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  1. Malik Allen: Finding Post-Career Success With inRecruit

    by Steven Cohen 02-01-2014 11:55 PM Life After Sports | Sports Business

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    Professional athletes like Malik Allen remind us that success at the highest level of athletics can be defined by something other than championships, enormous salaries, and lucrative corporate sponsorships. After playing four years of Big East basketball at Villanova and making the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament twice, Allen entered the NBA in 2000 as an undrafted free agent. The dedicated and determined Allen was able to spend 10 years at the highest level of his profession – more than twice as long as the average professional in his sport.

    Allen was not one of those guys one would assume would make it at the pro level. But he persevered and pushed through a career in the pros that was filled with the uncertainty that comes with short contracts and frequent trades. Starts were rare, stat sheets arguably less than stellar, and the windfall checks and seven-figure shoe deals elusive. He was a role player and he understood his role perfectly. His own measured assessment of his playing days is neither modest nor self-deprecating. He understands there aren’t legions of kids out there putting themselves to sleep at night with dreams of being like Malik, just like he understands that anyone with professional hoop aspirations would be lucky to achieve a fraction of what he has. Allen worked hard to earn every minute of the decade he spent in the NBA, and he is proud of what he accomplished and grateful for the opportunity.

    NOW RETIRED from the game, Malik Allen has co-founded a company called inRecruit, an online recruiting community for players, parents, coaches, fans, and sportswriters. inRecruit is a place where players can build profiles advertising themselves and search out schools and coaches they’re interested in. Coaches meanwhile, can track the development of players, as can sportswriters and fans. And Allen, along with co-founder and former Villanova classmate, Joe Rocco, is behind it all.
     
    A few innovative features have received some early attention, like the software that automatically updates online news mentions of a player or team, or the one that tracks who has been looking at your profile. But inRecruit brings to the table mostly the same things any social media site does: access. Everything is all in one place with available search options that make connecting with people simple. As such, it is the Malik Allens of the world who stand to benefit.
     
    “Athletics for many people is an opportunity,” said Malik Allen. “And that’s what we’re trying to offer: an opportunity for coaches to take notice of kids they never possibly could have in the past, an opportunity for players to learn about schools they maybe didn’t even know existed.
     
    “When you look at the recruiting landscape, there’s so much guessing that goes on. No one really knows what’s out there and what to make of the information they have. At the end of the day, inRecruit is about cutting through the noise.”
     
    inRecruit is not for Division I coaches with scouting budgets or blue chip high school seniors with a jump shot. It is really for the small town varsity starter who, like Allen, isn’t ready to call it quits after high school, but doesn’t know where to turn. It is for the Division III coach who can’t offer a scholarship but needs a well-rounded player who will fit the team.
     
    “InRecruit fills a void in recruiting,” said Joe Rocco. “An information void. People can’t be everywhere. Most people don’t have the time or money. And exposure is tough to come by. We wanted to create a space where people who wouldn’t otherwise can come together.”
     
    JOE ROCCO AND MALIK ALLEN met during their freshman year at Villanova. And from the beginning, says Rocco, Allen impressed him as “A very focused person.” One who Rocco describes as “grounded and humble.”
     
    “He (Malik) worked extremely hard at basketball, because that was his ‘business’ at the time,” Rocco said. “But he was always aware that the odds were against him, that he needed to be ready in case it didn’t work out.”
     
    According to Rocco, Allen carried that same level of self-awareness with him throughout his professional career. “Especially when he knew it was winding down,” said Rocco. “He would talk a lot about what he was going to do afterward. He always knew that basketball wasn’t forever, and I think it lasted for him a lot longer than he expected it to. But when it did come time to retire, [the next step] was something he had been mindful of for years.”
     
    Shortly after his retirement, Allen connected with Rocco to discuss business ideas. Allen, says Rocco, a practicing corporate real estate attorney, was the driving force behind it. The two decided to build a business that focused on modernizing sports recruiting. Convinced this was the right direction, Rocco said the two didn’t even discuss anything else. "I was grabbed by it immediately,” Rocco said, “and Malik’s passion really got things moving. From there, we just went about trying to figure out how to make it a real thing.”
     
    “Joe was sending me a lot of research and general background information on the tech world and running a startup,” Allen said. “I found and still find a lot of the information out there to be fascinating, but it was so different from what I had been doing. I hadn’t been reading like that since I graduated, and totally new stuff, too. But I had that hole in my life where my old routine had been, and I was happy filling it in with anything. After a while, it gets to be second nature. You get up, and you know you have to work. You can’t go to sleep at night unless you know you’ve put in the hours and done what you’re supposed to.
     
    “The idea had always excited me, but there’s no such thing as a smooth transition from basketball. It wasn’t until I started really diving into the reading that I realized how passionate I was about it, and that was when I think it actually clicked that 'hey this is something I can really devote myself to,'” he concluded.
     
    Allen’s contacts in the sports world played a crucial role during the development stages. “He knew lots of people from his playing days: coaches, directors,” Rocco said. “They all had a lot of respect for him just because of the way he carried himself along with the fact he had stayed in touch with a lot of them – that’s just how he is. They were happy to talk to us and gave us some great feedback. And from there we just tried to gather input from as many people as possible. Players, obviously, coaches, even journalists and admissions officers.”
     
    Rocco had prior experience working with startups, so he started sending Allen reading material to bring him up to speed on the process and all the considerations that go into it. Before long, though, it was Allen sending him the research, and Rocco was the one struggling to keep up.
     
    “I couldn’t believe he was reading so much,” Rocco recalled. “I had my regular job, but new stuff would be coming in every day. It got to be too much. After a while, I just told him, ‘do your thing,’ and kind of let him take over.”
     

     

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  2. For Sports In America, Authentic Hero Status Is Just A Perspective Shift Away, But Let’s Not Wait Too Long!

    by Dr. Timothy Thompson 10-26-2013 04:56 PM Life After Sports

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    I’m about to step out onto a high tree limb here by asserting that so far, sports industry professionals have only scratched the surface on solving the post-playing depression problem. Furthermore, the only thing keeping us from actually solving the problem is that too many people, beginning with the leagues themselves and ending with the fans, don’t believe they can actually do anything about it.

    That’s where they’re mistaken, though. The core causes of the level of post-playing depression that leads to suicide and other extreme negative reactions are sitting there right before our eyes, just waiting to be acknowledged. Somebody just needs to be courageous enough to keep showing sports industry officials the links between players’ career transition woes and the developmental experiences that elite athletes start having long before they turn pro.
     
    If nobody else is willing to go that extra mile, I’ll step up and volunteer to accept the sneers and dismissals of those who firmly believe that athletes everywhere are too arrogant and/or immature to change. 
     
