Dr. Tommy Shavers: Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

Who benefits from the college athletes participation in sports?

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

Does society see athletes as products or people?

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

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

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

See Part One

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Dr. Tommy Shavers: PPD Pioneer, Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read part 2 next week.

 

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Counseling The Black Student Athlete

Dr.Paul Harris is an assistant professor in the Counselor Education program at the University of Virginia, in the Curry School of Education. His research focuses on the intersection of education and sports, with emphasis on the college readiness of black male student athletes.

Dr. Mark Why the emphasis on the black male athlete in your research?

Dr. Paul Harris: When we look at sports participation from high school through college, the literature is replete with examples of how beneficial it can be, such as connecting individuals to significant others, building work ethic, networking, etc., all of which is true. What I find particularly interesting with the black athlete is that those benefits do not always occur. The educational experience, which is what I focus on in my work, often suffers in the case of Black males. It doesn’t mean we should discourage black males from pursuing sports: in fact, I think quite the opposite. But we need to figure out how to structure, organize, and deliver sports in a way that sports are a mobilizing mechanism for black athletes instead of an exploitive one.

This is not to say that we are to disregard the needs of all other student athletes, however, because I think the experience of all student athletes is unique enough for all to receive some type of targeted intervention and service. But I do think that there is a bit more of a nuance and history to the black male student athlete experience that deserves particular attention.

Dr. Mark: Do athletes need counseling other than academic counseling?

Dr. Paul Harris: That’s a good question. When we look at just the developmental needs and tasks of any student compared to student athletes, they are pretty much the same; for example, identity development, developing a sense of purpose, and developing integrity, are concerns that every student needs to address.. But when you think of student athletes, they such This creates stress that is very unique to the student athlete experience, and warrants targeted support; support, that I would say, could be delivered in the form of counseling.

I think there can be a lot more counseling done outside of the academic realm. I think we first need to demystify the notion of counseling. – Dr. Paul Harris

I think we first need to demystify the notion of counseling. Oftentimes with many populations (but definitely with student athletes), there is a hesitance to access counseling services. It is often deemed as a weakness or a threat to one’s ego, which contributes to many student athletes not even reporting their personal and emotional concerns.

The personal concerns, transition issues, and other areas that the average student deals with need to be addressed by student athletes as well, and in some cases more so because of the unique stressors student athletes face. They deal with all of the developmental tasks I mentioned on center stage, particularly at the college level. Every misstep or challenge they face is occurring in the public light, whereas other students not so much, they can exist privately.

Dr. Mark: How often do you work with student athletes in the area of counseling?

Dr. Paul Harris: Prior to coming to UVA, I was a high school counselor, and I coached a city high school basketball and a college women’s club team. My current role involves training future school counselors. My focus is on training students who are going into the field so they understand how to meet the needs of all students and, in this case, the needs of student athletes.

Last year, I designed a course called Counseling Student Athletes, where I was able to interact more directly with student athletes at the university level, and also with students who are going into the fields of sports counseling, higher education administration, and other capacities that work with athletes.

Dr. Mark: Have you worked with the N4A Student Athlete Division in training student athlete development personnel?

Dr. Paul Harris: I have not, but I look forward to opportunities to do so.

Dr. Mark: What type of counseling do student athletes need when making the transition from competitive athlete to noncompetitive athlete?

Dr. Paul Harris: That’s a good question. I came across your book because I was looking for some information on athletic identity. That’s something I have run across in my own experience, and I have been studying it recently. It is something that I believe we need to really pay attention to, and in reading some of your work, I definitely agree that counseling toward a healthy athletic identity early on—the proactive, preventive type of counseling—is really what’s needed.

Certainly there are other aspects, but I am focusing more on that now because of what I have seen in my personal experience, experience as a counselor, and a scholar. We know a strong athletic identity can be very useful to being successful athletically. However, identifying solely with one’s athletic identity often detracts from establishing other strong identities. As such, there may not be as high a sense of self-efficacy in the academic and career domains, for example. As a result, we can see difficulties arise when it is time to transition out of sports

I think a lot of the counseling could be in creating space for student athletes to strive in these other areas where they have strengths, and then reinforcing such successes. Such opportunities for success in a variety of domains could be facilitated by educators as early as elementary school. Personally, I make a concerted effort in the classroom now to provide a safe space for student athletes to express their intellectual curiosity and then be reinforced for being very intelligent young men and women who happen to be reinforced mostly for their physical and athletic attributes.

