to think about that right away. Almost the minute that they're transitioning out of college into pros, we're having them think about transitioning out of pros into their next career. We like to talk about that, that this is just one career that you have; you have an opportunity to have many careers, and how might you begin planning for that. The challenge being players worry that if they even think about that happening, it's almost like wishing bad luck; that if they think about the end of their career, it's going to happen. If they plan for it, it's almost like believing that that will come true.
So there's the challenge of how do you keep them focused and doing what they need to do in their current position, but still plan at the same time, again, realizing that there's a lot of uncertainty. Many, many players don't have contracts, don't know where they're going to be, don't know how long it's going to last.
Average career, 4.1 years. They all need a backup plan. I'll talk about our life skills program, but we had a new option at the clubs. They were encouraged to bring in former players to talk about their experiences and what it was like. One of the players talked about the window of opportunity. You don't know if you are going to be able to close the window or if it's going to slam shut on you, so you better figure out having a backup plan so in case that window slams, you know what you're going to do next.
Again, number of bumps in the road that our panel has talked about. Really in the NFL, very similar: Injury, illness, being released, traded, let go. Distance from family and being away from family was another issue that players identified that was very stressful for them. A number of players will choose to leave their families back home because they don't know how long they'll be there, kids are in school, it's too disruptive, so they spend a lot of time away from their family. They spend a lot of time on the road. Very stressful for them.
Confusion, adjustment to new coaches and cities. Players talk about in college they at least had a peer group that they'd hang out with. They had a familiarity. Players now are going to a brand new city, they don't know anybody, and they really don't have -- it's not like players go hang out in the dorms; they go home to their houses, they go home to their apartments. There's no kind of common area where they have a built-in social network.
Coaches fired, teammates released. Typical things that we all go through in terms of changes in our lives, especially unexpected ones. We get calls all the time, the PA does as well, but bad investments, things that went wrong, how do I recover from this.
Just academic stress. We have players who are trying to juggle both going back to school and being in the NFL and feeling kind of tugged between the two goals that they have for themselves.
In terms of how to -- I think player development really is about, as Yolanda indicated, expect the bumps. Carol said the same thing. Many times athletes fall into "all or nothing" thinking. It's as if, "Oh, no, I have no worries," or, "I'm positive I will be 100% successful." "I have to think that way in order to succeed."
When we are in the break-out discussion groups with the athletes, they will say that. The question will be, Can you imagine anything that will get in your way. And guess what their answer is? "Nope, I can't think of one thing that's going to get in my way of accomplishing that."
While that is a strength to be confident and really sure of yourself, it can also really act against you when something does get in your way, and you have no plan for it or no way of preparing for it, or didn't even expect that to happen.
Some of what we do is really educate players that just by planning for it isn't going to wish bad things on you, it doesn't mean it's going to happen. It just means that you're going to feel better and more prepared when it does.
Yolanda did indicate, just in terms of really working with the players to build on their resources, so what are your internal resources, how are you thinking about your situation in ways that are helping you, what ways are you coping with it, as well as external resources. We really like to think of ourselves in player development as a resource to the players. We are the staff members that can hopefully get them to where they need to go.
So how do they increase their resources and decrease the demands that are on them to keep their stress at a manageable level? Because as we know, the higher the stress, the more likely they are to get injured or ill, and we try to really emphasize there is a relationship between your off-the-field life and your on-the-field performance.
I don't know how many of you saw the recent interview with Warwick Dunn this weekend. I was so pleased to see him talking about how he really went through a difficult time of losing his mother. She was shot in the line of duty, she was a police officer. And he went through a very difficult time, was depressed and sought counseling at the advice of a teammate. He talked about how it helped him play better because he was able to have more fun. He was able to enjoy what he was doing again. Prior to that, he was really depressed, felt overwhelmed, was really just feeling like the weight of the world was on him. It affected his play. He played differently.
So continuing to emphasize those relationships with the players, especially ones who are typically resistant to seeking help, I think can be an important part of what we do.
So, again, internal resources, us in player development, within the clubs. We really try to work closely with the athletic trainers, the doctors, and build a resource team for the players in their immediate environment as well as external ones so that they feel connected and that they aren't just relying on their team.
