This section of PPD The Mag is dedicated to bring you a variety of interviews from sports personalities across the Globe.

Karen Schiferl, Associate AD for Student-Athlete Support Services at Eastern Michigan University

Karen Schiferl is currently the Associate AD for Student-Athlete Support Services at Eastern Michigan University.  Before arriving at EMU, she worked as the Associate AD for Academics and SWA at Chicago State, Senior Associate Athletic Director for Academic Support at the University of Mississippi.  As well as Senior Associate Director at the University of Maryland’s, and the Academic Coordinator in the athletic counseling offices for Northern Illinois University.   Karen started in athletics as a graduate intern for Indiana University’s Hoosier Athletic Academic Advising Office.  Karen has served on a multitude of national and regional academic boards and has presented at academic conferences across the country.  Currently, she is a member of the National Association of Academic Advisors for Athletics (N4A), the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA), and the National Consortium for Academics and Sports (NCAS). Schiferl has also received both the N4A’s Professional Promise Award and the Distinguished Service Award. Karen has a Master’s Degree in College Student Personnel Administration from Indiana University, earned her bachelor’s degree in Spanish and Afro-American Studies also from Indiana University.

Dr. Mark: How important has the mental health of the student-athlete become?

Ms. Schiferl: It has changed over the years, right now student athletes mental health is a real Hot Topic.  It wasn’t so much 10, 15 or 20 years ago. University student-athletes are 18 to 20-year-old kids. I know some people might be offended by me calling them kids, but they are in a stage of their life where they are growing and maturing and developing.

I would add if your working with student athletes you have to work to establish a relationship with the student athletes.  Getting to know them as an individual, is a key to developing that trust in a relationship to help them be successful.  The success of the student-athlete doesn’t happen by accident; it takes a lot of effort, it takes a village if you will, and I think that’s been consistent through the years. We just have more people in that community now helping.

Dr. Mark: Is there a direct connection between academic success and the personal development of the student-athlete?

Ms. Schiferl: You were a student-athlete 20 years ago, and at that time it was all about academics and GPA standards and graduation rates.  Now we had a more of a shift to the holistic development of the student-athlete.  Because in twenty years people might not remember your GPA, but they are going to remember if you were involved in community service and outreach or took advantage of personal development. As a student-athlete, those things are going to be more impactful.  It’s not to say that we don’t want to see student-athletes succeed academically because we do, but there is a broader picture that is beyond just academic support, there is a much more holistic view that’s happening beyond the academics.




Dr. Mark: Does a person actually need training in the life skills/student-athlete development profession to work with student athletes?

Ms. Schiferl: Yes, I think so. The evolution of student-athlete development is here, and you are now looking at career development, personal growth, community outreach and leadership all of the other aspects of developing a student-athlete. There are a lot of people that think they can work with student athletes or desire to work with student athletes. There seems to be this romantic notion about working with the student-athlete.  But there is a need for people that are interested in the profession to be able to understand what we are trying to do and how we are trying to do it.  So I think there does need to be some training and awareness from a professional.

Dr. Mark: Why are life skills/student-athlete development professionals usually at the bottom of the pay scale in the athletic department?

Ms. Schiferl: You know, I don’t have a good answer for that. Mark, you know obviously in many cases coaches are being paid lots and lots of money.  As well as other people in athletics that are paid at a higher rate than the folks working in the business of developing student-athletes personally.

Honestly, it’s a little bit like teachers in the education field. The value is not the same, but I am not sure why that is. People say it is hard to quantify what we accomplish.  Do you say, we’ve done x amount of hours of community service or we’ve done six presentations on personal development?  Entirely different from a coach, you can say well they won this many games they lost that many games. It’s a little bit harder to say this is what we are doing and this is how we are doing it. Which makes it difficult to put a value on duties and demonstrate the real worth, that would potentially get us paid a little bit more money.


Dr. Mark: Should student athletes have a personal development 4-year plan much like the 4-year academic plan?

Ms. Schiferl: Some institutions do better jobs than others, one of my goals at Eastern Michigan is to create a much more robust student development program.  I think our student athletes are doing a lot, but I don’t believe there is not a comprehensive, structured program right now.  It is my job to make sure that we pull together all of the things that they are already doing and make it into a structural program so that not only they’re getting from point A to point B but now they are going from point B to point C and then beyond.


Dr. Mark: Is athletic identity real?

Ms. Schiferl: It’s very real and even more so now.  Things have changed in youth sports.  When I was a youngster we might have played multiple sports, it isn’t the same now. Parents are spending a fortune traveling their kids across the country to be involved in one sport. They are investing all kinds of money into recruiting services to get kids a college scholarship.  Athletic identity starts younger now, much younger.    Athletic identity is implanted in the student-athlete, and they have to understand and know its a critical part of their identity. There’s more to an athlete than just being that athlete. And so the more that we can help them to understand that yes you’ve got some great skill that you’ve acquired as an athlete how do you make them transferable to other areas of life, but yes I think the athletic identity is real, definitely real.


Dr. Mark: How important is it for student-athletes to focus on the transitions they experience in sports?

Ms. Schiferl:  Oh it’s huge,  I think that’s just absolutely massive it’s imperative that we help them develop those skills so they can transition successfully. Student athletes get so caught up in their athletic identity and being an athlete that they sometimes become unaware of all the other things, the positive things that they are capable of doing. The more we can do to help them understand the skills that they have, and how these skills are transferable to the real world to make sure they know they can have a successful transition.

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Stacked Sports: Pioneering Athlete Social Media Holistic Behavior and Risk

Ben Graves, Founder/CEO, was a former D1 student-athlete and recognized the issues facing athletes and athletic programs on social media. Going through the college athletic process at two separate D1 programs, he recognized colleges were not providing students effective help in educating and managing one’s online presence. He and his team, made up of current and former collegiate athletic department staff, software engineers and data scientists, have built the technology to do just that.