Counseling on that front, both individually and in groups, is just unearthing the strengths that already exist in student athletes so that they can see them, and leverage them for future success. Student athletes should be able to see multiple avenues to success. When they get outside of sports, there is going to be a sense of loss, no doubt, but the goal is for that sense of loss to not be devastating.

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Greg Taylor, Senior VP Of Player Development For The NBA

Greg Taylor, the Senior Vice President of Player Development for the National Basketball Association, gives PPD Mag an interview on Personal Player Development at the NBA level and the future of the programs and services offered to the pros.

Dr. Mark: How important is PPD to the athlete?

Mr. Taylor: I think Player Development is essential to the athlete. As we commit to developing the whole person; both the athlete and the non-athlete, Player Development and our commitment to respond to as well as support the players needs and challenges they face off the court is a really critical piece.

What we’re excited about is developing strategies to respond to the social and emotional development of our players. I would say it’s absolutely essential. I would also say that a player that is effective at managing their entire life and all the issues and challenges that effect them off the court, is also a better player on the court.

Dr. Mark: What role do family members of athletes play in PPD?

Mr. Taylor: We know that family support is critical for the player, whether it’s their parent, caregiver, significant other or friends. We know that the family role is critical and that the family often has the greatest influence over the player and when the player has down time or is going through a challenge, they will reach out to family members simply because they are trusted and familiar.

One of the reasons why the NBA is committed to Player Development that is responsive and inclusive of family members is because we are trying to build a strong safety net for those players to have informed members of the family. – Greg Taylor
One of our primary roles during the draft is engaging and educating family members on what that player was going through during such a heavy time.

Dr. Mark: At what age do you think PPD programs should be introduced to athletes?

Mr. Taylor: That’s a really good question. Conventional wisdom is whenever you’re trying to help a young person learn, the earlier the better and in this case I call players young people. The NBA’s perspective is to engage players when they first enter the league as rookies. We try and have signature programs throughout their playing career, all the way through transition and into retirement.

Dr. Mark: What specific PPD programs does the NBA offer?

Mr. Taylor: There is a range of programs we offer. We have an under-20 program for the players that are being drafted and recruited earlier and while they have tremendous basketball ability, they are also young men who need support to grow into responsible adulthood.

We offer programs around Rookie transition, which is one of our most well-known signature programs. It’s a three and a half day program where we really want to ensure all of the players understand what it means to be a successful professional athlete. You’re entering into a business, so we discuss how do you keep your body well tuned, how do you make good decisions, how do you handle the financial obligations and responsibilities, so all of those challenges are in our rookie transition program.

We also offer players affected by their poor choices a range of programs that are meant to really give them good sound advice, good information, a support network that is confidential and our substance-abuse program, which is one we’re really, really proud of and think is quite effective. So, there is a broad range. I think the headline I would want you to focus on is, we know that the players have a broad range of issues and what we have tried to do is put together programs that help solidify them and make sure they have a strong network they can reach out to and accurate information to help them make good choices as a result, and that’s the kind of platform of programs we offer NBA players.

Dr. Mark: What is the structure of the NBA Player Development division, at the league level, as well as the team level?

Mr. Taylor: We have a tremendous team here at the NBA office, just a wonderful team with decades of experience working with professional athletes. The way we’re structured now, is I am the Senior Vice President of Player Development and there are four Vice Presidents. Three of the VP’s are assigned 8 teams, while the other VP has 6 teams plus the D-league. It is our notion that each of the VP’s work to develop day to day to relationships and be responsive to the Player Development needs at the team level.

Each of the 30 teams has a Team Player Development Director (TPD’s) and we work very closely with them. We view ourselves as having an internal team and also external partners at the team level, that are all committed to making sure that Player Development is implemented in the strongest way possible, that we’re all on the same page and really, when the day is done, fundamentally committed to the player.

Dr. Mark: Does the NBA have specific modules that each team introduces throughout the year, so that they are all on the same page regarding player development?