    But before I do that, I want to make sure you understand clearly where I’ll be going with my comments in this third column of my trilogy about self-identity formation and its relationship to the ease with which pro athletes exit their playing careers (voluntarily or otherwise).
     
    In the first of my previous two columns from this trilogy (see Welcome to the New Training Camp: Preparing players for the game of life off the field), I suggested that helping high profile athletes to cultivate more balanced self-identities both before and after they become pros is by far the surest and most practical way to nip post-playing depression in the bud, so to speak.
     
    My second column from this trilogy then focused on a growing movement in the sports industry towards helping players transition into post-athletic careers (see Enter The PLAN and The McCombs Athlete Entrepreneurship Initiative: NFL Players can now get real help with changing careers). In that piece, I highlighted an agency and a consulting company that have stepped up to the challenge of helping their athlete clients balance their identities in more practical ways.
     
    So now begins part three of my problem-solving exploration of this subject of how to make post-playing transitions more seamless and less depressing. I’ll start this phase by saying that I’m happy to see so much attention being devoted (since the great Junior Seau killed himself on May 2, 2012) to the unique psychological challenges associated with leaving behind such intense group bonding experiences.
     
    Having said that, however, it’s also time for me to point out that as diverse and extensive as I believe the conversations about pro athletes’ “two deaths” (retirement from playing and eventually physical death) have become, these examinations are still missing a key focus that would enable the problem to be lastingly solved.
     
    Now don’t get me wrong. I think it’s great that more and more NFL, NBA, and players from other pro leagues/environments can get a growing variety of types of assistance with transitioning to post-playing careers. And I’m even grateful that a lot more sports industry folks are studying more seriously the issues that I raised on behalf of Access Athletes in May 2011 (see Athlete Education on the Rise: Get into the Game) and the following month of that year (see Rookie Symposium: You Don’t Miss It Until It’s Gone).
     
    The common theme in both of those columns was and still is an 800-pound gorilla standing in the middle of a room filled with folks who seem reluctant to acknowledge the great beast’s imminently threatening presence among them. Yet the gorilla stands there wearing a sign containing a powerful message written in large bold letters.
     
    What does the message say? It’s simply that the entire sporting infrastructure – within which players are merely the central product – needs to raise its consciousness to a level where a critical mass of league, team, player association, agency, and financial management officials have collectively internalized the understanding that I’m about to explain right now. That understanding is the realization and official acknowledgement that players who are happy with themselves first as human beings (and only then as athletes) are infinitely more valuable in every way to themselves and to everyone else than are the one-trick-pony loose cannons!
     
    Let’s face the truth here. Immature loose cannon players drain valuable resources from their teams’ coffers by carelessly and arrogantly behaving in ways that must be rectified by their employers and other managing representatives. Yet a climate of cynicism that has traditionally surrounded and engulfed the sporting world in our country has left most of our beloved industry‘s key decision makers believing that they somehow need to put up with the sometimes anti-social antics of those same loose cannons because of their great athletic talents.
     
    On a larger scale, the end users of our product – the fans – have also historically been bombarded by a steady stream of sports product marketing messages that equate the admittedly vital traits of mental toughness and fierce competitiveness with the term “character.” Unfortunately, while mental toughness and fierce competitiveness are useful traits in specialized contexts such as sports (and war), they tend to function as destructive forces in most non-athletes’ daily activities. So they don’t transfer particularly well into most types of post-playing careers.
     
    Furthermore, the confusion and devastation resulting from this gross contradiction between the true spirit of the definition of the word character and its common usage by sports industry pros and fans should no longer be underestimated. Specifically, if you look up the word character (the set of qualities that make somebody or something distinctive and/or appealing, especially somebody's qualities of mind and feeling), you’ll find synonyms like charm, appeal, charisma, attractiveness, eccentric, and honor, to name a few. What you won’t see, though, is a dictionary definition of character that emphasizes mental toughness and fierce competitiveness.
     
    Of course, these traits appeal greatly – and appropriately – to warriors and sports fans. That’s perfectly fine, too. The problem with defining the word “character” so narrowly, though, is that for all human beings, our definitions and our emotional attachments to those definitions drive all of our actions at all times. Therefore, the natural outcome of viewing our athletes one-dimensionally is the current design of our sports infrastructure that often traps them on a treadmill of sometimes extreme social and economic developmental imbalances, followed by irresistible temptations to indulge in what they may have lacked earlier in their lives.
     
    In other words, what I refer to as the misdirected and excessive competitiveness that motivates so many of us sports fans leads us to assign special social status to children who demonstrate potentially elite athletic abilities (see ESPN writer Dave Telep’s 4/26/2013 article, The entitlement culture of elite HS hoops and my own 4/3/2009 Access Athletes column, Just Let the Kids Play). Not only do we assign special status to these athletic children; but also along with that special status comes an extended period of enabling them to feel exempted from any responsibility to their communities and supporters beyond entertaining them on the playing surface.
     
    Therefore, the precise moment of special status assignment is also the exact beginning of a potential elite athlete’s entrapment and the set-up for social and financial ruin.
     

     

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  3. Pro Football Hall of Famer and Entrepreneur Darrell Green Is Blazing New Trails with WalkFitHealth Nation