Again, just to highlight some of the programs that we offer as a way of doing this, as a way of encouraging players to get involved sooner than later, to have a plan. Similar to the NBA, the Continuing Education Program. We offer tuition reimbursement for qualified players who want to go back to school. We do advising, help them figure out options. Nowadays there's online classes, they can do correspondence, distance learning. So there are ways around it if they feel supported in doing that.
We began an enteprenurial program. We have a very strong financial education program for players who want to learn. "How do I invest my money?" "How do I start a business?" "I have all these people approaching me about business ideas, I don't know the right questions to ask."
Last year we received really positive feedback from players who went to Harvard and Wharton. I know we have someone from the Wharton program in the audience today. We're expanding that this year to Stanford and Kellogg as well to give players an opportunity to go and learn about these things, how to invest their money and how to make decisions for the long term.
The Internship Program, we have both local and national sites that we partner with to encourage players, get some experience in the off-season, even if it's for a couple weeks, two weeks, three weeks. Shadow somebody. Follow someone. Another player that I worked with last year, he was interested in politics. "Maybe I'll be a mayor some day. Maybe I'll be the president." So he went and shadowed the governor of the state that he lived in, and he came back after a week and was like, "No way. No way am I going into politics. It is way too difficult." He saw the long hours that this guy put in, that he was away from his family, and he was able, in a couple of weeks, to decide, "Actually, that's not for me." It was a great experience because he realized that was an option that wasn't going to work for him.
Then, lastly, our Players' Assistance Program and Services, which really is a broad umbrella to cover life skills related issues. We have, similar again to the NBA, the rookie symposium where we bring rookies in and really spend a couple days of intensive time with them allowing them to talk amongst each other. One of the key things that we find is that players learn from each other. They've got to talk with their peers so that they normalize the stresses. Because when they just stay in their heads, they feel, "I'm the only one in the world going through this, I must be the only one who's struggling with their family about tickets." Next thing you know, you pose it to the group and you find out, Yeah, everybody on my team is dealing with this. I guess that's part of the transition and what I'm going through.
We do a life skills seminar at each of the clubs every single year and are working on developing a curriculum with the clubs so they can have ongoing workshops and seminars. Once a year, obviously, it's a nice springboard, but it needs to be reinforced and done on a regular basis.
Going into a little more detail, I guess we can flip through these in terms of the Tuition Reimbursement Program. Players have to get a C or better, there are standards. They need to be working towards a degree program, undergrad or grad.
We really do a lot of education around the benefits of education, and a lot of our work really is the conversations we have with players. When they get it in their head, "Why would I go back to school, I'm making all this money," what conversation can we have with them to talk about the importance of having that in terms of are they willing to shut the doors on other opportunities in the future? Right now they might feel that, but what about in 10 years, and what might that education bring them?
Just, again, to go into more detail about financial education, the topics that we include really try to cover the basics as well as specific issues that are related to NFL players. So the entrepreneur programs really were designed as a way to target the specific needs of this specific group.
We worked closely with the PA to develop that. It was a collaborative effort again with the four schools. I think the schools are real excited about this opportunity, and the players have really responded positively to it.
Internships. These are just a little bit more specifics.
I wanted to talk a little bit about the marketing efforts and the challenges that we do face in decreasing the stigma attached with getting counseling. A lot of players, A, don't really know, "Why would I go to counseling? What would I even do there? Why would I talk to somebody else about my problems, I have friends and family for that."
And then we have the general stigma that I think a lot of the population shares. You have the male, "I need to solve it myself," kind of mentality.
Then you have the football player mentality which is, "I'm a warrior, I play through pain, I handle high levels of pain, I can deal with things. I am strong and big."
We really tried this year to target that very issue of, actually, no matter how big or strong you are, how smart you are, how capable you are, you can find yourself in a situation where you need some assistance. And in order to decrease the stigma, we not only changed our marketing efforts, but also offered four sessions at no cost to players. "Just give it a try. Can't hurt. Go talk to somebody."
We've identified clinicians in each of the team's cities and are working with them to integrate them into the culture of athletics, but are also obviously specialists and experts in different areas - family, relationship issues, whatever comes up for the players. We have identified individuals in each of the team cities.