Bill Shults, Director of Business Development, is a seasoned collegiate veteran with experience as a Head Coach (swimming), Compliance Professional (FSU, UCONN, FIU), Associate AD with sport and SAAC oversite (UCONN) and Director of Athletic Academic Support (FSU). He then went into private business with JumpForward and helped propel them to become the national leader in Compliance and Recruiting software before joining the Stacked Sports team in November 2015.

What is Stacked Sports?

Stacked Sports provides a solution to the developing problems facing athletes in the age of Social Media dominance. The platform’s goal is to give athletes a better, more intuitive glimpse at their online presence, helping them to see things that the nature of social media makes unclear or unintuitive. We do this using an algorithm to generate what we call a “Stacked Score,” which is derived from more than a dozen metrics of social media behavior, and allows users to compare their score against others to see how they “stack up.” The platform also allows users to quickly see an overview of what activities and conversations of theirs might misrepresent them in the recruiting process or job search. Additionally, we have built out a library of brief educational videos to help student athletes prepare and develop a strong online presence that can help them now and moving forward.

Why develop a platform of this magnitude?

Social media is becoming a bigger and bigger part of the world with every passing year.   Standards have evolved for how social interaction works and almost all standards have changed regarding how online privacy, risk, and influence work as well. Social media experts have made a strong effort to help students understand how social media can impact them and how they can best react to it. One solution we have consistently seen is monitoring social media activity or simply talking about social media behavior; the good, the bad, what one should or should not do, which all have value, though the message does not stay with the student.  At Stacked Sports we want to provide Student Athletes and eventually all types of users an action based tool that gives continuous feedback about their social media presence.  Our platform not only screens and analyzes the user’s posts, but provides the user with tools to build and maintain a strong online presence.  The goal is to educate and empower the user to take action if that’s what the user wants to do.

How is this different from Klout and who are your competitors?

Klout’s goal is to help users increase the influence they have on social media — while this is a component of our platform, it is not our sole – or even primary – goal. Telling a user how best to build their sphere of influence is important, but only half of the picture. Not everybody will be -or wants to be- famous, but even then, there is still value in more deeply understanding what one’s online presence looks like to the outside world, beyond just how many people respond to your posts. We incorporate factors like behavioral risk alongside influence to come up with a more holistic understanding of our users that we hope to continually expand on in the coming months. Additionally, this platform is intended to allow users to involve more people than just themselves in their social media management, from advisors or mentors to coaches or parents, anyone the user feels could help them accomplish what they want to accomplish.

Is there value in the high school athlete using this product?

Absolutely — the pitfalls of social media do not apply only to college student athletes, but in many ways, apply even more to high school students/athletes. Traditionally a college coach will evaluate you based on an assortment of measurements, i.e. 40 yard, height/weight, bench press, etc. One of the newest metrics in the recruiting process for college coaches is a prospects social media activity. What better way for a college coach to get an in-depth understanding of a prospect then to see how he or she interacts with friends, type of content one shared/retweets, type of language one uses, time of day one is posting, etc. Some coaches use this metric more than others, but increasingly it’s becoming more and more relevant in the recruiting process.

Do you see the platform having an effect on the college admissions process in the future?

Definitely, whether it is our platform or another company. While colleges may not publicly say so, social media is already widely used during the college admissions process, with admissions officers manually discovering applicants one at a time on each social media platform they intend to screen. Social media evaluation by college admissions offices is not going away, and we suspect it is still in its infancy growth-wise. At this time we are more focused on preparing the user (applicant) for when it is standard practice for an admissions office to use an efficient social media screening tool on applicants.

How can our readers try Stacked Athlete?

One can sign up and try Stacked Athlete, free at The freemium version will provide a new user a preview of their last 90 days worth of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram activity. The $11.99/mo enables a user to view a more in-depth analysis of their online presence, receive real-time text notifications of flagged content, add a mentor to also receive those notifications and more.



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Michael Phelps on Athletic Identity

Michael Phelps is arguably one of the most decorated athletes holding 22 Olympic medals 18 of them gold.  However with that success came a price many athletes have to pay, the complete loss of his identity.  Athletic Identity is an issue many in sports struggle with.  The developmental process of Athletic Identity takes years to build and even longer to manage.   Athletic Identity can produce associated problems such as depression, isolation, negative behaviour, and suicide.

As a pioneer on the subject of Athletic Identity, I often engage with college athletic departments regarding the need to focus more on athletic identity as a way to produce better people, better students, and a much better athlete.  For decades we have pointed blame towards the transition athletes experience after they exit sport and enter into the real world as the reason for associated problems.  However, this has been a long-standing myth.  The deep-rooted problems athletes encounter upon exiting from sport are due to the lack of attention given towards athletic identity while athletes are competing in sport.

Having the ability to assist an athlete in defining who she/he is in-and-outside of sport is the developmental key to life-long success and requires less technology and a carefully structured personal developmental approach.  The essence of this developmental process is the ability to tap into the core of the person and build a foundation from this point.

In an interview with Bob Costas,  Michael Phelps discusses Athletic Identity and the effects it had on his life and what needed to happen to address Athletic Identity.


See the complete interview here Michael Phelps chats with Bob Costas

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

Twitter: @drmarkppd




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Mike Lewis on IMG, Mental Conditioning and the Black Athlete

Mike Lewis is a former Mental Conditioning, Athletic & Personal Development Coach at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL.  He recently transitioned into his private practice at Breakthrough Performance Consulting in the Atlanta GA metro area.  He is provisionally certified as a Sports Psychology Consultant through the Association of Applied Sports Psychology.

IMG Academy is the world-leading provider of academic, athletic and personal development programs. With expert instruction, a proven training methodology, professional-grade facilities and a challenging and motivating learning environment that brings together individuals of all ages and backgrounds, IMG Academy provides the ultimate foundation for future success.  We were fortunate to catch up with Mr. Lewis to learn about his experience working for IMG, issues concerning the Black athlete, personal player development and much more.


Dr. Mark: How was your experience at IMG working in an elite level environment?

