This section of PPD Mag bring articles on some of a host of issues, independent writers are encouraged to contribute to this section.

UCONN’s Collective Uplift and the Institute for Personal Player Development Establish a Partnership

The University of Connecticut School (UConn) of Education’s Collective Uplift (CU) program and the Institute for Personal Player Development (IPPD) have established a partnership centered around personal development training and education for students and student athletes.

Collective Uplift is a program created by Dr. Joseph Cooper. The purpose of CU is to empower, educate, inspire and support students across ethnic groups on campus toCapture maximize their full potential as holistic individuals both within and beyond athletic contexts. The IPPD provides training and education on the personal player development needs of the athlete. Areas such as Behavior Modification, Athletic Identity, Leadership, and Decision-making are just a few of the curriculum topics offered.  Understanding and developing student-athletes particularly minority student athletes has become a definitive tool in personal, academic and athletic success.

Dr. Tommy Shavers, the Institute for Personal Player Development Leadership Advisory Board Chair believes, “today’s athlete can be the key to tackling the current and future challenges facing athlete development. Athletes that have been trained and equipped with educational knowledge can combine their learning with their personal athletic experiences to become an even more effective practitioner in the area of athlete development. Collective Uplift provides us with the unique opportunity to train the next generation of Personal Player Development Specialists as they are progressing beyond their athletic context.”

Dr. Joseph Cooper, is the Director of Collective Uplift as well as an Assistant Professor in the School of Education, sees “the partnership between Collective Uplift and the Institute for Personal Player Development as a symbiotic relationship for both organizations because we share a common goal of developing and supporting athletes to understand and maximize their full potential both within and beyond the athletic contexts. Both CU and IPPD are committed to improving life outcomes for athletes through education, mentorship, and professional development. Also, both CU and IPPD recognize the importance of not only developing individual athletes but also engaging in meaningful dialogue with various stakeholders who interact with athletes on a consistent basis (coaches, counselors, advisors, etc.) and subsequently have a profound impact on their overall development. We look forward to this partnership and the positive benefits derived therein.”


For further information contact

Dr. Mark Robinson

Sr. Director of the Institute for Personal Player Development

(415) 944-7731






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Last Chance U is Our First Chance

The latest sport related documentary is Last Chance U.  Although the film is following the Eastern Mississippi Community College (EMCC) football team, the events that take place give us a look at much more than the usual college football drama made for TV.  The show is as real as it gets regarding the pressure, issues and challenges athletes encounter while on their journey of playing on to the D1 level.  More importantly, this is our first chance to see up close, some of the issues academic counselors are faced with and the ever growing need for Personal Player Development.

Each episode provides consistent reminders of the ever mounting need for Personal Player Development, precisely the lack of understanding in the area of my athletic identity stages of growth.  According to Dr. Tommy Shavers, “the absence of Personal Player Development comes down to three things, either they don’t know, don’t care or are not capable of providing athletes with assistance in this developmental space.  I believe we all know and care but being capable of helping student-athletes or even professional athletes in behavioural modification requires training.”

Athletic Identity and the five related stages are front and center in this film, the clip below is an illustration of how a student-athlete is experiencing one of the stages in athletic identity.  However, the academic counselor is not sure about the athletic identity stages and is at a loss in this very teachable moment.  If you work on a college campus specifically with athletes, this is a must see production.


Dr. Mark Robinson is the Sr. Director of the Institute for Personal Player Development and one of the pioneers on Athletic Identity.

Twitter: @drmarkppd

Dr. Tommy Shavers is the Chair of the Institute for Personal Player Development and founder of The Atlas Group.

Twitter: @Tommy_Speak



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Survey on the Personal Development of Athletes

The purpose of this survey is to examine and explore areas of improvement for student athletes.  Please share your training experience in the personal player development arena.  Personal development/player development is defined as the holistic approach to the development of the student athlete as an individual person, with a focus on social, behavior, and identity development.

This survey is only 4 questions and should not exceed more than 5 minutes of your time and will remain confidential.  Thank you for participating.



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Meet the IPPD Faculty

The Institute for Personal Player Development is pleased to have a unique and energetic group of faculty committed to the personal growth and development of athletes.  The need to assist collegiate athletic departments and athletic organizations, in understanding sports culture as well as athlete behavior has become a high priority.

Our faculty members have built their individual reputations on being experts on the issues and challenges athletes face daily.