And as players move around, in the off-season sometimes they're in a different location, so we're able to have kind of a national network for them to be able to use.
The next slide just talks about the four no-cost meetings. It's completely private and confidential. We really emphasize that. We want to respect the players' privacy. If they want to go see a counselor, nobody has to know about it. We have a 1-800 number they can call. The information is posted at their clubs. We really, again, work with trainers, doctors, the player development directors to get this information out both to the players and their families. We do a mailing to the homes at the end of this season to encourage wives or children because, as Yolanda mentioned, it affects the whole family. The lifestyle and the challenges and the pressures can really influence the wives and children as well. Often times they might feel the need to get some support.
A little more detail in terms of the seminars, we really, again, as everyone talked about, try to cover the key issues. We assess the clubs every year. "What's going on at your club? What do you need us to talk about? How do you want us to address this?"
Making it very interactive, having role play, skits, discussion groups, a former player panel, local people who the players know. Try to make it as meaningful to them as possible, and make it relevant for whatever issues they're dealing with, while still understanding that a lot of the issues are going to remain the same no matter what. Year after year, we see some core issues over and over that players struggle with.
One of the initiatives that we're really trying to work on is to encourage follow-up. So, yes, we go in and do the seminar, but how can we continue to integrate this information and these kinds of discussions on a more regular basis so that players feel that this is just part of their daily life, part of their experience as a professional player. Similar to what Mo said, it's not just the physical training, it's also training your mind. It's also managing your stress. It's being able to look at everything that's going on with you and address what needs to be addressed so that you can be the most successful.
Just the last slide, to emphasize really helping players build a solid foundation, helping them diversify their interest and their skills, helping them build skills, build interest, get involved in a number of different areas so that if and when - when - they are no longer able to play football anymore, they feel like, "I still have other things going on in my life. I still have other things that are important. While I was very talented and blessed to have this opportunity, I have a lot to look forward to and I can make that transition and transfer the skills that I've learned in this arena to be successful off the field and in my next career as I move forward" (applause).
DR. BETSY CLARK: We are going to open up for questions from the audience in a few minutes. I have one question to ask the panel before we do that.
This was really good because the commissioners identified what they felt were the issues and elaborated on it, then we came from a research perspective, we came from a medical perspective, adolescent development perspective, and then we had two great presentations giving examples of professional development programs out there that are really dealing with these issues.
That was one of the messages that we wanted to present to this group, too, that we recognize the issues, there are issues out there, and there are some terrific professional development programs out there. And the importance, if you are out there in the audience and you're with a sport league or with an organization and you don't have professional development, extensive professional development, it is critical to the success of your athletes to have these professional development programs in place.
But one of the biggest challenges I see, and I see it from the LPGA perspective, too, and I'm sure you see it from your perspective, is we have the programs, some are required, some are till midnight, five days a week - and we thought our two-day orientation was grueling, our beginning two-day orientation was grueling. But that is grueling.
What happens after that? You've exposed the rookie to a lot of programs, a lot of initiatives. How do you, so to speak, get them to drink the Kool-aid, to really have those programs be effective? What are some of the things you do?
Sara, you alluded to a few things relative to follow-up, but how do you get the player to the next step of really taking the initiative to do the education, to do the follow-up, to do the things that they need to transition as a professional athlete? Anyone?
DR. YOLANDA BRUCE BROOKS: Is this random?
DR. BETSY CLARK: I'm going to random it.
DR. YOLANDA BRUCE BROOKS: Well, since I spoke, I'll go ahead.
In the NBA what we do is really try to look at a couple of things. One is the culture. We have a significant number of international players. We look at the context the player comes from, who that player is in terms of what they value. So we complete a needs assessment. Ideally, we would like them to embrace all the wonderful things we have to offer, but the reality is, is that they do not.
But from our standpoint, other than the ones that are mandated, we want to make sure that they know, they have the information, they know what's available, they know what it's for. So we provide the resources and information from two levels. We have the team level, so the minute they hit the door; and we have the league level, and that's continually reinforced not only throughout the season, but in the off-season, too. Our directors go out to the summer leagues. They see our faces, they see us all the time, they reach out, they call. There's a touching.