    by Steven Cohen 09-08-2013 09:25 PM Finance | Life After Sports

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    Darrell Green is really fast. That “is”, as in present tense (he was frighteningly fast). His 50th birthday present to himself was a 4.43-second 40-yard dash time, which, by comparison, is what he would be running if he was a starting NFL wide-receiver. Of course, during the two decades he played for the Washington Redskins, Darrell Green was definitely not a wide-receiver. He built a Hall of Fame career, in fact, on smothering wide-receivers in their sleep. He built a Hall of Fame career, it would be fair to say, largely on being faster and quicker than any player on the field. If you put stock in the persistent legend (that he ran a sub-4.1 40-time in 1986), then Darrell Green built a Hall of Fame career largely on being the fastest human being to ever play football.
    Not that any of that matters.
    There is more to life than just football
    “Football,” Green claims, “was the least important factor in my life. The whole Darrell Green wasn’t football. The reality is, football is just what you’re doing. A football player is on a job. A doctor is on a job. A teacher is on a job.” And the job, according to Green, isn’t as meaningful as the way you do it, and the things it can teach you about yourself and life. “What does a man do? What does a dad do? What does a father do? Those are the important aspects of human development that I think carry over no matter what job you do.”
    A lot of athletes say things like this, and a lot of them don’t mean it. Obviously, a career in the NFL is not that similar to a career selling life insurance out of a cubicle. The lifestyle of someone getting paid millions of dollars to play a game on television is wholly removed from that of your average blue-collar sports fan. And that’s exactly how we want things to be. Stardom is a marketable commodity in popular culture and the allure of megalithic athletic personalities living at maximum speed on and off the field explains much of the enduring fascination that sports hold in society. It’s a dynamic everyone is aware of on some level, and one that Darrell Green often laments.
    “The way I thought about Darrell Green, the man, was way more important than ‘would I be a star?’ or ‘would people want my autograph?’ Where this generation, they might think more about that other stuff. Because they see the boom, the commercials, the women. Everything is sold. You sell cars and TVs with all of this stuff, and so unfortunately this generation is put in that kind of situation.”
    Talking with Darrell Green, you are likely to hear a lot of this kind of nostalgia for an era of greater moral substance and direction. He spends more time discussing his marriage (now in its 28th year), his Christianity and the way he’s raised his children than he does his playing days. And all the talk of just a job like any other and back in my day overtones might come off as patronizing and hypocritical if he hadn’t been able to put his basic worldview to such effective practice.
    As a player, Green was immensely gifted physically, but never used speed and agility as a substitute for footwork, diligence and sound fundamental positioning – in a position that privileges flashiness and big plays over consistency, he was a blanket as much as a ball hawk. He regularly returned punts and kickoffs for touchdowns, but didn’t put on the lavish displays of showmanship for which high-profile skill players are known. He won two Super Bowl championships, but chose to lead by example, by faith, by humility, on Redskins teams – towards his later years especially – that weren’t likely to win any. There will always be a place for raw speed and power on NFL rosters, but it takes a different kind of work ethic to play a young man’s position in a young man’s sport when you’re 42. As Green puts it, “You know how to run and catch over distance, but the real advice is do you know how to be a man?”
    Now, with 20 NFL seasons under his belt, Darrell Green had plenty of time to figure out “how to be a man.” And the genuinely high esteem in which he holds familial responsibility and virtuous behavior shouldn’t be confused with a lack of business savvy or a disregard for financial success. Darrell Green was a rare breed of athlete, able to understand and appreciate the power of his celebrity, without buying into his own mythology. He realized early on what many athletes never do until it’s too late: sports don’t last forever, and neither does the money. Features like ESPN’s 30-for-30, Broke, highlight just how easy it is for the windfalls of athletic stardom to evaporate as soon as the athletic part does.
    But for Darrell Green, maturity is as much about the transition to life beyond sports –physically, mentally, economically – as it is about being a good husband and father. “One of the things that I did – I’m an old Texas boy – I got here and got a speech class. Learned how to communicate. Obviously I had a financial planner. I did some of the things that were important to me, that would be important in my life.”
    WalkFitHealth Nation
    And Green’s latest venture, like the storied football career that lends its legacy, benefits as much from sound moral backing as it does from drive and ability. WalkFitHealth Nation, which sells state-of-the-art pedometers and access to an online fitness community, is an idea that came from Green’s experience with high blood pressure in his family and his personal research into the practical realities of leading a healthy lifestyle after 30 years or so of high volume training.
    Walking, Green determined, is the simplest, most practical way for mutant speed demons and regular working folk alike to improve every aspect of their wellbeing, within the framework of their normal daily lives. Walking, he explains, is both “passive” and “active” – you get the same “psychological, sociological and physiological benefits” from both, so the WalkFitHealth online network gives you “credit” whether you set time aside to go hiking in the woods, or work in your exercise to the basic house chores you’re already going to be doing anyway.

     

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  4. 8 Tips For Professional Athletes to Achieve Financial Security

    by Guest Author 08-20-2013 01:26 AM Finance

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    Athletes today earn salaries that should make them financially secure for life. Unfortunately, however, many athletes finish their careers without the financial security they expect. According to a 2009 Sports Illustrated article, 78% of NFL players file for bankruptcy or face financial hardships within two years of retirement. NBA players face a similar fate, with 60% of players going broke within five years of retirement. How is it possible that so much money disappears so quickly? More importantly, what can athletes do to make sure they don’t become just another statistic?

    Unlike business professionals, who have experience and education in dealing with financial affairs, most professional athletes lack practical experience in managing large sums of money and fail to receive the formal educational training necessary to learn how to handle their finances. More like lottery winners than corporate executives, athletes come into a large amount of wealth at one time, when they are young and inexperienced, and have careers where the earning potential is short. Couple these facts with overly-generous hearts and a desire to live the “good life,” and its not surprising why the money fails to last a lifetime. 
     
    By taking the following pieces of financial advice to heart, more athletes will attain the same success in their financial lives that they enjoy on the field or court:
     
    1. He Who Dies With The Most Toys Does NOT Win!
     
    Athletes need to be aware of the “lure of the tangible” or “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality. Athletes face tremendous pressure from outsiders who expect them to live an ostentatious lifestyle and from competition with their own peers. The pressure felt in the locker room can be tremendous. However, it is critical for athletes to avoid the overspending that comes with conspicuous consumption. Instead, each individual should learn to live a comfortable, but sustainable, lifestyle while living within his or her means. As I sometimes ask my clients, "Would you rather live like a King for a few years and die broke or live like a Prince forever?"
     
    2. Help Family And Friends, But DO NOT Enable.
     
    Even though it comes from a good place, sometimes an athlete’s desire to help a family member (or friend) does more harm than good. Athletes need to be careful about giving cars and other material items to people who aren’t otherwise able to pay for such things themselves. Not only can giving such gifts create ongoing financial obligations for the athlete, but this also fails to help the recipient take steps to become self-sufficient. Some assistance is good, but not when taken to excess. Instead, think about paying for someone’s tuition or job-training, which will enable the person to develop skills to become self-sufficient. Strange but true – creating dependency hurts those you are trying to help.
     
    3. Surround Yourself With A Team Of Professionals.
     
    Athletes today are not just players, but large businesses – they are their own individual companies. While the athlete is the CEO, he or she should be supported by competent and trustworthy professionals. Athletes must undertake proper due diligence in selecting their financial advisors (and other professional team members) to assure that a system of proper checks and balances exists. Hiring professionals means not just hiring people to say “yes.” Rather, athletes need experienced advisors who can help spot the risks and provide enough information to help them make informed decisions. 
     
