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

Anthony Trucks Tips for Athletes, Preparing for the Transition

Dr. Mark: What advice can you give athletes in preparation for the transition?

Mr. Trucks: 1) SWALLOW YOUR PRIDE! You are NOT too good to work. I don’t care how may touchdowns you scored, or who has your jersey. If you don’t learn the ability to swallow your pride and drop your ego to get a real career like every other hard working individual in this world, then you are going to die a slow financial death. So many people get out of sports and have a chip on their shoulder, which becomes the biggest hindrance to their post sport success. I had to train and serve 9 years old for 6 years to earn my right to be successful in this world because I needed to make a living and feed my family. I could have easily tried to ride the “NFL” tag, but no one cares what you did if you’re no longer doing it on the field.

That would be like a CEO walking into another company and saying, “I Built that company to greatness so I can definitely do it here, but I’m not going to work as hard because I don’t want to look like a low level person.” If he wants to make his new company just as big he’s going to have to work HARDER because its necessary to achieve the same level of success.

2) REDEFINE AND USE YOUR SKILLS. Sports taught you amazing tools that you need to redefine for the working world. The athletes who don’t tap into the strengths that ALLOWED them to have success in their sport always perplex me. Things like punctuality, problem solving, working as a team to succeed, determination, communication skills, etc. These are qualities that employers LOVE, yet we get to a place in our minds where we assume others don’t “get us”, so we shut people out and/or shut down and eventually make it harder to succeed. Next time you are in a hard spot think back to what you did in a game when things got hard and redirect that energy and focus to your current task. You’ll be amazed at how fast you succeed and even get the same rush you did when you were playing.

3) FIND OUT WHO YOU ARE WITHOUT THE GAME. When I got done playing it was a HUGE shock to my system because I didn’t know who I was without football anymore. Everyone knew me as the NFL player, as did I. So when I finished I was internally struggling to find out who I was without it. I felt like I wasn’t whole. Then I started to realize that the person I was inside allowed me to do what I did, not just the body I had. The great part was that this person was still there. I still had all the tools that made me the “football player”. I was no less of a person, I just had finished my first career. I started to write down things that I enjoyed doing and what made me happy from the “game”. I liked training, sports, and people so I decided to open a gym and train others to become the best version of themselves. I in fact got a better sense of fulfillment helping others than I did when playing. I was still the “football player”, but I was also now a man helping others to do what I had done. So dig deep and find out who that person is and what that person enjoyed about the game they played. Then find something that afford you the ability to get those same things from the non sports world.

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Student Athlete Growth and Development

When multi-million dollar facility upgrades, branding and sponsorships, and media exposure are among the top ways to solicit and retain recruits, it is easy to see why there are growing concerns about a student-athlete’s preparation for life after eligibility. En route to a degree, today’s student-athlete has access to more coaches, specialized facilities and trainers than probably ever thought necessary. But at what cost? As students and institutions continue to pursue expectations of being bigger, faster, stronger; the best program in the nation; the most innovative; having the industry’s latest everything; many have gotten away from the richest investment: in each other.

As the arms race continues, the NCAA and the member institutions need to continuously renew and reinforce their commitment to equipping student-athletes with skills to succeed throughout life. While athletic success may lead to financial stability and an abundance of equipment, gear, facility upgrades, additional specialists and trainers, etc., all the resources in the world don’t mean a thing if you don’t know what to do with them.

Upon hearing the term student-athlete, many people —student-athletes included— envision a life of a silver spoon. They think student-athletes get everything handed to them because of their athletic prowess; do not go to class because they are only on campus to try to “go pro”; take spots from people who actually want to learn, research cures to diseases, enact positive change in society, and so forth. Prevalent throughout collegiate athletics, especially around Division I, the folly of such stereotyping is toxic. The overemphasis on the material benefits of a student-athletes’ athletic experience establishes a culture that reinforces the big business behind intercollegiate athletics and leaves little room for a student’s growth and development through and outside of sport.

Gushing about students’ holistic development with little emphasis on actively preparing students to navigate the transitions into, through, and beyond their collegiate careers places student-athletes at a deficit. The focus should not be solely on what you can provide for your students, but what you can accomplish with and through them. With a focus on being a good student and being a good athlete, student-athletes rarely have time within their collegiate careers to focus on the things that will support their attainment of success beyond eligibility’s expiration.

Student-athletes are rarely able to value and use the resources designed to facilitate successful transitions throughout their collegiate athlete experience without that value being ingrained in the culture. In addition to incentivizing athletic excellence with rewards, gifts, and notoriety contributing to an unconscious superiority or entitlement complex, (Robinson, 2015)—also feeding the aforementioned negative stereotypes—athletics administrators need to construct a culture that values development and immersion in all that a collegiate experience [at your university] has to offer.