The IPPD Faculty 2016

The IPPD Faculty 2016


Dr. Mark Robinson, area of focus, Athletic Identity

Elaine Pasqua, area of focus, Health and Well-being, Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence

Pasha Cook, area of focus, LGBTQ and the Athlete

DeQawn Mobley, area of focus, Social Responsibility and the Athlete:

Dr. Tommy Shavers, area of focus, Leadership and Personal Player Development

Camila Beek, area of focus, Athlete Branding

Dr. Donald English, area of focus, Mental Health and the Athlete

Malik Wade, area of focus, The Justice System and the Athlete

Dr. Kristina Navarro, area of focus, Career Counseling and Exploration

Dr. Steven N. Waller, area of focus, Spirituality and the Athlete

Annette Lynch,area of focus, Transition Success Beyond Sport

Cynthia Johnson, area of focus, Athlete Branding, Social Media, Marketing

Dr. Stephany Coakley, area of focus, Athlete Transition:

Eric Smith, area of focus, Financial Literacy and the Athlete

Dr. Marcus Amos, area of focus, Substance abuse & Pill Addiction and the Athlete

Susan Salzbrenner, area of focus, The Athlete and Cultural Intelligence

Marvin Burton Cornish, area of focus, The Deterrents of the Athlete


The IPPD is  currently seeking additional faculty to ensure our continued growth and desired place in the Personal Player Development industry.  If you are interested in joining the IPPD faculty contact Dr. Mark Robinson.


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Nick Saban, an Advocate of Personal Player Development

Nick Saban is probably one of the best football coaches on the planet and if people could get past his on the field and recruiting accomplishments, they would embrace the ideology of the importance for Personal Player Development of athletes and realize it is the key to winning games and championships.  I do not know Coach Saban personally but it has been clear to me over time, he is knowingly or unknowingly, a champion for Personal Player Development.

The modern day athlete and coach are faced with a host of challenges and issues in and outside of the sporting environment. Athletes are being arrested or cited at an alarming rate (1.3 per day) and although many argue, it’s social media bringing athlete arrest to light.  I would counter argue, 20 plus years ago athletes did not get arrested or cited at this same rate.  Blaming social media reporting is an excuse to believe things are the same as they once were.  Television contracts, team sponsorship, athletes per diem, high school coaches, travel ball, athletic camps as well as the number of athletes that transfer and finally the athletes themselves are all different.  Therefore, nothing is the same as it was 20 years ago in sports.


Nick Saban on Athletes and Discipline from Dr. Mark Robinson on Vimeo.


The University of Alabama student athletes, specifically on the football team, are not immune to the challenges and issues facing this generation of athletes.  High profile, high demands and yes high expectations to be the best Alabama football player one can be, is the world Alabama football student athletes reside in daily.  If your playing for Alabama you are considered one of the best in class.  The amount of time, energy and money that went into getting a student athlete to commit to playing football for Alabama should indicate the football program is not going to simply give up on  kids and kick them out of school because of bad decisions, or poor judgement, I hope.

Coach Saban, understands the type of discipline young athletes need and more college coaches should realize the definition of discipline has two parts. Discipline is defined as 1) control that is gained by requiring that rules or orders be obeyed and punishing bad behaviour and 2) a way of behaving that shows a willingness to obey rules or orders.  Our society equates discipline to punishments, especially in athletics.  However when dealing with athletes, young men, particularly African American young men, discipline should focus on the code of behaviour and more importantly changing that behaviour.

Many student athletes enter a college environment and bring their behaviour with them. In order to change that behaviour we must immediately instill discipline surrounding that behaviour by teaching student athletes the core elements of Personal Player Development.


We all have made poor decisions, some worst than others and athletes are human.  Therefore, it is important that we use opportunities of poor judgement as teachable moments.  Clearly we can’t save every athlete from making poor choices because some of them reject the assistance in behaviour modification.

Our current society would rather punish than teach.  For many athletes the punishment is removal from the team and/or institution. In this equation no one wins.  I guess one of the reasons Coach Saban lands the best recruits, wins games and championships is because his approach to dealing with student athletes, who make poor decisions, is a bit different than the modern day coach and revenue generating institutions.  He uses them as teachable, Personal Player Development moments.


Dr. Mark is the Sr. Director for The Institute for Personal Player Development


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Athletes Chasing The Idea Of Perfection

The pursuit to become proficient in every aspect drives athletes to eat, sleep and breath excellence. Since a young age, the idea that “practice makes perfect” is drilled into their mindset, but where does striving for perfection draw the line between healthy and unhealthy?

Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.  Vince Lombardi

There is no doubt that sports carry many benefits including discipline, team work, decision making, goal setting, and dedication. Nevertheless, this competitive environment also has the ability to aid in the downfall of the individual. For the athlete that spends countless hours seeking improvement, they have become their own worst critic. Left dissatisfied when the outcome doesn’t meet their expectation, instead of recognizing their ability to progress. What athletes really mean to say is that they seek perfection, the unreachable notion of being flawless. But what is perfection? Is it the no hitter? Is it the ideal body image? Is it doing what we never thought we could?

Vince Lombardi said, “ Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence”. To the athlete seeking perfection, communication and education is key. We are so fixated on the little things that we fail to see the bigger picture of having a healthy, balanced and positive lifestyle as individuals. That includes letting go of what we cannot control. Behavior such as this is more common than we realize, especially in athletics.

Sports culture is obsessed with perfection; from performance to appearance, athletes are statistically evaluated and under the constant pressure to meet expectations. The higher the level of competition, the more pressure there is, and while we understand that less than 2% is what separates the good from the great; when do we reach a point where we are satisfied with ourselves?

The combination of various factors can lead athletes to partake in unhealthy behavior that is self-destructive. High-risk drinking, drug use, and eating disorders are just some of the better-known behaviors that athletes fall vulnerable to when they internalize stress and don’t know how to properly approach these situations.

In an environment that prides itself on mental toughness, any sign of weakness that could impact performance is negatively looked upon. Athletes feel too proud, fear, or deny that they are struggling and in return it becomes internally damaging to the individual and the athlete. The inability to be perfect does not discredit them as a person, it only allows them opportunity to develop and progress.


Let us redefine how the sports culture views perfection. Perfection is the point where a person’s satisfaction starts and ends with them. As an athlete you cannot allow others to define your success or your self worth. Sports are about your passion and ability to reach your full potential, no one else’s. So should we stop trying to achieve perfection? No, chasing perfection gives us direction and motivates us to do better. For some, that athletic identity may extend for a longer period of time than others, but at the end of the day they all eventually come to an end. When that day comes we want athletes to continue to view perfection as their distinct ability to live a positive, balanced and healthy lifestyle.

As for our imperfections, they are what make us perfectly imperfect. They make you the athlete that you are, but more importantly they make you the person you are. Vince Lombardi was right, perfection is unattainable, but teaching athletes to reach their full potential, that is its own model of excellence.

Article written by Danielle Gleason,

Founder of DNG and Personal Player Development Specialist

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International Basketball Success Online Workshop

With over 4000 college basketball Seniors and only 60 available positions in the NBA, basketball players who don’t make the NBA have a great chance of playing international basketball, but many don’t make it.  Why, because they lack the necessary information.

The Institute for Personal Player Development (IPPD) has launched the International Basketball Success Workshop.  This online workshop provides athletes with the information they need in order to have successful and productive careers abroad.

Why is this workshop important or needed?  Most college basketball players are never given the proper information to find employment playing abroad.  Instead many of these players either:

Give up on the dream

Play abroad and have a horrible experience

Sign contracts with agents who don’t help them

Pay to attend exposure camps and never get a job

Waste years doing it the wrong way

College basketball programs and USA Basketball do not give basketball players the information they need in this new and exciting journey, but the IPPD does.  Enroll today and learn what you have always wanted to know.

Listen to what previous athletes think about the workshop below.

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The Practice of ‘Mindfulness’ for Optimal Performance and Well-being in Sport and Business

Whenever we evaluate current levels of stress, anxiety, debilitative factors affecting confidence, or blocks to achieving optimal performance in a variety of vocational tasks and domains, whether that be human functioning in operational business, or collective team performance in sport, such conceptions of these barriers are atypically a result of past experiences or future events. Furthermore, from personal experience, within any life domain, when individuals are asked to reflect on their three highest sources of stress,  the responses often related to past experiences or future events. In business this may be hitting weekly/monthly targets, in football, goals per game ratios. To elaborate in more detail, using football as an example, it is a common occurrence to witness  teams ‘crumbling’ under pressure. Whether that be teams in the relegation zone, or underdogs with a shot at the title. What often happens in these situations is rather than being in the present moment and focusing on the tasks and resources needed to complete a specific task or game to the best of their ability, the egoic mind is all too often reliving past experiences or worrying about future outcomes, which reinforces (quite often negatively – due to negative tendencies in though processing) our current levels of self-worth and ability in that present moment.