    4. Your Finances Should Be Built Upon A Solid Foundation.
     
    Think of wealth accumulation like a pyramid. The reason the Egyptian Pyramids have survived so long is because they are built upon a solid and large foundation. Similarly, an athlete’s finances must be built upon a solid foundation (of cash, fixed income, and “blue chip” stocks). While private deals, real estate, and “sexy” investments (like restaurants, bars, and music production companies) often sound more exciting to athletes, there is no need to take unnecessary risk. If a solid foundation is established first, with a slow and steady methodical approach, there will likely be room for some of these other opportunities later (in reasonable amounts). However, taking unnecessary risk with alternative investments too early could significantly damage the foundation, causing the whole pyramid to crumble.
     
    5. Always Be Cautious!
     
    If an investment return sounds too good to be true, there is a reason – it is usually illegal or extremely risky! Be careful of investing with friends or in “get rich quick” schemes. Ignore these overtures and let your financial advisor help evaluate the true quality of an investment opportunity. Remember athletes should hire financial advisors for their expertise, not for their friendship. Also remember the other side of that coin – that just because someone is a trusted friend doesn’t mean that he or she is qualified to give investment advice. 

     

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  5. Momma Always Knows Best: The Money Mindset

    by Steven Cohen 08-11-2013 03:55 PM Finance

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    My mom is the type of person who gets to the airport three hours early, whether she’s flying internationally or not. My mom is the type of person who feels physically uncomfortable not getting to the airport three hours early, whether she’s even the one flying or not. I’m the type of person who packs three hours before I’m supposed to fly and feels vastly superior to all the nervous shmucks toughing it out in the food court. But I am also in a permanent rush, and I knew even before I missed my first flight that momma was probably right.

    Momma, it turns out, is just about always right, about just about everything.
     
    But momma is also boring. That doesn’t make her any less right – in fact, she’s boring specifically because of how consistently right she is – but it does make her a lot harder to listen to. And that is how it should be. A hip mom is probably a bad mom. A mom with anything but dull, clichéd things to say about life probably isn’t doing her job.
     
    And I mention my momma because it is basically impossible to give professional athletes good financial advice without sounding exactly like her.
     
    There is no conceivable way to approach the topic of disability insurance, for example, as anything other than a sober reflection on the very real possibility of becoming permanently crippled (especially if your career involves running away from 300-pound men who want to eat you), and the financial implications involved if you do. If CPA were the name of a rap group, it might be vaguely cool, but nothing says unsexy like an acronym for “certified public accountant.” A watchdog that monitors your bank statements and tax records is neither fun to play with nor intimidating to look at nor fuzzy to sleep with. Spending plans and estates are things that moms have.
     
    Whenever I read things like NCompass Financial’s Money Mindset For Athletes Handbook, I am struck by how redundantly obvious all the information and suggestions they offer are. Of course if you are living by yourself in a city where you will spend approximately 4 months out of the year, it’s probably better to rent than buy. Of course nothing is permanent – the ability to whack a ball traveling at 97 mph with a stick less so than most things. Of course more saving now will mean more spending, for longer, later. Of course insulating yourself from every third cousin thrice-removed and friend from that one week that one summer in elementary school is smarter than serving as a bottomless ATM for any person that ever knew you. Of course of course. Of course of course of course.
     
    And then I read stats that say things like 80% of NFL players go bankrupt within 3 years of leaving the league (or is it 40%? And does that matter?), and I ask myself how so much of course could possibly slip through the cracks.
     
    Well, there are certainly plenty of answers floating around out there. People will tell you it’s a youth thing. Or it’s the inevitable result of giving people who tend not to come from money lots and lots of it really quickly. Or that the greater education system is to blame for not focusing more on practical skills like money management and financial planning. Or that society bears the burden for its fetishistic worship of athletes – the myths it makes that the gods themselves are only too willing to indulge in. Or that the killer psychology instilled in some of the most naturally competitive, aggressive people on the planet is fundamentally incompatible with things like caution and foresight. 

     

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  6. For Heaven's Sake, It Is Time to Include Positive News

    by Chrissy Carew 07-28-2013 02:11 PM Public Relations | Insightful Player

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    There is very little media attention put on positive stories about NFL players who are great role models.

    On the contrary, there is an obsessive amount of media attention given to players who fail off the field, whether it’s drugs, sexual assault or other transgressions.
     
    What do you tell your child when they are bombarded by the story about Aaron Hernandez, a football hero accused of murder? How do you think something so awful is affecting their spirit?  How is this teaching them about the importance of values and character?
     
    Our children are so impressionable. Hearing how their sports heroes have committed horrible acts is certain to affect them.
     
    It is time we recognize the multitude of professional athletes and those who impact our children’s lives each day are high-integrity individuals. Their stories are the ones that need to be told.
     
    When I was a young teenager in high school, I attended a peaceful demonstration in Boston to end violent /disruptive demonstrations. The event was hosted by Boston Patriots star running back, the late Jim Nance.
     
    Thousands of people were there on that beautiful spring day. I was awe-struck by how Jim Nance had us all in the palm of his hands. He was so inspiring, charismatic, warm and friendly. He challenged us to take a stand for peace. I was so moved that I went up to him and shook his hand. He loved that he touched me and he knew he made a lasting impression. He was humbled by that. He made himself available to everyone. It was so uplifting.
     
    Nance talked about our right to have peace and happiness. I always tried to make people happy so that really resonated with me. I knew that day, that someday, I too wanted to inspire a lot of people. This really shaped my life and I have devoted myself to inspiring people ever since.
     
    Once I started interviewing NFL players for my book, Insightful Player, football pros lead a bold movement of hope, I was astounded by what many of them had been through. I never knew that world.
     
    One player's father was murdered when he was eight; he had to duck for cover in his own home when bullets were flying on his street. Another player, as early as five years old, saw people shot. A Hall of Fame player never had a winter coat or boots, and didn't always have food to eat. Some of these players had to take heroic steps to overcome life's obstacles. The players overcame these hardships to achieve a place in the NFL. These players are much more than athletes. They are remarkable human beings and magnificent role models.
     
    The majority of us are sick and tired of negative news. We are appalled by the empty sensationalism that contaminates our lives and infects our children. But we don't do anything about it. Why? We erroneously believe this is how it will always be, and there is nothing we can do. This is not true. We have to come together before it's too late. Just like Jim Nance did, we too, can embrace a positive peaceful movement.
     
    For every Aaron Hernandez there are 1000 Jim Nance’s. Whether it’s an athlete that has touched us like Nance did with me or a teacher, relative, community leader or friend, we all can point to role models that have had a positive impact on our lives.
     
    We need to tell their stories and have them resonate with our impressionable youth, the way my personal encounter with Jim Nance changed my life. Millions of lives can be altered by reading, hearing and seeing the positive life-changing stories that high-integrity athletes have to offer.
     