Mr. Taylor: It’s currently a hybrid and one of the areas that we want to strengthen. We want to develop the programs that Player Development implement across the league to ensure they really are curriculum-based.

Right now, we certainly have best-practices and strong research and documentation behind all that we do, but we have to do a better job of ensuring that there is a curriculum that names what Player Development is, that really talks about outcomes and really pushes us towards a result that we are all excited about accomplishing. So the curriculum is a piece that as a league, we are working on as we move forward.

I think what the Team Player Development Directors do is driven by the team needs. One of the things that is really exciting about the team Player Development role is they are with the team and players each and every day and are in a position where they are naming and laying out what that direction and interaction looks like. We work very closely and in partnership with the TPD’s from the league perspective. There are some content areas like family demands and relationships, financial management, cultural diversity and inclusion, personal security and social media that we want to cover as effectively as possible and we push that information out to the teams in each of those areas.

Dr. Mark: In four years, what will success look like in your position?

Mr. Taylor: A couple of things would be to grow the number of players who have mastery over the challenges that they face, players who are effectively managing their financial resources and have players who are in healthy and strong relationships, both personal and professional.

We certainly want to be able to grow the number of players who are thinking about and preparing for life after basketball. There’s no question from that perspective, those would be indicators of success.

I think from an internal league perspective success is that curriculum I talked about, can that be developed and refined in a way that maximize player input, that we can create and document a way of doing this work that really has a profound impact on the lives of our players. And when the day is done, I hope Player Development will continue to be viewed as an absolute integral part of the business, recognizing that a player who is clear of mind, physically ready to go, has supportive relationships, has made good decisions financially and otherwise is just fundamentally a better player because they have balanced basketball and life challenges.

Charles Way, NFL Player Engagement Director

Personal development programing is officially on the agenda for collegiate and professional sports organizations.  However, budgetary issues and other priorities have prevented personal development programing from climbing to the top of the agenda in the collegiate sector.  The professional sector has witnessed and clearly understands the need to move personal development programing for the athlete to the top of their priority list.

NFL: Annual Meetings

Rodger Goodell stands front and center when issues arise concerning NFL players conduct as any CEO of a multibillion dollar business would.  However, the CEO hires and delegates duties to a number of highly qualified individuals, who are responsible for making sure that the mission of the organization or the directives of the CEO are carried out.  In the area of Player Development or in this case, Player Engagement the man in charge is Charles Way.

Charles Way is head of the NFL’s Player Engagement division and oversees the continued evolution and implementation of the NFL’s support programing for players and their families. These programs include the Rookie Symposium, NFL Total Wellness, and career development programs. He is a former NFL player and for the past 14 years has served as the director of player programs with the New York Giants.

Dr. Mark: What do you see as your biggest challenge in this position?

Mr. Way: If we are to create a culture of excellence, then we must create an atmosphere that athletic achievement is just as important as academic and personal achievements.  As  a league we have a responsibility to create that standard and culture of excellence.

Dr. Mark: Does the NFL have a domestic violence issue?

Mr. Way: I think it is a societal issue, and I believe we have a great opportunity to take ownership and redefine it for our country.

I would also add that the entire process of personal development programing for the athlete should really begin on the high school level and continue throughout the collegiate level.

We are addressing a number of personal development issues at the youth level. We currently have our NFL Prep 100 and NFL-Wharton Prep Leadership Program. These youth programs are proactive and productive and address a number of sport-related and societal issues.

Dr. Mark: Do you think hiring caucasian females to address the domestic violence issue in a league dominated by African American males will be effective?

 

Mr. Way: We have to realize that domestic violence is color blind and is not just an African American male issue, it’s a societal issue and we have done a great job of putting the right individuals in place internally and externally to address this issue.

Dr. Mark: Should personal development programing become a yearly activity?

 

Mr. Way: Yes, however, at a certain point, it’s up to the athlete to take ownership of his career path. We all know the average NFL career lasts three years, which means athletes competing in the NFL do not have much time to prepare for life after sports, that’s why it’s important for them to start early and make it their priority when they come in as a rookie. I will also say, that for the guys that do have a plan, the transition is still a tough one, and that’s why the NFL, NFLPA, and other organizations have created resources to help them through that process.

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