For the individual saleswoman pitching to a CEO, her direction of thoughts on securing the deal (end result) and potential future business generation (future event) from this pitch debilitates her ability to pool resources together for; building high levels of rapport with the CEO in question, focusing on the tonality, language and pace of the pitch, the details and intricacies of the product. For the footballer who is taking a penalty kick in the cup final, he is often distracted by the consequences of success or failure rather than the decisions needed to succeed in the present moment (i.e. target, ball placement, shot choice, pace, power, wind direction, position of the goal keeper). The fear of not attaining the cup, letting down team mates, comparing this situation to the last time he missed and/or scored a penalty, is preventing the individual from optimal headspace needed to achieve success.


From my experience of working with business leaders, C-suite, employees, football managers, sport coaches, and athletes/players, what separates the best performers in the world, to the average ones, is an ability to recognize the direction of their thoughts, and an even stronger recognition to disassociate specific thoughts, thus allowing them to maintain in the present moment. Sport and business psychology consultants have long dedicated time to helping individuals change such thought processes, their attention, focus and direction, and the direct and indirect influences on performance and well-being. Traditionally, this has been addressed through models of practice such as CBT (thought stopping, cognitive reframing) NPL (reducing the impact of thoughts and feelings) and PST (increasing the use and applicability of psychological strategy).


A more contemporary approach which has aimed to help individuals with such thought processes relating to their well-being, is mindfulness. Practitioners are now incorporating such models of practice across a range of performance domains. For those that may not yet be fully aware of the way in which mindfulness works, Buddhism (the origins of mindful meditation) places emphasises on ‘being’ in the present moment. However, by identifying with the egoic mind, an illusory distinction is made with our past experiences and future events. Such identifications are the difference between being mindful or mindFULL. That’s not to say that we can not recognize our past, as inevitably it has made us who we are today, but continual recognition of past mistakes, missed opportunities, broken relationships etc., or conversely, solely focusing on future opportunities, and promotions, and living the future significantly impacts upon well-being by not allowing us to recognize the present moment for what it is.


It is not surprising to know that through clinical research and reports, looking back is directly associated with depression, whilst looking forward (for some) is directly related to anxiousness.  Having worked with individuals with such tendencies, I feel that ultimately what causes such performance decrements and well-being issues (depression, anxiety, anger) is the lack of control which we have over events which have happened, or going to happen in the future. Mindfulness recognizes that all we can control is the present, by not evaluating thoughts of previous or upcoming events, we allow ourselves the freedom to enjoy the present moment. It is in this moment we see people flourish in performance and they experience feelings of content (not happiness – dictated by external sources). It is also during these episodes, elite athletes report being ‘in the zone’. With the ‘quiet mind’ being reported time and time again as a characteristic during such peak performance. Through neuroscientific evidence, we know this not to be 100% accurate. Whilst there is a significant reduction in brain activity, what actually is happening during such episodes is that the individual does not directly associate with his/her thoughts. He/she actively becomes an observer of thoughts through non-evaluative means. This allows him/her to be truly present in the moment.

A great example of someone who currently lives in the present moment is Claudio Ranieri – Leicester City FC Manager. His ability to not focus on the outcome of the season and to approach performance on a game-by-game basis, he is a prime ambassador for advocating the positive effects of being mindful (as opposed to mindFULL). Through a deep understanding that team performance will be dictated by the resources he has at any given moment in time, through his language, communication and actions, he instills a positive mentality in players, whereby their focus is intensely on the present moment for the following 90 minutes, and nothing else. Though we cannot examine brain activity and recall accurately during a football match, it could be assumed that players mindfulness on the pitch is exemplified in their behaviours i.e. logical as opposed to emotional reactions,  verbal and non-verbal communication and body language after successful and unsuccessful outcomes.


To illustrate this through a practical example (and in an attempt for you to understand your current levels of mindfulness, or mindFULLness) if you took your dog for a walk this morning, ate breakfast with your family, or grabbed a take-out coffee on your way to work, take time to relate back to the direction of your thoughts. Were you thinking about upcoming bills at the end of the month, the potential promotion at work? Or, were they solely focused on experiencing that laughter of your two year old son as he dribbled porridge down his chin, or the fresh crisp air at 6am when you walked your dog through the park, with the trees damp with the thaw of overnight frost? The layman will often volitionally accept the direct relationships between thought, feeling and behaviour without conscious attention. As a result, this lack of self-awareness often necessitates living (not being) in the present moment through thoughts of past circumstances or future events.