     

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  7. LaVar Arrington Imparts His Wisdom on NFL Rookies: "Don't Lose Focus"

    by Matthew Allinson 07-27-2013 09:40 PM Life After Sports | Athlete Career Development

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    Former three-time Pro Bowl NFL linebacker LaVar Arrington should be a model for how pro athletes can excel in their post-athletic careers. He is a popular sports journalist, a family man with young kids, and an entrepreneur who is on a crusade to develop the next generation of football players with his cutting edge training system that focuses on safety and the fundamentals. We previously profiled Arrington’s burgeoning company, Xtreme Procision, on Access Athletes.
     
    Somehow, Arrington, the legendary Penn State All-American who was drafted No. 2 overall in the 2000 NFL Draft, still finds the time to educate elite athletes. Last month he was a guest speaker at the NFL’s 16th annual Rookie Symposium in Aurora, Ohio, marking the second straight year he was invited to share his story and advice to the league’s newest draftees.  The four-day orientation introduces the rookies to life in the NFL by emphasizing the sport’s legacy, tradition of character and leadership, as well as social and professional responsibility. Whether he is speaking to incoming rookies or current college players, as a respected broadcaster who has fine-tuned his public speaking skills, Arrington is able to captivate younger athletes with his words of wisdom.
     
    As part of the NFL’s transition program, Arrington was recently certified as one of twelve “transition coaches” who will be working with former and current NFL players toward preventing some of the problems that frequently surface when it’s time to retire.  For 8 months, LaVar underwent extensive training on career transition, mental health, suicide intervention, conflict resolution, and relationship-management skills.
     
    Arrington spoke to Access Athletes about his advice for how rookies can make a successful transition to the NFL and maximize their careers, both on and off the field. 
     
    Matthew Allinson: What advice would you give to the incoming rookies on how to make a successful transition to the NFL?
     
    LaVar Arrington: I think that the advice that remains consistent and remains true is “Don’t lose focus.” You actually have to be more focused, someway, somehow. When you find yourself going into the NFL, it’s easy to lose focus on the game. Now, it’s cars, it’s a home, it’s women to a different capacity. It’s a whole lot of different things that can turn into your main focus. And I think that when a guy is humble enough to continue to be hungry, to be focused on being a better player than what they were when they played in college, that’s the biggest key. Learning and being open, and understanding that you’re playing against grown men now. It’s not college, where you may have an 18-year-old, a 19-year-old, or a couple of grown people who come back to play. It’s a league full of hard-nosed, prepared individuals who are making money to “whoop” your tail or vice versa, whatever it may be. 
     
    I think a lot of times, young guys get it; but, they don’t really really get it. I think that they understand that they’re going to have to work harder. I think that they understand it’s a different game with you being paid to play now and there’s a lot of glitz and glamour that goes with being an NFL player. I think they get that, but I don’t think they fully understand that what helped get them there are the things that they have to do even more. So, you got to work harder.
     
    Say you listen to me, and I helped you get there. You don’t just stop listening to me now that you’ve made it: “Oh, I made to the NFL. I don’t need to listen to LaVar anymore.” You have to continue to listen to those people. I think that guys kind of lose sight of that. I think that would be the biggest advice that I could give to a young guy without going into too many different places. I think that guys have got to remember what helped them and what molded them to get there. Now that chapter of college is closed. But this next chapter, it takes more work. It’s harder work. And if you don’t approach it that way, you stand a great chance of not being successful. It’s a very unforgiving league. It really is. Better that you believed it and go into it understanding that he may know what he’s talking about by telling you this than you finding out the hard way—because then it may be too late.
     
    Allinson: Looking back at it, was there a particular lesson you could really draw on from the temptation and adapting to the NFL lifestyle? 
     
    Arrington: I just lost focus on being the best player I could possibly be. You know, I was the #2 pick in the draft. A lot of people were giving me attention. You’re meeting people that you never met before—people that you’ve watched on television and seen singing or whatever it may be. And it’s difficult… It’s difficult when you don’t have someone in your ear that has been through it, telling you to do it differently than what you’re doing. I had to learn it—I was a crash-test dummy. 
     
    For me, my biggest challenge was the lifestyle. It’s almost impossible not to find yourself involved in it. You’re young and you get exposed. I could see for my children that that stuff won’t bother them. They’re already exposed to it. Their uncles are some of the most famous people in the world and their exposed to so much. But if you’re not exposed to it and you’re not prepared for it, you got to learn it. You got to figure it out. 
     
    For me, that was quite an experience—getting acclimated. And I did. I got reeled back in and really got focused. I started off really slow my rookie year—I wasn’t in shape like I should have been. I wasn’t prepared the way I should have been early on, and I paid the price for it. I didn’t start and didn’t have quite an impact the way I thought I’d come into the league and have an impact. And that was my wake-up call. It was like “Oh no, I’m not going to be a bust.” There were a lot of veterans around me that kind of took the mentality that “We’re not going to let this go down that way.” They kind of reeled me in and got me going, and got me on the right foot.
     
    By mid-way through my rookie season, I started to get it, started to understand it, and really started to apply it. And [I] really almost played well enough to make the Pro Bowl my rookie year. It didn’t happen because you have to unseat Pro Bowl players to make it into the Pro Bowl. But I came back that next year with the focus of being a “one-man-wrecking-crew” in my own right and contribute the way I needed to contribute to the team and actually step into a leadership role onto the team. Really work myself into being respected as a leader. That was the biggest challenge—was just coming in and maintaining the focus you had to get there. You got the eye of the tiger to get to the league.   
     
    Allinson: It’s like you made it and then you let your guard down.
     
    Arrington: Yeah, you take a deep breath, and during that deep breath, do you bring yourself back to the realization that I got to do this all over again, or do you just keep thinking, “I made it?”
     
    Allinson: Who were some of the older guys that kind of took you under their wing? 
     
    Arrington: Bruce Smith, Shawn Barber, Kevin Mitchell, Darrell Green was a vital part, Sam Shade, Marco Coleman was an awesome guy, and Derek Smith. There were a lot of guys that really took a very active interest in my development and I’m so thankful that they did. 
     
    Allinson: And you were receptive to it. There are some guys who don’t really want the feedback.
     
    Sports Illustrated estimated in 2009 that 78 percent of NFL players have gone bankrupt or are facing serious financial stress because of joblessness or divorce within two years of ending their playing careers. In light of the seemingly never-ending stories about NFL players going broke, could you talk about how you approached the business aspects of the game while you were in league and also what you think can be done to curb this systemic problem amongst NFL players? 
     