So even if they don't access the programs, they know that we will reach out and touch. They may not drink the Kool-Aid, but they know the pitcher is right there with the glass (smiling).
DR. CAROL OTIS: On the WTA Tour, we believe that the programs are so fascinating that they want to participate and they're very interactive and are designed to interact with them on an individual basis.
But, being realistic, we know that they have to be mandated, and we have a principle that in order to get more tournaments, the individuals must be up to date with all of their requirements and with their programs.
So it's an individualized strategy as well as earning your way into more tournaments and more tournament play, you're meeting your commitments. So it's part of a reality check as well.
DR. SARA HICKMANN: A couple of thoughts. I mean, I think one of the things is relationships. Building relationships with players, whether it be at the club level, player development directors, or even for our staff, spending time with them, getting to know them. Because if someone who you trust and look up to and respect suggests something to you, you might listen more than if it's just a flyer on a wall. So I think we really try to encourage those relationships to be built and formed so that we can get players to, "Hmm, okay, so-and-so suggested this, it must be a good idea."
Along those same lines, using the veteran players, the mentors, as Mo alluded to. Last year was the first year we did an entrepreneur program. When the older players came back and shared with their team, "Man, this was great," that went a long way. Other players were like, "Oh, these veteran guys really enjoyed it and spoke highly of it, sign me up."
DR. BETSY CLARK: I think the mentor idea is a very good idea because they're more likely to, you know -- they respect the veteran player, and they can build a relationship with them. As you all said about the trust, the trust issue, about trusting, the idea of going on and doing this education or this initiative.
Do you train the mentors?
DR. SARA HICKMANN: Definitely. I mean, I think that's a big part of our job in player development is to train the player development directors and the individuals who are in their day-to-day lives so that they feel confident and capable to do what they're doing.
And along those lines, that was the last comment I was going to make, I think often times we assume a lack of motivation, no one's interested, or they just don't care. Many times it's they just don't know what to do or how to go about it. I have players who are very interested in school and they say, "sign me up."
I say, "Okay, this is where you need to take it."
They're like, well, "But how do I do it?" It's literally walking them through. What sounds very easy or simple to people who have done it over and over, when you're moving players out of their comfort zone of the field, something that they're very comfortable with, you have to really take the time to explain how it works and how to do it, not just that you need to. I think that's the other piece.
DR. BETSY CLARK: Backing up with my question about the mentor, this is for all of you, too, beyond your professional staff who become helpers, do you do anything specific for the veteran players relative to training them to be effective mentors?
I think that was what I was trying to get at. I think that that is a key to helping the young rookies in transition, is to have key veteran players serve as their mentors. But have we thought or have we done anything with actual training of those veteran players relative to this mentoring process?
DR. YOLANDA BRUCE BROOKS: I think for us, because of the relationships the players have with the directors at the league office, regardless of their team, that that relationship over a period of time has enhanced that process.
So if there is a team issue or something that that player can step up and be in a leadership role beyond what's in the component at the team level, then certainly we enhance that.
But, you know, for us, it's a little different because there's ongoing interaction and communication through our program. Whether it's through the team awareness meetings or summer leagues or attending a particular player event, that hands-on is perpetuated in that realm.
In terms of the formal mentoring, there are teams that have their own formal mentoring program, one in particular, the Dallas Mavericks, where they hire former players and they're salaried to perform those roles. Others are developing it.
From the league level we've had the infrastructure developing, and we're hoping that that can grow to complement what we've been developing at the team level in addition to the apprenticeship programs, too, that we have for former players to help them transition also.
DR. BETSY CLARK: Mo, from your perspective, what would you suggest?
DR. MAUREEN WEISS: There were two comments I was going to make in listening to my colleagues here. One is that the programs for helping the rookie transition are in place with the LPGA and other organizations as well. I think one of the things we need to know is more information on the actual effectiveness.
I know this afternoon we're going to hear about the study you did and then the 10-year follow-up. So from an educational perspective, it would be interesting to get information now, and then maybe shorter than 10 years actually since the time span is only 4.1 and 4.7 years.
And I think that would not only show how your programs are helping them transfer skills to other areas, but also which -- like both of you had a ton of different programs up there. From a cost-effectiveness perspective, which programs are having the best effect or most successful in putting more resources into those.