Mr. Lewis: My experience at IMG Academy was nothing short of phenomenal!  I went to IMG as a summer staff employee in 2014.  At the time I was at the tail-end of my graduate degree in Sport & Exercise Psychology from Argosy University.  My primary purpose in going to IMG was to gain applied experience and network with individuals who are leading the field in sports psychology.  Toward the end of my summer there I was asked to interview for a full-time position, which I was successful in earning.  As a Mental Conditioning Coach, my role was to support the mental performance of the Academy athletes in Football, Track & Field, and our Post Graduate programs in Baseball and Men’s Basketball.  In addition to the Academy athletes, I also worked extensively with the NFL Combine, NBA Pre-Draft, MLB Pre-Draft, and Elite/Olympic Track & Field Athletes in supporting them through the anticipated mental and psychological challenges they were soon to face in their journey to becoming a pro.  As well as provide the particular mindset training needed to be successful.

There are very few places in the country or even the world where someone in the sports psychology field can work with numerous athletes in various sports, from different backgrounds, and a variety of athletic ability.  The facilities at IMG are world-class, and the staff at IMG are truly experts in their chosen field.  They perform at a professional level consistently day in and day out.  Be it the grounds people maintaining the fields or one of the former Olympic medalists in the track & field program working with an athlete who is attending camp.  Everyone at IMG strives to become more, perform better, grow, and lead.  This was clearly evident to me when I arrived two years ago and for those reasons I choose to become part of the IMG family.

Today’s black athlete is from varying socio-economic and cultural backgrounds that have shaped their identities.  It takes a skilled individual or team of people to appeal to such diversity.

Mike Lewis from Breakthrough Performance Consulting


Dr. Mark: Is it important to establish a personal development framework with athletes before delivering mental conditioning services?

Mr. Lewis: It Depends.  Certain factors such as the size of the group or team, the athlete’s experience level, and what is the mission or ultimate goal of the program may determine whether or not a personal development framework is needed before delivering mental conditioning services.  For instance, at a U10 recreational youth level soccer program, instituting mental conditioning sessions right away may be very beneficial for the kids.  Many times the focus in youth athletics is on skill development and learning the game.  Although at the professional level or perhaps within the military performance world, the Mental Conditioning Coach’s approach may be to subtlety create an awareness of who they are, and how they can help, under the umbrella of “personal development”.

As a mental conditioning coach, much of my education and training is founded on counseling theory and the use of cognitive behavioral therapy.  Also, much of my life experiences are rooted in being an athlete.  That being said, I typically do not stick to a standardized personal development framework.  Each athlete I work with is uniquely different from his or her peer.  I enjoy teaching mental skills to athletes who have never been taught mental skills or spent time with a sports psychology professional.  I have found that to deliver mental conditioning services successfully it is essential to remember, “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care!”




Dr. Mark: Is personal player development necessary for the Black athlete?

Mr. Lewis: Personal development is needed for all athletes. Participating in sports opens the door for development both athletically and personally.  Although, when referring specifically to black athletes, I think the larger question is:  “Who is the best person that can personally develop ‘this’ black athlete?”  In today’s world, the black athlete comes from Italy, Compton, Bermuda, Panama, Canada, the Netherlands, Ghana, France, South West Atlanta, and countless other areas around the globe.  Today’s black athlete is from varying socio-economic and cultural backgrounds that have shaped their identities.  It takes a skilled individual or team of people to appeal to such diversity.  During an athlete’s career, there are numerous challenges they will be faced with, and there are certainly a unique set of challenges a black athlete will be faced with.

In America right now, specifically young African-American male black athletes, despite his socio-economic status, sport, level of achievement, or accolades earned is likely to encounter or hear of an interaction in which he asks himself “Did that just happen because I’m or he is black or an athlete or both?”  It may come in the form of a sports reporter’s question, a traffic stop by police, an awkward interaction in an elevator, or simply a freebie at the local market.   The athlete who has developed personally and has a strong sense of self-identity and has had the opportunity to rehearse and or role-play such interactions can be better prepared.  A program that focuses on such development can be the difference between, graduation or non-graduation, arrest or non-arrest, a $250K contract or a  $2.5 Million Contract with a $2Million Signing Bonus.


Dr. Mark: Why aren’t we witnessing diversity training and programming with an emphasis on the personal player development of the Black athlete?


Mr. Lewis: I believe there are some programs and organizations, namely the NCAA, that have teams or departments that are focused on diversity and inclusion, leadership, character, and personal development. I’m interested to know of more programs that specifically emphasize the development of black athletes.  Perhaps a reason why we don’t see a prevalence of this type of programming is that conversations centered around ethnicity are uncomfortable for many people. Also, sport in most cases is the ultimate “level playing field”.  Within a game or competition, the better athlete at that moment wins, regardless of race, gender, or background.  Creating diversity in the development of an athlete via socially, intellectually, spiritually, and physically is an enormous commitment.  A university or high school that is willing to focus development of its staff and athletes on the challenges faced by one group of athletes must be ready to roll up their sleeves and get dirty.  As I mentioned earlier the larger question is “Who is best qualified to deliver the programming?”

I think fans of sport enjoy top-level human performance.  When the lights go dim, and the confetti cannons stop, there is another reality that exists. This reality occupies the majority of an athlete or organization’s time. This reality comes with a host of obstacles and opportunities.  The athletes and organizations that create environments to mentally and socially prepare their athletes stand a greater chance of developing awesome people.

You can reach Mike Lewis through the following;

Twitter @thementalmike



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Danielle Gleason, and the IPPD Specialist Certificate Experience

Danielle Gleason is a former collegiate swimmer for Colorado State University.  She has a Bachelor of Science in Health Exercise Science and a Master of Education in Higher Education.  Danielle was a graduate assistant in the Student Athlete Development office for Arizona State University, which is where she realized her true passion is working with athletes in the personal development arena.  Since then, Danielle enrolled in the Institute for Personal Player Development (IPPD) and has received her Personal Player Development (PPD) Specialist Certificate.  We wanted to get feedback on her IPPD experience.