    Arrington: I think it’s the same thing that applies to the football aspect of it. You got to apply yourself and really be open to understanding that, you know, everything isn’t what it appears to be. I’m not one to tell someone that they can’t live life the way they want to live. If you worked hard enough to achieve high enough where you make the type of money to do some of the things that you do, who am I to tell you not to do it. But I would say that being responsible over yourself and how you do things… The one thing I would be wondering is how many of those individuals went broke based off of being unselfish. So many times people assume that guys go broke based off of spending habits and stuff like that. But it could have been…like for me, I know I took care of my family—took care of my mom and my dad, took care of my brothers, and at one point, took care of affairs with my in-laws just because I wanted to help. 
     
    Allinson: You were generous. 
     
    Arrington: Yeah, sometimes you have to make decisions that you might not necessarily want to make. Like for me, I’ve taken chances. I’ve taken risks doing business. A bad investment is an investment that goes bad in my book. Sometimes people make bad investments, where it’s like you buy jewelry and it didn’t make any sense for you to buy it, like a medallion or charm that covers your entire chest. That could be considered a bad investment.
     
    For me, the reason why I say a bad investment isn’t a bad investment until it turns out not to be a good investment is because I’ve done things like invested in groups that go in and invest in island projects and different things. I’m a part of an investment group that went over to Turks and Caicos and I still to this day don’t know if it’s a good investment or bad investment because it’s still out there. It’s pending. Did we do the studies? Did we look at it? I mean I got married in Turks and Caicos. I love Turks and Caicos. It all depends. 
     
    I would always say, “Look if you can make money one time, you can make money two, three, four times.” So if you’ve made so many mistakes with what you’ve done while you were making a check in the NFL, I would ultimately say you got to take a good look at yourself and the same way you applied yourself to be able to make that type of dollar playing ball, you got to apply yourself to do it in other ways. Now it’s easier said than done, but that’s the reality of it. And I think the reason why guys go broke is because they don’t apply that. 
     
    So now you’re living off of savings and you learn a lot about money. You learn a lot about how $60 million doesn’t really mean $60 million. You learn a lot about how maintaining an “upkeep” is a large part—it doesn’t go anywhere. Your paycheck went somewhere, but if you have a lot of things, that “bill” doesn’t go anywhere. You got to be watchful over those things and, if you’re not, you have to at least be able to figure out ways to supplement your income. And that would be my advice.

     

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  8. Are Videogame Manufacturers Permitted to Use Your Image for their Own Monetary Benefit, Without Your Consent? Well, it depends…

    by Kanika Corley 06-22-2013 04:51 PM Amateurism | Legal

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    In recent times, former and current NCAA athletes have noticed a myriad of similarities between themselves and avatars depicted in videogames. Knowing full well no release was either presented or signed; athletes find themselves wondering, “What gives these videogame manufactures the right to use my likeness?” The better question is: Who granted those rights? Based on lawsuits filed in 2009 and 2010, the consensus is that the NCAA licensed the right to use player likenesses to Electronic Arts (EA) for its use in videogames.

    Lawsuits filed by Former Athletes on behalf of Current and Former College Players 

    In 2009, Ed O’Bannon, former power forward for UCLA who played on their 1995 NCAA championship team, filed a ground-breaking lawsuit challenging the rights of the NCAA to license his image to Electronic Arts. After seeing a friend’s child play a videogame, O’Bannon recognized himself as one of the avatars featured in the game. O’Bannon observed, “It didn’t have my name, but it had my number, it was left handed and it looked like me.” O’Bannon’s friend looked at him and said, “You know what’s sad about this whole thing? You’re not getting paid for it.”
     
    In his lawsuit, O’Bannon not only named the NCAA but he also named Electronic Arts and the Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC), which is the licensing arm for the NCAA. According to O’Bannon, the NCAA, through CLC, granted to the videogame manufacturer, rights to use the names, images and likenesses of former Division I football and men’s basketball players in various commercial ventures without the players’ permission and without providing the players with compensation. 
     
    Sam Keller, a former football player who attended both Arizona State University and University of Nebraska, filed a nearly identical lawsuit. Keller’s lawsuit adds the allegation that EA intentionally circumvented NCAA rules and regulations that specifically prohibit the use of student-athletes’ names in commercial endeavors by allowing videogame players to upload team rosters from a third party who created the “EA Locker” feature, which applies student-athlete names to their corresponding videogame avatars, within a matter of seconds.
     
    In 2010, former Rutgers University quarterback Ryan Hart, joined by former University of California quarterback Troy Taylor, also filed suit against EA, CLC and the NCAA alleging similar violations. That same year, former University of North Carolina football player Byron Bishop filed a class action suit against EA, CLC and the NCAA, charging that the defendants conspired to violate the NCAA’s bylaws prohibiting the for-profit use of amateur athletes when they included likenesses – but not names – of current athletes in NCAA-branded videogames.
     
    Electronic Arts
     
    EA produces videogames under the names, NCAA Football and NCAA Basketball. These games, in particular, depict virtual basketball and football games between NCAA member-institutions that feature avatars that are apparently inspired by former and current players. This conclusion is drawn based on the fact that the avatars’ facial features, height, weight, athletic abilities, signature moves, position on the team, jersey number and even wrist-band placement, are all easily matched up with real players.
     
    NCAA Bylaws
     
    As any college-bound athlete knows, before you can suit up at a Division 1 school, you have to sign a few documents. Most notably among them is the Form 08-3a Student Athlete Statement. By signing, students affirm that they understand that they are prohibited from profiting from the commercial use of their names, pictures or likenesses while in school. In addition, at Part IV of the form, the students expressly authorize the NCAA and the CLC to use the student-athlete’s names or pictures in accordance with Bylaw 12.5, including promoting NCAA championships or other NCAA events, activities or programs. Bylaw 12.5 expressly limits the NCAA’s right to use the names or pictures of enrolled students. However, this bylaw does not place a time limit on the NCAA’s right to use names or pictures. It follows then, that likenesses captured during college are probably subject to NCAA rules, which expressly permit the NCAA to license the use of likenesses to entertainment outlets…like Electronic Arts (among others).
     

     

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  9. The National Letter of Intent Program and Student-Athlete Post-Agreement Options

    by Justin Sievert 06-11-2013 12:31 AM Amateurism

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    On February 6, 2013, Eddie Vanderdoes, a five-star defensive tackle from Auburn, Calif., signed a National Letter of Intent to attend the University of Notre Dame. Recently, Vanderdoes experienced a change of heart and decided he wanted to attend UCLA, a school closer to home. While under no obligation to release Vanderdoes from his commitment, Notre Dame ultimately chose to release Vanderdoes from the National Letter of Intent recruiting ban, but not release him from rest of the National Letter of Intent provisions. This allowed Vanderdoes to be recruited by and sign with UCLA, but still be subject to the basic penalty since he was not granted his full release (an institution's ability to contact a prospective student-athlete is tied to receiving athletics aid while a prospective student-athlete's eligibility is tied to the National Letter of Intent). The purpose of this article is to explore the options Vanderdoes, or any other National Letter of Intent signee would have if they desire to be released from his or her agreement.