Within this culture: know WHO the student-athletes are—their demographics and desires; take INTEREST in what they want to do, to learn and the things needed to do so; acknowledge their NEEDS looking to research and best practices internal and external to your institutions and respond accordingly

ENGAGE one another to educate, develop, and grow together as a community. Set the expectation for student-athletes to invest in personal success, in addition to academic and athletic achievement, by providing opportunities to champion that development such as workshops, seminars, service learning and reflection, or simply opportunities to talk to coaches or administrators about life away from academics and athletics.

Regardless of the endowments and generated revenue, athletic departments cannot be everything to every one of their student-athletes. Why should they strive to be? In doing so, students are robbed of the experiences they will encounter during the transition to post-collegiate life. Resources like campus’ Career Center, leadership development teams, counseling professionals, transitional assistance programs, study abroad offices, community service, multicultural, or gender resource centers should be introduced as vital to the success of the student-athlete similar to upgrades and unveilings of athletic facilities and equipment. Collaboration across campus and within the surrounding community helps establish a culture providing students with greater access to the fullest potential of their collegiate experiences.

Student-athletes have access to many resources by being enrolled as students, but true accessibility lies in how the resources—people, places, things—are integrated into their collegiate life. Without the opportunity to explore these resources or time to engage areas outside of academics and athletics, intercollegiate athletics participation creates obstacles with potential long-term, catastrophic effects. Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” but if you do not know what to do with it, what did you learn? For this reason, it is not enough to provide student-athletes with access to buildings, equipment, or other resources all geared towards high-performance and achieving excellence.

There must be a willingness to train students in the use and integration of the resources available at the campus, conference, and national levels. Promote the use of additional resources and encourage student-athletes to value their personal and professional growth among their academic and athletic successes. Acknowledge your student-athletes’ multiple identities; invest in their interests; supply them with the resources to meet [and exceed] their needs while ensuring engagement in all that a collegiate student-athlete experience has to offer. Empower and enable your students to thrive throughout college and beyond, not just survive.


By JP Abercrumbie
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Someone Has to Sit on the Bench

By Dr. Mark Robinson PhD

For many athletes, sitting on the bench as a reserve can be a painful and lonely reality check. I often work with athletes who develop personal and social developmental issues from sitting on the bench waiting to play the sport that they love. It may surprise you that allowing athletes a safe place to discuss playing time issues can bring them comfort while they adjust to the difficultly of sitting on the bench.

The biggest problem for student athletes, especially high school and college freshman, who receive limited playing time are their parents. Yup, the parents of these athletes. These parents have invested time and money during their child’s pre-high school experience in youth leagues and travel ball. They felt untold excitement when the high school coach expressed interest or when their child was offered a scholarship; a free education.  These parents now fully expect their child to walk onto a high school or college campus and play, be an instant starter, regardless of the number of returning players on a team.

Parents usually have no idea what a child is experiencing through social media, peer relationships and skill development regarding sitting the bench. Instead parents blame the coach’s inability to see true talent and immediately think about the possibility of selecting another AAU program, high school or transferring colleges.

Athletes sit on the bench for a variety of reasons. Some think that they are sitting on the bench because they are not good enough, and need to work harder to get better. For some, a place on the bench is due to the level of talent of the upper or senior class athletes. For others the claim is that the coach doesn’t like them, or that politics and favoritism are at play. All of these things can, and will, race through a young athlete’s head over the duration of their high school or college career, until they get the opportunity to play.

How each athlete copes with sitting on the bench is uniquely different, but they all try their best to deal with their own situation. The feelings an athlete has about sitting on the bench is not something many want to discuss, nor is it something helping professionals or parents are ready to embrace. As an example; ask any kid who sat on the bench on a High School or College team if anyone other than their mom or dad ever discussed how sitting and watching others play made them feel?

A parent once told me;“My son was never recruited to sit on the bench, and the coaches never told me or my child that he would be sitting on the bench. In fact, we were told during the recruiting phase that he would be a big part of the program.” Actually, being on the team and sitting on the bench is a big part of the program; it’s just not the part she nor her son had intended on playing.

Often, mom and dad are the only people athletes in this situation can turn to. However, unless the family has a plan moving forward away from sport, they can sometimes make the situation worse. The conversation should be concerned with the positives associated with playing on the team and a focus on getting better, or the honest truth regarding talent and ability. Possibly a better avenue to take would be focusing on developing a passion outside of sport and accepting the role of a bench player.

Have you ever overheard this conversation?

Q: Do you play on the basketball/football team?

A: Yes. I am on the team. My role is to work hard in practice, pushing the starters and our star player to perfect their craft for game day. I make sure the other players on the bench are involved in the pre-game dance during the announcements, and I am responsible for getting the starters and the home crowd hyped up. I am a big part of the walk through process and I am a star on the scout team during the week. The experience I am having just being on the team is wonderful. I have a great group of guys I get to travel, work and laugh with on a daily basis. But on game day you would never know this because I sit on the bench.  We never hear this conversation because we are failing to teach the true value of the athletic experience.