Dr. Mark: Why did you enroll in the IPPD, PPD Specialist Certificate program?

Ms. Gleason: I was originally referred by Jean Boyd, Sr. Associate Athletic Director at ASU to contact Dr. Robinson and after speaking to him, I decided to enroll in the IPPD, PPD Specialist Certificate program.

I felt that the work that was being done would have of not only benefited me greatly during my time competing, but more importantly after. This program has the endless possibility to help former, present, and future athletes. By enrolling in the program, I was able to gain the proper knowledge to assist athletes live the positive, balanced and healthy lifestyle that the IPPD program so adamantly teaches.


Dr. Mark: What did you think about the program curriculum?

Ms. Gleason: I thought that the program was very well researched, it was relevant, and it provides a lot of value to those who are taking the course. The curriculum allowed me to learn from a number of professionals in the field and apply the concepts in multiple ways.


Dr. Mark: Would you recommend this program to other people who want to or are working with athletes? 

Ms. Gleason: Definitely! Regardless of the capacity that a helping professional works with athletes, it is always a great opportunity to get professionally trained to help athletes develop as an individual in a positive, balanced, and healthy way.


Dr. Mark: What was one of the most important things you learned through the program?

Ms. Gleason: One of the most important things I learned was that, PPD specialists help athletes realize their maximum potential as an individual, not just as an athlete. IPPD has provided the framework to assist would be helping professionals in the best possible way.


Dr. Mark: What are your plans moving forward within the PPD industry?

Ms. Gleason: Moving forward, I plan to start my own consulting service as a Personal Player Development Specialist. I also plan on developing workshops and presentations geared towards the female athletic identity and transitional phases.

Connect with Danielle on LinkedIN

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Damany Hendrix, The Pain and the Game

Damany Hendrix is currently the varsity head basketball coach for the Justin-Siena Braves.  As a player he has experience at the high school and collegiate level.  As a coach he has experience with club development, AAU and NCAA coaching.   His experience as a player and now a coach influenced him to publish a book, The Pain and the Game.  We wanted to know more about the book, coaching and AAU basketball.

ad3 copy


Dr. Mark: Why did you write a book?

Coach Hendrix: I started writing the book because I was in a really bad space at the time mentally and I thought it would be therapeutic.  As I got into my story I thought that this could be a good tool to help young athletes navigate through the ups and downs of high school and college athletics.  Many young athletes have no idea what it takes to be prepared for college in the classroom and in their respective sports.  Many of them have never even thought that their preparation may not be sufficient.  I believe that my story could be a tool for them to use in order to be better prepared for any obstacles that may be put in front of them.  If my journey can make these young people take an honest look at themselves and evaluate where they are academically, and athletically, and say “I need to buckle down to get where I want to be”, then the book was used for its proper intention.


Dr. Mark: What message can readers expect from your book?

Coach Hendrix: I believe there are a few messages that readers can take from my book and the first one is perseverance.  I have been through a lot because of the game of basketball, but I still devote lots of time and energy to the game because it’s what I love to do.  I love to teach the game, and help young people become better players.  The message I took from writing the book is that life is not perfect.  There will be things outside of your control that may attempt to block you from getting to your goals, but you have to learn to deal with those situations and not let anything stop you.  It also teaches that even if you put your all into it, you may still have to take an alternate route to your destination.  Lastly, we should always take an honest look at ourselves, evaluate the part we played in the outcome of all the decisions we make, and learn from our mistakes.


Dr. Mark: You took a run at D1 coaching, what happen?

Coach Hendrix: I could write a ten-page paper on all of the things that happened while I was pursuing a college coaching job, but I will try and summarize what happened.  College coaching is a network, and if you are not in the network or highly connected within the network, it is very difficult to get into the business. There are hundreds of guys that hold all the spots in the network, whether they perform well or not.  If one staff gets fired for not doing well at a particular school, many times all of those coaches land on their feet at another school where they have a connection.  It makes it difficult for any new coaches to get jobs because all of the available jobs are filled by guys who just got let go, want to move schools, or guys who were in part time positions such as graduate assistants, or director of operations.

The best way to get in as a new guy is to take a Grad assistant job right after graduation, and grind your way to the top.  I didn’t attempt to get into the coaching game until I was 3 years removed from college.  I had an interview with my old college coach who was going to hire me, but the athletic director made him hire another guy that was a graduate of that school.  That is another obstacle, politics play a big part in who a coach can hire.  It has to “make sense” to the institution to hire a new coach that’s just getting into the business.  So, it is very difficult to get hired unless you can hand deliver a high level prospect, which is how many guys get into the business.  I wasn’t going to attach myself to a player to get a job because once you do that, you have to be able to deliver a player at all times and I think your basketball acumen becomes devalued.  You become a “recruiter”.  I have put in too much time mastering my craft as a coach to be simply a “recruiter”.  After 9 years of chasing it, I decided to take a high school head coaching job and put all of my energy into becoming the best coach possible.  It was very rewarding being able to put into practice all of the things that I had learned on my journey, and it further let me know that this is my gift and I need to continue to put my all into becoming a great basketball coach.


Dr. Mark: Is AAU basketball good for the players and the college game?

Coach Hendrix: I used to think AAU was hurting the game, and it was a bad thing for the game.  My views have changed slightly, but I still think it is doing more harm than good.  AAU basketball has become more of a business and has taken away from the development of 95% of the kids that play it.  The top 5% are taken care of.  They have the best resources to improve their game ie. Trainers, elite camp, great instruction, and many of them good quality high school coaching.  For these kids, I believe that AAU has it’s place.  It gives them an opportunity to compete with and against the best players in the country consistently, and it gives the college coaches and accurate assessment of these kids abilities.  With that being said, it also has created the pampered athletes that we see today.  The best high school players get treated like royalty.  They are pros from the time they are 16 years old and are treated as such.  It causes entitlement issues among the kids, and they have trouble taking criticism, being disciplined, and small failures.  I believe that this has led to the 700+ transfers that we have seen at the division 1 level this year.