    Background: The National Letter of Intent (hereinafter “NLI”) is a binding agreement between a prospective student-athlete and an NLI member institution. When this agreement is signed by the respective parties, there is an agreement for a prospective student-athlete to attend an institution full-time for one academic year in exchange for the institution agreeing to provide athletics financial aid for one academic year (two semesters or three quarters). The NLI is a voluntary program with regard to both institutions and student-athletes. No prospective student-athlete or parent is required to sign the NLI, and no institution is required to join the program.
     
    Penalties for Non-Fulfillment: If a prospective student-athlete does not attend the signing institution or attends that institution for less than one full academic year, and enrolls at another NLI institution, he or she may not represent the second institution in intercollegiate athletics competition until completing one academic year in residence at the second NLI member institution. Additionally, the prospective student-athlete will lose one season of competition in all sports. While serving the NLI penalty, the prospective student-athlete is permitted to practice and receive athletics aid, if allowed by the institution. This penalty is specifically addressed in the NLI agreement the prospective student-athlete and the institution sign. If a prospective student-athlete fails to enroll at the signing institution, he or she has not fulfilled the NLI agreement to attend the signing institution for one academic year. The NLI would remain binding.
     
    Release Process: In order for a prospective student-athlete to be released from an NLI, the prospective student-athlete must submit the NLI Release Request Form (“Release Request Form”) to the signing institution and the NLI office.
     
    The release instructions for a prospective student-athlete can be found here. The website will feature a dropdown list for the prospective student-athlete to choose from regarding the reason for the release and an additional comment box for necessary details.
     
    The Release Request Form can be found here. The submitted Form will be automatically sent to the institution’s director of athletics and designated compliance administrator. The prospective student-athlete will also receive a confirmation e-mail that the Release Request Form has been submitted.
     
    Once the Form is submitted, the institution has 30 days to submit a response. The institution can make one of three decisions: (1) a complete release; (2) no release; or (3) no release with the recruiting ban removed (by removing the NLI Recruiting Ban, contact with coaches is permissible without granting a Complete Release. The NLI Recruiting Ban does not need to be checked on the Release Request Form if granting a complete release). Once the institution submits the release request back to the prospective student-athlete and the NLI office, the NLI office will update the release status visible to member institutions on the NCAA Eligibility Center member institution portal. If a complete release is granted by the institution, the release form and/or the release status on the portal is the confirmation needed for another institution that may have an interest in that prospective student-athlete.
     
    Should the deadline expire with no response from the institution, the prospective student-athlete will be released from the NLI agreement by the NLI office; however, this is not an automatic complete release. The institution will be contacted by the NLI office before any action to determine why the institution did not respond. If circumstances exist preventing the institution to respond within the designated timeframe, an extension may be requested to the NLI office.
     

     

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  10. Enter The PLAN and The McCombs Athlete Entrepreneurship Initiative: NFL Players can now get real help with changing careers

    by Dr. Timothy Thompson 06-09-2013 07:03 PM Life After Sports | Athlete Career Development

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    When I welcomed you last April to the metaphoric “New NFL Training Camp” that helps get players in prime condition for the game of life after pro football, I told you two things that you can take to the bank. Just to remind you, that April 2012 article was the inaugural piece of a three-part Access Athletes series about how the process of transitioning out of the NFL can be made relatively seamless to help all eligible players preserve sound physical, mental, and financial health after hanging up their cleats. 
     
    The first “bankable” wisdom nugget that I shared with you in part one is embodied in the following observations that I made: 
     
    "As promising as it has been that some of us have pinpointed the struggling athletes’ core psychological stumbling blocks, though, the real solution to this athletes’ career-transitioning problem is to teach them how to control their own destinies. It’s certainly a step in the right direction to focus on the death-like experience of athletic retirement, but merely discovering the issue of one-dimensional self-identity isn’t nearly enough. Even when we factor in coming from poverty into money along with being coddled from an early age as major contributors to the explanation of poor decision-making behaviors, it’s still not enough.”
     
    Meanwhile, the second sure thing that I told you is that a growing number of sports industry experts share my assessment of and approach to solving this extremely urgent and devastating player career-transitioning problem. The following quoted section of my part-one article reveals the core of the problem-solving action approach that I’m advocating with the full support of the entire Access Athletes team.
     
    "The best way to improve how we utilize the teaching resources that have so far been made available to players is also frighteningly simple. At the college level (and now high school for bona fide blue chippers), and then again at the pro rookie pre-entry stage, athletes must be subjected to intensive ongoing training programs designed to show them how to view themselves in more holistic ways. Such programs must also help the athletes to develop expertise with transferring their athletic thought processes to their off-the-field challenges and obligations.
     
    Who can provide this education for the athletes, many of whom may not yet be ready to listen without what they’d consider to be a compelling incentive? Well, it’s clear to me that forward-thinking agents, colleges, and pro teams, working closely with organizations like Access Athletes to design and implement these programs, could start a revolution of wellness and stellar citizenship in pro sports.” 
     
    One of the sports industry’s rising media stars, who clearly also recognizes both the potential economic and social benefits of agencies building formal career transitioning preparation activities into players’ lives, is Darren Heitner, Esq., a sports attorney who is the Founder of SportsAgentBlog.com and a Forbes contributor specializing in the business of sports. According to Heitner: 
     
    "Many companies understand the significance and importance of providing services to clientele that may not necessarily lead to a direct increase in revenue. Those companies realize that charitable measures are valuable for the end of benefiting society, but also may reap the rewards of being noticed for their efforts, which indirectly leads to an increase in profitability.
     
    Sports agencies would be looking after their own self interests and providing a very valuable (albeit charitable) service to the individuals they represent, if they decide to spend more time, effort and energy in looking after their clients' long term interests. It should not only be about what occurs on the field of play and in conversations with general managers, but also how athletes can transition to careers in differing disciplines once it is time to hand up the jerseys. Some agencies manage this process better than others. In today's day-and-age, it must be an expected and demanded facet of representation.” 
     
    As examples that reflect Heitner’s frank and insightful remarks about the role of sports agencies in helping players to change careers, the remainder of this article (part two) will feature two existing programs that were designed to assist players with that challenging change process. The first program featured here was developed and is run by a prominent agency, while the other was conceived, developed, and is coordinated by a non-agency consulting firm run by a former agency employee.
     