The second one about the mentoring, just from research, modeling is a powerful teaching tool. I keep thinking of those Gatorade commercials, "Be like Mike." I'm sure Gatorade benefitted greatly from that just on kids. I think the mentoring thing is grounded a lot also just in other research.
DR. CAROL OTIS: What we did on the WTA Tour, and I'm fortunate to have two of the key team members with me, Ashley Keber and Kathleen Stroia, who will present this afternoon, we have had a mentor program for over 10 years. We found it to be one of the most effective programs for the players. We match a retired player who volunteers and does go through a formalized training program and has access to other resources, that former player then is matched with a protege, a player who is currently playing.
There have been over 50 players matched in the last 10 years. Often times, the protege chooses the mentor, and then they work on issues that are not part of coaching or part of the game, but really about how to adapt to the life.
We've had a historian and a head mentor who's Billie Jean King who also meets once a year with the young players and helps guide the mentors, and what a great role model there. Then we do recognize the mentor-protege pairs at a graduation ceremony. When they've had their effective time together and then they graduate, they're recognized usually at a Grand Slam tournament or at a tournament where there's a home court for one of the individuals, and they're recognized on court for the work they've done. Some of the best feedback that we've gotten from the players is how great it has been to have that relationship both for the retired player who serves as the mentor, and for the protege who's coming up.
So Ashley and Kathleen are in the second row here, and they'll be presenting this afternoon with me and they can give you more details about mentor programs.
DR. BETSY CLARK: We're certainly going to look forward to that case study because I don't know of any other program that has done a 10-year review like the WTA has done.
At this point, I would like to open up for any questions from the audience. Could you also state your name and where you're from or who you're affiliated with.
Q. Scott Rosner. Faculty at the Wharton school, University of Pennsylvania. I was part of the group that was involved in the entrepreneurial management program. Just to follow up on what Sara was talking about in particular, one of the things we found was that it was really important that we had the coaches involved. I don't mean the NFL coaches; I mean we actually had specific faculty at the school, at the university, who worked with small groups of players. There was a lot of breakout sessions. They continued that relationship over time after the program ended, and they're still in touch with them, which has been incredibly rewarding for the players involved in the program. On the other side, there was a lot of informal mentoring at the program itself with the veteran players informally mentoring the rookie players. There were a number of players at that program who had only been in the league for a year and they were practice squad players for a year and understood the importance and emphasis that was being put by the NFL on encouraging early enrollment and start transitioning now. I think that's one of the intervention strategies that can really get the players to embrace the project.
DR. BETSY CLARK: Okay.
Q. Grant Carter with RBC. We're directly affected on the financial side by the platform the NFL has put in place in terms of registering and regulating the financial advisers that are allowed to form their duties to NFL players. I know the roots of that program really stem from the fact that some of the players who have had bad experiences created some momentum and that was built out of it. My question I guess would be the programs that are in place across the board, all the sports, how much input is derived from the actual player when you go towards creating a new program? I guess equally important, how much input is gathered from the players in terms of reviewing, adjusting and amending the current programs so they're constantly relevant? Because nobody better to tell you than the people that are utilizing it.
DR. YOLANDA BRUCE BROOKS: I'll go first. Several of our directors are former players, and so we have their input as well as current players that are more veteran. We do get that, and I think that's an area of needed improvement. I'd like to see more, actually. But having access where they are available in a collective forum to provide that has challenged us up to this point.
Also, you're talking about outcome studies. That's something, too, that we are developing and trying to figure out a way to actively measure. One of the first ways we did that was at the rookie transition where we were measuring the retention and looking at the outcome of what we set out to do and if we actually accomplished that. That's our first step in actually doing this.
I mean, we are trying to identify what professionals and scientists we might need to help us implement what the tennis association has already done. We're watching that very closely and looking at how that works.
But we also have to do this in collaboration with the Players Association because some of the things that we do are considered confidential and we don't want to violate any of the privacy aspects. Some of that is educating the players about what is considered private, because they're so open and so used to sharing just about everything, we want to make sure that component.
But the simple answer to that is, yes, that is something that we're looking at. We do have a dialogue. We'd like to strengthen it. We want to build on the foundation we already have.