The EYBL is the greatest and highest level of high school basketball I have ever witnessed.  Nike has organized it in such a way that every game counts and winning is a bit more important, where in the past it wasn’t, it was more about showcasing your talent. Coaches want winners, and when you devalue the importance of winning it’s hard for coaches to see which kids are truly about getting the W.

For the other 95% I believe we are spinning our wheels, creating bad habits, and creating bad basketball players.  I am not saying that these kids aren’t talented, I am saying that they are playing a bad brand of basketball.  Over the course of the summer kids play up to 50 games, vs 30 high school games where there is a little bit of structure.  Hopefully, the high school coaches are teaching good defensive principles, and rotations because on the AAU circuit (outside of the EYBL) they are not.  Many of them sit in a zone and rarely even play man.  There is very little offense being run, and it’s mostly 1 on 1 iso on each end.  It’s hard to watch.  The ball doesn’t get reversed, it doesn’t go in the post, and now with all of the warriors success, most of the time it’s a bunch of kids jacking 3’s.  It’s the worst brand of basketball I have ever seen.

Many high school coaches have to spend the first few weeks re programming their kids to buy into a structured setting.  You have to re teach the good habits, and try to eliminate all of the bad habits they picked up over the summer.  Most high school coaches do not like AAU for this reason.  There is a disconnect between the two, and I am on the side of the high school coaches because if it’s not high level AAU, most times they aren’t  being taught to play the right way.

Middle school basketball is almost like recess.  It is hard to find quality basketball minds who want to teach at that level so most times it’s a dad who coaches these teams, and many times they know very little about the game on a technical level.  This isn’t a bad thing all the time because the elite talent gets scooped up by the better programs who have some decent instruction, but the other kids are left to fend for themselves.

I have a great passion for the game, and I am a bit of a purest, so my opinions may come of as the old guy screaming “get off my lawn”, but I have been observing all levels of basketball for over a decade now and I can see the change in the athlete.  I can see the change in the game at the college level as well.  I watch all levels of college basketball, and I have seen a decline in the skills, mainly the shooting at the college level.  There is also a lack of back to the basket scoring, a lack of ability to create your own shot, and poor knowledge of how to move without the ball and get open.  I have seen the emergence of the specialist, which isn’t a bad thing.  Every team appreciates and can use a “3 and D” guy on their roster to spread the floor and hold his own defensively.

I hope that the game moves more towards skill development of our young athletes and less playing games.  It hurts the non elite athlete and produces kids that are less prepared for the next level whether that’s Junior college or the four-year level.  With the emergence of the “trainer”, kids are getting skill instructions, now whether they are getting useful instruction or not is a case by case scenario, but I do know kids are working on their skills. I am encouraged by this movement.  But there are still too many unorganized, yet, organized games being played which is hurting basketball overall.


Dr. Mark: The biggest problem facing HS coaches today? 

Coach Hendrix: I believe that the biggest problem facing High school coaches today is a combination of AAU, parents/handlers, some skill guys and the limited amount of resources and funds.  Parents have become the biggest thorn in the side of the high school coach.  Parents have a different lens and feel like every coach needs to cater to their child.  A coach’s job is to do whats best for the group, not one individual.  Parents and players often believe that they are better than they are.  This isn’t a problem unless a parent of a player believe that the coach doesn’t value their skill set.  A player that believes that his coach should let him shoot more three pointers, but is shooting 28%, is a problem.  A parent that says a coach isn’t using his son right is a problem as well.  Players need to understand, you are your skill set, and your production.  If you are shooting in the 20’s from 3, any coach in their right mind will limit your ability to continue to shoot from behind the arc, not because he doesn’t care for the play, but because it’s whats best for the team, and more than likely the player.  I see dad’s coaching from the sideline which is my biggest pet peeve.  The problem with this is, it can confuse the kid, but more importantly, it could directly contradict what I work on daily in practice.  It could contradict the play I just drew up coming out of a huddle, and we need a basket because we are down two points.  Parents should be there to support the coach, and cheer on their child along with his or her teammates, PERIOD.

I have already addressed High school coaches having to break the bad habits of the kids coming back from playing AAU.  They also have to change the mindset as well.  AAU is about showcasing, and less about winning.  The high school season is about winning first, and then showcasing your talents within the framework of a team.  There is some reprogramming that needs to be done, and I have seen coaches not have success to the detriment of the team and the season.  It can be very frustrating.  It makes players difficult to coach when they do not put the team ahead of their own personal agenda, and on top of that you have the parents reinforcing this selfish mindset.  It can tear a team apart.  I have seen it happen.

We all know high school coaches put in countless hours for very little compensation.  There are some coaches that have the passion to push through this and still strive for greatness.  But who can blame a coach who is only receiving a $1200 stipend for 5 months of work for just making it through a season and not giving it his all.  It is a thankless job unless you are winning big, and you have to deal with ungrateful kids who give you attitude, and parents who think you are the scum of the earth because you don’t play their 5’5 son 32 minutes per night.  I have seen coaches get burned out, run off by parents, and frankly quit mentally mid season because of the factors I mentioned previously.  It can be very difficult to power through these things and bring it every day.


Dr. Mark: What does the future hold for you in the basketball arena?

Coach Hendrix: I feel like I have a wealth of knowledge, and I see myself educating young people in many ways.  I believe one day that I will be a division 1 Head Coach.  I believe that I will also travel around the country, and maybe even the globe speaking to young people  about what this game has meant to me, how to achieve their goals, and motivating them to be the best human beings that they can possibly be.  I see my self motivating young athletes to achieve 4.0’s and seek higher education beyond their Bachelors degree.  I believe I will be a household name among coaches. I truly believe that I have the basketball acumen, and the drive to become one of the great coaches this game has ever seen and I will not stop until I achieve my goal.  Everyday I strive to unlock my genius, which I believe to be coaching and educating people on the game of basketball. Whether they are young athletes, or coaches.  I want to share my gift with the world.