Being a Mindfulness Practitioner, I am fully aware and endorsing of the many ways that mindfulness could assist the well-being of the general population (feel free to ask me any questions you may have), but for the purpose of this article we will focus on the holistic benefits for individuals and teams in both sport and business.


By combining Mindfulness Diploma training with clinical, business and sport psychology education, practicum knowledge and experience, I have devised a mindfulness strategy (applied through either individual consultations and/or groups workshops), which follows the three stage process of; recognition, observation and acceptance.


This first step to becoming more mindful (as opposed to mindFULL) is understanding the cognitive behavioural hypothesis. By comprehending the cyclical relationship between thoughts, feeling and behaviours, we become more self-aware of the direction and intent of our thoughts, and the resultant impact on feelings, emotions and subsequent behaviours. If we relate this to business, as another example, due to the cut-throat nature of sales in high performance environments, a salesman’s typical response to each and every telesales call may be “I need to hit my target” (which could be a result of self-worth, paying bills, evaluation apprehension or all of these factors). This thought directly results in feelings of nervousness and tension, and the subsequent unconscious (sometimes conscious) behaviour of pressurized selling, not accurately listening to the customers queries and demands, poor memory of product features and applications etc. By focusing on future events (outside of his control at this present moment) he is unable to be in the present moment, resulting in a whole host of debilitative factors. From my own consultancy experience, when individuals who understand (even at a low level) such relationships between thoughts, feelings and behaviours, this recognition is a powerful enough tool for initiating change.


Through intense self-refection and analysis, individuals will become more aware of both positive and negative cyclical relationships through the cognitive behavioural hypothesis. It is here (or should be) where CBT therapists may use thought blocking or cognitive reframing for changing faulty thinking processes. At this stage, mindfulness opposes traditional therapies by allowing thoughts to be (as opposed to controlling them) which results in reduced association with such thoughts, removing the negative impact on feelings and behaviours. Using quicksand as an analogy, this approach frees individuals from identifying and wrestling with their thoughts (sometimes debilitative, sometimes facilitative). For visual representation of this process, please refer back to the figure above.


For this to be achieved successfully, I have developed a bespoke introductory mindful meditation, which supports individuals and groups to become mere observers (and not evaluators) of their thoughts. This practice to the layman may seem ambiguous, however mindfulness is an art form that needs to be practiced practically. Once doing so, the self-awareness individuals experience will far supersede any retrospective reflections. Not only does this process support individuals to disembody thoughts and the typical volitional relationships with feelings/emotions and behaviours, it actively promotes individuals to experience ‘being’ in the present moment.


Finally, once an individual has experienced and achieved observing thoughts in the present moment, positive behaviour change will become both conscious and unconscious. Subsequent mindfulness sessions with clients are therefore aimed at further disassociating with the egoic mind, allowing thoughts to be just thoughts (and not subsequent feelings and actions) through objectification and non-evaluation, resulting in acceptance of thoughts and intense focus upon the present moment. For the salesman with the recurring thought of “I need to hit my sales target”, whose typical responses are nervousness and debilitative behaviours, he has now become consciously aware that he is not controlled by his thoughts and as such can actively be in the present moment. Not only will this transpire to more effecting performance (asking the right questions, listening to the wants and needs of the client, recalling the product features and applicability) and well-being (confidence, recognition of character strengths, presence) in this specific sales pitch, a significant positive shift will occurs across all contextual domains of the individuals life.


By Luke Whiting

Elite Mindset Coach at Norwich City FC, Life Coach and Mindfulness Practitioner


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Stephen A. Smith, Hearts and Souls of Men in Sports

Stephen A. Smith recently discussed his feelings and thoughts regarding the Rooney Rule.  For those that don’t know, the Rooney Rule requires National Football League teams interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operations jobs. It is sometimes cited as an example of affirmative action, though there is no quota or preference given to minorities in the hiring of candidates. It was established in 2003.

Although the rule has been in place for 13 years, many argue the rule, has not had the intended effect on hiring minorities.

What does this have to do with Personal Player Development?  Simple, the urgency to provide training and development for professional athletes and helping professionals in the personal development arena has lagged, just as hiring practices have.  Stephen A. explains why…


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