    Check Out The PLAN
    For the last three years, the Chicago- and Los Angeles-based agency called Priority Sports & Entertainment (PSE) has been hosting a learning/networking career-transition conference for its NFL player clients. Last year’s version of the one-day conference, known simply as The PLAN (Preparing for Life After football Now), was held on April 10 at Chicago’s Hotel SAX.
     
    The conference’s general focus and design is refreshingly simple. NFL and NFLPA representatives, financial advisors, life coaches, counselors, and other business professionals who are well thought of in their respective fields were invited to conduct career development workshops and then to get paired up with PSE clients who attended the event.
     
    PSE agent and PLAN event creator Deryk Gilmore (pictured below) explained his employer’s rationale for sponsoring the conference. “As an agency we have always structured the company to make our clients a Priority. When other companies are having Super Bowl parties we had that option but just felt the best way to serve our clients was to structure a program to help them prepare for the future. Because of the relationships with our clients, everyone in our office was on board to make sure we would not read about our clients going broke or having no options when their career was over.”
     
    In keeping with the fact that PSE is a moneymaking player rep agency, built into the PLAN program’s design is a process for measuring its long-term impact on the company’s profitability. According to Gilmore, “The program is about 3 years in place so long term we will chart players who leave the league and we follow what they do when they finish. As players retire we contact them with questions on how can we help. 
     
    “I think this (tracking process) makes us different,” he continued. “When a player comes to an end the value is him having a PLAN in place and knowing we (PSE) did our job.”
     
    Testimonials from several of the players themselves backed up Gilmore’s PLAN self-assessment. Former linebacker J. Leman, who played for several teams including the Oakland Raiders, said “ I recommend going for anyone who played for years, and then you’re not sure what you want to do. It was great to learn about the full spectrum of options after football.” 
     
    Meanwhile, former running back Noah Herron, who also played for several teams including the Green Bay Packers, added, “It was a great, great opportunity to set the stage for the second chapter of our lives. It was a great platform to springboard from.”
     
    But former players weren’t the only PSE clients in attendance at the 2012 PLAN event. Current Detroit Lions defensive End Jason Jones also praised his PLAN experience, saying “This was very beneficial for players. I would get teammates to come in the future. It was a great networking opportunity, and just a really great opportunity to meet people and get their emails and phone numbers.”
     
    As you can see, the fact that an agency like PSE is demonstrating a refreshing foresight and authentic concern for its clients’ well-being by investing in The PLAN program is a huge step toward ushering the sports industry into an enlightened era. What I like most about The PLAN program’s potential impact on the sports industry is that it’s sponsored by an agency, which organically isn’t widely expected to care about anything beyond money. 
     
    And because agencies aren’t generally expected to display charitable motives, any step that such an organization takes in an altruistic direction can potentially send positive shock waves throughout the entire professional sporting landscape. Therefore, simply by institutionalizing the annual PLAN event, it’s clear to me that PSE is providing a major boost to all who strongly agree with Darren Heitner that helping athletes transition to post-playing careers “must be an expected and demanded facet of representation.”
     
    It must be said, of course, that agency-sponsored programs like The PLAN aren’t yet plentiful enough to serve as anything more than prototypical design examples of how agencies and teams might address players’ career transitioning issues in the future. So at this embryonic point in the sports industry’s inevitable-yet-delayed journey toward a more balanced understanding and leveraging of its key role in our society, certain core questions still haven’t been answered on a wide enough scale.
     
    Chief among those core questions is how to peak the interest of young players who’ve had no previous exposure to any kind of training in the fundamentals of business and personal decision-making. Currently, I believe that most sports industry professionals and fans are convinced that most new athletes aren’t mature or smart enough to allow themselves to focus on building their financial and social futures right now. So the question that often gets asked is, “How on earth do you plan to get (this career transitioning and social decision-making knowledge) across to the knuckleheads?”
     
    Truthfully, that’s a fair question, especially in light of the fact that programs like The PLAN work best for individuals who’ve already committed themselves to learning how to transition to new careers. The PLAN is definitely a powerful and useful networking opportunity for its attendees, but it’s understandably designed to appeal specifically to PSE’s clients. Therefore, it’s not even reasonable to expect programs like it to address the issue of expanding career transitioning knowledge throughout the community of NFL players.
     
    On another note, Jack Bechta’s advice in his National Football Post blog that teams should mandate career-change process training for all players would drastically reduce the significance of the players’ maturity question. So if the NFL and its individual teams would simply make financial investments and policy upgrades similar to those suggested by Bechta, pro football’s nightmarish player career transitioning problems could be transformed into a minor annoyance almost overnight. That’s why I also advocate such a change at the team and league levels.
     
    But convincing teams and professional sports leagues to show such concern for their players’ well being isn’t the only way to narrow the knowledge and maturity gap for pro athletes. Marcus D. Sallis, Founder and CEO of The Sallis Consulting Group (SCG), has created another way – and a fully comprehensive one at that.
     
    Introducing The McCombs Professional Athlete Entrepreneurship Initiative
    For the last 12 years, former Iowa State University scholar athlete (football) Marcus Sallis has been running the unique business consulting organization that bears his last name. And unique is definitely an apt descriptor of the business model that drives The Sallis Consulting Group, as the excerpt below from its Mission Statement explains: 
     
    "The SCG is not a team of financial advisors and Investment Managers. The goal of our company is to consult directly with athletes on their business transactions, off-the-field business ventures, and long-term planning and positioning for a thriving career once the playing days are over. The Sallis Consulting Group will fully understand your business aspirations and put a strategic and long-term professional structure in place to ensure the client understands these critical decisions and receive the proper insight prior to making these life-altering financial decisions.” 
     
    As you can see, SCG’s primary business focus is to earn its money by training its athlete clients in financial decision-making and strategic planning, along with providing transaction-by-transaction project review and advisement. The true uniqueness of the Sallis company’s business model rests in the fact that the better informed its clients are about how to make sound financial decisions, the more lucrative it gets for SCG.
     
    In short, Sallis has pioneered the creation of a sports industry business model featuring a built-in financial and social balancing motive that contrasts dramatically against the existing dominant approach. Specifically, rather than confining itself to earning commissions from negotiating playing and endorsement contracts while keeping clients’ personal affairs at arms length, SCG is instead set up to thrive best from helping its clients become savvy investors and strategists on their own behalf. With the spreading of a model like this, the ugly post-NFL and post-NBA stats that have alarmed so many people will now have a chance to finally become a thing of the past.

     

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