Damany Hendrix is currently the varsity head basketball coach for the Justin-Siena Braves.  He graduated from Vallejo High in 1998 and was an All-Monticello Empire League player. After high school, Hendrix accepted a scholarship to play for Gonzaga University. At Gonzaga he redshirted as a freshman, then transferred to Junior College, where he was the conference MVP and an All-State selection.  Hendrix completed his collegiate basketball career at Lamar University where he was selected All-Southland Conference, twice.


Social media links


Twitter: @coachdamany


The Pain and the Game link


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Brandon Sweeney, On his IPPD Specialist Certificate Experience

Brandon Sweeney is a former college athlete who experienced depression and thoughts of suicide, as a college athlete.   Mr. Sweeney shares his story of the setbacks he had to overcome when his dream of going to the NFL was shattered by a career ending injury in his current book, Loving The Game When The Game Doesn’t Love You Back.  Mr. Sweeney recently completed his Personal Player Development (PPD) Specialist Certificate, from the Institute for Personal Player Development (IPPD) and we wanted to get his thoughts on the IPPD Specialist Certificate program.


Dr. Mark: Why did you enroll in the IPPD, PPD Specialist Certificate program?

Mr. Sweeney: Being a former athlete, I thought I truly understood athletes and how to help them because of what I went through. However, after working with athletes, I discovered I did not have the necessary tools in order to assist them.

Therefore, I enrolled in the IPPD because I wanted to truly understand athletes, the issues they were facing, and how best to assist them. I was looking to understand Athletic Identity, Athlete Behavior, and how to help athletes holistically. Most of the things I’ve researched and studied prior to enrolling in the IPPD, did not address helping athletes holistically.

Dr. Mark: Give us your thoughts regarding the program curriculum? 

Mr. Sweeney: I thought the curriculum provided relevant and valuable information. It was a lot to chew on. The curriculum gave me great knowledge and access to the minds of experts who work with athletes on a daily basis.  It also provided me with concepts and frameworks that I could use when working with athletes.

Dr. Mark: Would you recommend this program and why? 

Mr. Sweeney: Absolutely,  for two reasons. First, I believe those who want to truly understand and help athlete’s, need training on how to do that. Second, there aren’t program that specifically focus on the holistic development of student and professional athletes as it pertains to the issues and challenges they face.

Dr. Mark: What aspects of the program will you use in the future when working with athletes? 

Mr. Sweeney: How to specifically help athletes in two areas.  One, assisting them in maneuvering through the sports transition process. Two, a better way of working with athletes towards achieving success outside of the playing environment.

Dr. Mark: What are your plans moving forward within the PPD industry? 

Mr. Sweeney: I am going to start consulting and speaking with high schools and colleges to create a program/workshop that helps student athletes maneuver through the sports transition process. I also plan on writing a book that specifically contributes to the Personal Player Development industry.


Follow Braddon on Twitter- @BrandonLSweeney
Connect with Brandon on LinkedIn- Brandon Sweeney
Like Brandon L Sweeney page on Facebook – Purpose beyond the game

Get a download a FREE copy of Brandon’s current book at

If you are looking for a hard copy you can purchase here.

Book 2


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Erin Konheim Mandras: Athletes and Eating Disorders

Erin Konheim Mandras played college soccer at Michigan State University.  Following her collegiate career she played semi-professional women’s soccer and later became a collegiate soccer coach.  Erin is currently a motivational speaker, blogger and founder of focuses on eating disorders, body image, exercise, and nutrition, particularly in athletes.  PPD Mag caught up with Erin to get her thoughts on athletes and eating disorders.


Dr. Mark: What is the purpose of


Mrs. Erin Konheim Mandras: is a website that provides my personal biography, my rock bottom, and my ongoing blog, all related to my story and experiences of developing, battling, and overcoming a significant eating disorder as a collegiate athlete at Michigan State University. Based on statistics, there is a widespread presence of eating disorders among all men and women, of all ages, but particularly prevalent in high level athletes. Therefore, my mission is to raise awareness and educate others on the issue, in hopes to prevent eating disorders from developing, or helping us to identify signs and symptoms early on, to prevent further damage. is a resource for people to use, as my writings and stories are relatable, real, and powerful.


Dr. Mark: Are female athletes under the same amount of pressure to perform as their male counterparts?


Mrs. Erin Konheim Mandras: Female athletes endure the same amount of pressures to perform as their male counterparts in all facets of life. Ultimately, males and females have the same goals, desires, and dreams to achieve great accomplishments, despite men’s sports earning more revenue. At the college level, a full ride scholarship is the exact same amount of money invested in an athlete, regardless of the sport or gender. Therefore, each athlete feels pressure to meet and/or exceed expectations, while an education is being funded. At the professional level, though there may be a significant discrepancy in salaries earned between men and women, each athlete signs a contract that promises results.


Dr. Mark: Is the subject of eating disorders a topic that needs to be discussed with high school and college athletes?


Mrs. Erin Konheim Mandras: Eating disorders are beginning to develop at a much earlier age, even before high school. Therefore, it is imperative to discuss, educate, and raise awareness on the topics surrounding eating disorders to all ages. Nutrition, healthy exercise behaviors, and a balanced lifestyle are all necessary components in helping to prevent eating disorders from developing. There is an intense desire to achieve the ideal body type that media and society is portraying as beautiful, in both men and women. And, as a result, many are finding alternative ways to attain that figure, whether through diet, exercise, or even surgery. It is so important to continue emphasizing positive body image. Also, we must continue discussing the details of eating disorders in hopes to bring attention to the signs and symptoms, and urge people to seek help immediately. Additionally, by sharing my story to all ages, my goal is to help eliminate the stigma attached to these issues.


Dr. Mark: What are some other topics you discuss when you’re presenting to athletes?


Mrs. Erin Konheim Mandras: When I present to athletes, I share my story of the development of my eating disorder, and the reasons why I was destined to develop one of my own. As athletes, we have tremendous responsibilities off the field, as well; academically, socially, and religiously. Therefore, it can become extremely overwhelming and stressful to perform at one’s best in all areas of life.