There is value in sitting on the bench, but often players, parents and athletes never see that value until a playing career is exhausted. A player sitting on the bench can take advantage of this opportunity to learn the game, and see the inter coaching dynamics that take place during, while getting better and gaining the much needed confidence through practice.

The next time you attend or watch a sporting event on any level, look at the bench and appreciate the unseen efforts these players give. The bench player on the high school and collegiate level will never be inducted into the respected athletic departments’ hall of fame for their efforts. The bench player will most likely never be drafted, which means he/she won’t receive a multi-million dollar contract playing sports. However, the bench player can improve their skills, have time to focus on a new passion and truly admit that they were a part of something bigger than themselves.


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Sports Do Not Have A Domestic Violence Problem

In 2014 we witnessed a number of issues and concerns in sports, specifically issues surrounding domestic violence and criminal activity of current and former players. Athletes today have made it easy for the media and sports journalists to claim the athletic sector has a domestic violence problem. The NFL has had this issue for many years, but social media and the like were not as aggressive in showing the issues of the NFL or athletes from other sectors of sports. Domestic violence in sports is an issue, not the problem.

The difference between an issue and a problem is quite simple. When you have an issue, you generally can readily come up with the solution. Often, you even know how you would solve an issue before it even presents itself. A problem, on the other hand, is not something that you can solve without forethought and even a certain amount of guesswork.¹ Sports administration on the collegiate and professional level are implementing policies to address issues, but they are not investigating solutions to the problem.

As an example, an athlete exhibiting poor choices away from the field/court [an issue] has a simple solution dictated by policy: suspend the player, fine the player, or get rid of the player. The assistance needed when the athlete makes a poor choice in the first place [the problem] is rarely, if ever, addressed through such policy.

Professional Sports 

The NFL has addressed the issue of domestic violence with policy; however, it would be more productive for management and more beneficial for athletes and society to address the problem through policy and education. The problem is bigger than domestic violence for the NFL and other sporting leagues. The problem is the lack of holistic education engulfed in personal development specifically catering to the personal, social, and professional needs of the athlete.

Quite often when athletes become the subject of criminal or morally corrupt behavior, we try and look at the national average and compare them to their peers. While this may be a good starting point or indicator that athletes do not commit crime more than the national average in their comparison group, it’s not fair, simply because the average Joe is not making millions of dollars, has not been catered to from an early age, and is not in the spotlight 24/7. The elements that assist in athletes’ behavior are so complex and deep-rooted that it is very difficult to judge them based on the statistics of the national average. As an example, the average 22-25 year old African American male is not earning the type of money an African American male professional football or basketball player is earning.

College Sports 

At the collegiate level, comparing student athletes to non-student athletes is another way the media and athletic personnel minimize behavioral issues. College athletes are treated much different from their peers, because their peers and faculty on campus understand the value of having a successful athletic program. According to Professor John Cunningham, who teaches communication studies to around three-quarters of Baylor’s football players, “In the last five years, since we changed football coaches and started winning, the admissions at the university have soared.

“The football team has a direct effect on the number of students that we brought into Baylor this year, and that helps everybody at the university. More students mean more tuition dollars coming in, which means more faculty and staff being hired.” ²– Professor John Cunningham

However, the more popular and successful the program, the higher possibility out-of-sport behavioral issues can occur.

According to Aleem Maqbool of BBC News, away from the football field, many students on the Baylor University campus said their football players were made to feel that they were the university’s most valuable asset. One student reported, “People kind of treat them like celebrities in college, so they think they’re higher than everybody else, like ‘we can do whatever we want.’”² This type of thinking on the collegiate level has a direct connection to the attitude and behavior we have witnessed with the professional athlete.

College and professional sports is a business, and athletes are the driving force behind the revenue generated, like it or not. Up until recently, professional teams have not suffered financially when an athlete displayed unwelcome behavior. However, sponsors and fans are starting to wake up to the lack of personal development afforded to the athlete. The NFL’s mishandling of the domestic violence issues has had a small financial impact on the league. However, for athletes involved in criminal or immoral behavior, the financial impact has been huge. Sports agencies and agents must realize their clients [athletes] need more from them than multi-million dollar contract negotiations. Why negotiate a multi-million dollar contract only to have it terminated because of poor choices away from the sporting environment?

Collegiate officials are also starting to see the need to take a closer look at athlete behavior and, in the case of the University of North Carolina, an even closer look at the athletic personnel responsible for assisting student athletes.

I fear the attention of the athlete’s overall needs has been minimized and classified as a need for policy surrounding issues such as domestic violence, bystander training, or a workshop on dining etiquette. Although this type of training would be useful, I caution that these topics are only a small stem of the root of personal development. Professional leagues and the college sector need to introduce proactive policy regarding the personal development of the athlete.

The time has come for us to stop making excuses, reverting to the national average or a comparison to students on campus, and address the real problem. Only then can we successfully deal with the issues.

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