DR. SARA HICKMANN: I think it's a great question and key. I mean, really critical to get feedback from players as much as possible. We try to evaluate everything that we do from their perspective, get their input. Even this year we invited a former player in to review the skits we were going to present at the club. Say, "Is this realistic? Is this something that would have happened? Is this something that you actually faced or dealt with?"
Constantly working with them. And going back to the relationships that we have, I agree, we can always be better in terms of our specific programs. I know the Enteprenurial Program had an evaluation that was sent out or given to the players and really considered that in planning for this year. Same with our Life Skills Program, we have all of the players fill out an evaluation - well, those who will. Some leave, but most of them we can get back and can really look at. How can we take what they have to say and change what we're doing for next year and make it better?
We also have player reps who have a voice with the Players Association and trying to get them actively communicating the needs of their team and the players' voices heard.
Q. Rory Sparrel (phonetic spelling), NBA. Sara, we always plan about the bumps in the road. You guys had a very interesting year this year in terms of Hurricane Katrina. What special program did you develop from that?
DR. SARA HICKMANN: Yeah, I mean, talk about unexpected bump, and one that even the national government -- I don't think anyone was fully prepared to deal with that.
We really were hit hard. The first thing we did was to contract with a company called Life Era (phonetic spelling), which provides kind of case management information to the players. Like they didn't know how do I get my mail, how do I file claims, how do I change my child's school to a different school, how am I going to deal with all these expenses and moving. What if I need immediate assistance?
So this company really specializes in more of the case management, and they also do counseling. So they offered eight free sessions at no cost to the players or any of their family members.
Mike went down to the Saints the first week after it happened to present this and talk to the players about it. We really tried to disseminate that information to all the player development directors because what happened was it wasn't just the Saints affected, it was any player from New Orleans or who had family there. We found the entire National Football League was affected. Obviously, the Saints more profoundly and significantly, but it really rocked the entire community.
It was amazing to watch players get involved in the process of that, so we also tried to, you know, communicate what was going on, what different teams were doing. We did a whole edition of the players news just devoted to the hurricane and the resources that were provided and the programs or the work that each of the teams did to assist.
Then we created a specific life skills seminar for the team, brought in clinicians to talk about how have you been affected, how are you dealing with it, and really just trying to stay in constant communication with them in terms of what can we do, how do we provide support to you.
Yeah, it was definitely an unexpected situation.
Q. Brad Kline from Golf Week magazine. In two cases at the NFL and NBA, you're dealing with by definition highly successful athletes who have gone through all sorts of high school, college drafts. In the process, thousands of athletes have been left in their wake and have never made it to the pro ranks. You're dealing with a very privileged group. What does research show and how effective can some of these programs be with reaching kids while they're in the whole process of socialization? To me, the real tragedy of youth sports isn't the ones who are phenoms in the league, it's the ones whose dreams are shattered before they ever get to that stage.
DR. MAUREEN WEISS: I completely agree. The 99.99% of the other kids going through various sports - I don't know if that's accurate, that's probably pretty accurate. That's why I keep mentioning that I think that youth sport programs can serve as a great context for helping teach these life skills. One of the challenges, of course, is coach education. In this country we have, it's been estimated between 30 and 35 million kids playing sports between the ages of 4 and 18, and there's about 3 million coaches. There are really minimal requirements for coaches to coach at the youth sport level; whereas in Canada, our neighbor, if you want to coach youth, whether it's a five-year-old or an Olympic team, you have to go through a certain number of hours of child development, training and conditioning, first aid, CPR, those kinds of things.
I'm pleased that you brought that up because I am sort of the proponent of all sports and all kids, and more resources could be directed I mean from a government level to help create coach education. When my colleagues here have talked about trusting relationships, that's where it starts. So coaches can have a big effect there.
I mean, only a very, very small percentage are ever going to make it. In fact, the percentage that go from high school sport to college sport is very tiny as well. It just keeps getting smaller and smaller as you go up.
I'm a big proponent of skills and opportunities for all, but we just have to direct our resources that way.
DR. BETSY CLARK: Okay. I'd like to thank the panel. That was terrific (applause).
End of FastScripts...