Athletes tend to be very high achieving individuals, who place an immense amount of pressure on themselves, and it is important to be aware of the health affects and ramifications this may have, such as, in my case, the development of an eating disorder. I emphasize the importance of positive body image, and the significance of strength, power, and health for optimal performance. Nutrition and exercise are two main contributing factors to optimal performance, and without proper and adequate attention to both, one’s performance may decline, like mine did.


Dr. Mark: What are the visible red flags of a student-athlete experiencing an eating disorder?


Mrs. Erin Konheim Mandras: In my case, I was identified by two major factors: a drop in body weight and my personality. These were clear signs of an issue. I had loss weight, but, also, appeared very lethargic, and distant in my close relationships. My dieting behaviors became noticeable, and my strict habits became worrisome. Additionally, I had lost my menstrual cycle.

Other signs and symptoms of all eating disorders can be found here.


Dr. Mark: How can we be proactive in preventing eating disorders with athletes?


Mrs. Erin Konheim Mandras: We must talk openly about the issues, and signs and symptoms so people are able to identify the disorders early enough to prevent significant damage. Additionally, the more common people feel these are, the more open to help people may be regarding eating disorders or disordered eating. It is so important to continue educating others on the details of eating disorders in hopes of saving lives.

Follow her on twitter @ErinMandras

Like Kick the Scale on Facebook

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Matt Blamey, Pioneering Lacrosse out West

Matt Blamey is the current Head Coach for the Sierra Nevada College Men’s Lacrosse program in Lake Tahoe. Currently the Eagles are 7-1 on the season and ranked #12 nationally in the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association. We all know that lacrosse is the fastest growing youth sport but PPD Mag wanted to know how the impact and growth of the sport is being developed in the West.

Dr. Mark: Why did you start the California Junior College Lacrosse Association (CJCLA)?

Coach Blamey: Prior to becoming a college coach, I spent seven years coaching at South Lakes High School in Reston, VA. We had a ton of great athletes come out of the program who, for one reason or another, would end up going to the local junior college (Northern Virginia Community College). NOVA was, and still is, one of the most prestigious and largest 2-year colleges in the United States.

While I was very proud of seeing these student-athletes continue their education, I hated the fact that their playing careers had to come to an end. Over my final few years with South Lakes, I began writing a proposal of what it would take to run a program at NOVA. I’d say this is where my passion for junior college athletics began.

During my final season with SLHS, I sat down with Brian Anweiler, then Student-Wide Activities Coordinator for all of NOVA, to discuss the potential of a lacrosse program. They say timing is everything. My meeting with Brian was serendipitous to say the least. It just so happened that Brian was specifically hired to help make athletics a reality at the institution. Needless to say our meeting was very successful. Brian agreed bring me on to start the program at Northern Virginia Community College, the first JUCO lacrosse program in the state of VA.

After spending two fantastic seasons with NOVA, my wife and I came to the decision that it would be best to raise our family in her home state of California. Upon relocation, I started a new coaching position with Sonoma State University. Almost immediately, I began noticing how large the junior colleges are in CA and what tremendous athletics facilities that they possess. Junior college sports are very popular in California, but once again, lacrosse was rarely an option for graduating high school athletes.

I did some research and saw that there was one junior college who offered competitive lacrosse as an offering. Diablo Valley College, east of San Francisco, was running a club program who would compete annually against 4-year schools during the fall. I reached out to Terry Armstrong, founder of the program, and we worked together to come up with an umbrella organization that would aid aspiring junior college to create club programs at their own schools. The CJCLA was born.

The primary goal of the CJCLA is to assist student-athletes at junior colleges in getting club programs online at their own institution. We provide sample budgets, staffing needs and access to uniform and equipment discounts through quality vendors. We also will build a free website for new programs in order to assist them in getting the word out to prospective student-athletes about their programs.

Now in our third year, we have had a few programs come on board and fall off. It has been a rocky start. We are proud, however, that in addition to Diablo Valley College…Santa Barbara City College and Grossmont College have both come online and proved to be competitive and well-supported programs. This fall we are working with Butte College to get a new program running as well.

Some student-athletes will use JUCO athletics as a stepping stone to a 4-year school. For others, playing for the CJCLA will be the pinnacle of their career. In both instances we want to provide an organized and highly competitive playing experience for these young men. Lacrosse remains the fastest growing team sport in the country. One day, when there are CJCLA programs up and running all over the state, we hope the California Community College Athletic Association will see lacrosse as the next logical fit to their varsity athletic offerings.

Dr. Mark: Do athletes in lacrosse experience the same personal development issues as athletes in the sports of basketball and football?

Coach Blamey: Just this week I read an article in Fast Company on how student-athletes entering the work force are at an advantage over those who have never competed athletically. I believe this to be true. Many of those advantages have to do with withstanding the challenges and pressures that come along with competing in college.  In short to your question, the answer is yes. For every student-athlete who successfully navigates through the challenges brought on by stress, drugs/alcohol, technology, etc.. There will be another young man or woman who will falter.

Every year the NCAA puts out report a report on the levels of drug/alcohol use among collegiate athletes. Along with basketball and football, lacrosse consistently ranks high on this list. While substance abuse is an issue with many college students, I think the pressure on athletes makes them more at risk out of the need to “check-out” or “unwind.”

Social media has proven another challenge that I believe many athletes, at least in my experience, are learning to deal with much more intelligently. A few short years ago, I was often disappointed by the things that I would see posted by current players or even worse, potential recruits. While there will always be exceptions, I think the message that “nothing is private” has made the rounds.

Overall, I strongly believe that the days of simply “coaching” are over. In our profession we have to pay attention to our student-athletes in all areas of their life. It is our job to help these players successfully avoid making choices that can lead to disastrous consequences. It’s cliché, but frankly, I don’t want these young men to make some of the same mistakes that I did. Relationships don’t end when the whistle is blown at the end of practice.


Dr. Mark: In an ideal world, would it be advantageous for a coach to have someone on his/her staff to work with athletes on the personal development issues?

Coach Blamey: In an ideal world, absolutely. I am by no means an expert in personal development. I simply speak from life experience. Challenges with most institutions, mine included, will be budget dollars. We are constantly moving around the numbers so that we can hire adequate assistant coaches, athletic trainers, etc… Unfortunately, I feel that a personal development expert on staff is one that most athletic departments will relegate to the bottom of the priority list.


Dr. Mark: Do you believe specific training is needed for athletic staff members working with athletes in the area of personal player development?

Coach Blamey: This is my 14th year of coaching. I have yet to have a single season where I haven’t had a player come to me with a unique personal problem or challenge.  I think quality training could be helpful, but I would hate for it to turn into another mandatory webcast that the school or government mandates to all athletics staff. I think more valuable would be a professional consultant as an on-call resource. Google can only do so much.


Dr. Mark: Do athletes in lacrosse need support making the transition from athlete to non-athlete?

Coach Blamey: I’m not sure about this one. On those same annual reports put out by the NCAA, lacrosse athletes consistently rank among the highest in graduation rates. 99% of lacrosse players understand that they will not be earning a living playing professionally. I think that most realize that the cleats will be retired upon graduation and that Friday under the lights will now mean a late night at the office.  That being said, I am an advocate of giving our young men and women all resources possible prior to heading into the “real” world. If there are avenues available to ease the transition for our players, I’m all for it.


Dr. Mark: What are some of the issues you see at the professional level of lacrosse?

Coach Blamey: My personal experience within the professional ranks is limited. That being said, I am a huge fan of both Major League Lacrosse (Go Bayhawks!) and the National Lacrosse League. It’s amazing to see the growth of the professional game in both field and box lacrosse.

By all accounts, most professional players are still weekend warriors. They draw modest salaries and some fly into the city they represent on Friday for practice, game Saturday, and then fly back home to be at the office on Monday. It sounds like a grueling schedule, but from those I’ve chatted with, they wouldn’t trade it for the world.

As the growth of the game continues to explode for both players and fans, I think the salaries for athletes will grow into a quality living wage. Will it ever be a six or seven figure paycheck? I’m not so sure. Until then, however, there is something to be said for these guys. They are truly playing for the love of the game. I admire every one of them!


Dr. Mark: How much potential does the west coast have to develop lacrosse into a thriving sport?

Coach Blamey: This has been an ongoing question for some time. I think it’s time to put it to bed. Lacrosse is already thriving on the west coast. From Southern California to Washington, the west coast is putting out some of the best players in the country and every year it continues to grow. Are there areas where lacrosse is still new? Absolutely! But no longer is our sport an unknown.  This past season the University of Denver was the first NCAA program west of the Mississippi River to win a National Championship. Right now they remain ranked #1 in the country. Their roster is littered with players from the west.

In the MCLA, west coast teams have been flourishing for years with home-grown talent. It’s not a secret anymore. West coast kids know how to play…

Follow Coach Blamey on twitter  @coachblamey

Follow The California Junior College Lacrosse Association on twitter


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Ronnie Stokes, Former Ohio State Buckeye Standout

Ron Stokes has been the expert analyst on the radio broadcasts of Ohio State basketball. Stokes also is the CEO and president of Three Leaf Productions, a Columbus-based printing, marketing, and advertising business. Mr. Stokes played basketball for Ohio State from 1981-85, served as a captain for two seasons, and was the team MVP and all-Big Ten as a senior. He ranks among the top six all-time for the Buckeyes in assists and steals, and in the top 25 in scoring.  PPD Mag caught up with Mr. Stokes to talk about athletes and personal development.

PPD Mag: Why are athletes getting into so much trouble outside of sports?

Mr. Stokes: I quantify that things today were not around when I played.  Social media and cell phones are a big issue.  This generation of opposing fans has much more access to student athletes as well as professional athletes.  The athletes personal business is more exposed and socially, the general public  are now noticing a lot of the negative behavior athletes are exhibiting away from the sport.

Dr. Mark:  How important is the male influence for the athlete?

Mr. Stokes: Having a positive influence during the developmental stages at home especially having the male influence or lack of influence plays a major role.  I would add, not having a male in the household is an issue.  Mom and grandma are great but having a male involved in the developmental process is in some ways a separator.  Unfortunately we are seeing a lot of athletes getting into trouble and they happen to be African American athletes.

PPD Mag: What core element is missing from college and professional athletics?

Mr. Stokes: A person who is dedicated and focusing on working with athletes in an area of personal growth.  At the moment we could see this person as a mentor.  I think a mentor is someone that can give the kids something that they need, if someone who has had similar life experience that they can share with athletes, it can be useful to a kid.  However, it is important to understand that, mentorship has a lot of responsibility and people attempting to fill that role need to understand all the components involved.  More importantly, the mentee has to be able to accept the information and help which the mentor is providing.  Its a two way street.

PPD Mag: Do you see a need for transitional support services for athletes? 

Mr. Stokes: Yes, transitional support services are vitally important, unfortunately kids leave college ill-equipped in certain areas, they are thrown out and expected to survive in a number of areas and the transition is an ongoing process.  I know some coaches help athletes but I also know some coaches that just don’t.  I had mentors who taught me and prepared me for life.  These were things that I couldn’t learn on the basketball court.

During a four or five year process it would be an extra bonus for the school to provide pre-transitional services.  Once they leave the university, student athletes do not engage with the institution.  Services should be in place allowing athletes to engage with the university.  By that I mean, the institutions should have programs in place to support former athletes once they have completed or exhausted their eligibility, due to the amount of issues former athletes encounter.


PPD Mag: What are your three suggestions for student athletes?

  1. Write down your goals, short, medium and long term.
  2. Find 2 or 3 people in your goal areas and identify someone to include in your circle.
  3. Find mentors you can trust and believe in, stay close to them and act on what they tell you.


You can find Mr. Stokes on twitter 

This interview was arranged by Jay Keys

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