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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Transitional Management Program for Athletes

The Institute for Personal Player Development has launched its Transitional Management program for athletes of all ages.  Most people believe the transition is a one-time occurrence which takes place at the end of an athlete’s athletic career, but that is not entirely true.  A transition can occur as a result of many things such as an athlete entering college as a Freshman, and moving on to Sophomore, Junior and Senior year.  Transitions occur when athletes transfer schools or are asked to redshirt or play a new position.  They also occur when an athlete is charged with a crime or removed from the institution.   But the biggest transition is the final transition, leaving the athletic experience altogether.



For information on the Institute for Personal Player Development, Transitional Management program click here:  Transitional Management Program




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Athletes and Transitional Management

The disturbing transformation of Cliff Harris a one-time All-American high school athlete, Pack 12 champion, and former NFL hopeful is unfortunate but not new.  In fact, athletes self-destructive behavior post career is becoming a common theme for collegiate and professional athletes who are forced to transition out of sports. Transitional Management is a term we rarely associate with sports however the lack of transitional management services afforded to collegiate and professional athletes is at a minimum, and the need seems to be ever growing.

When Michael Phelps retired from swimming, he lost his identity and didn’t have any direction.  According to Phelps “I took some wrong turns and found myself in the darkest places you could ever imagine, that I hope nobody ever goes.”  The reality of Phelps loss of identity will be experienced by many collegiate and professional athletes. Although the athletic community and media witness issues and challenges athletes face, we still have not grasped the formula to assist young men and women who give us their all.”



What’s the cause of athletes spiraling out of control after they leave the game and what is needed to prevent it?  The proper term is Athletic Identity Transitional Management. Consider it a guide to understanding the multilevel platform of transitions experienced through sports participation, with a careful examination of the thought and behavior process associated with a significant change.  When we understand the process of thinking and behavior, we then can begin to work toward a successful transition.  According to Ronnie Stokes, former Ohio State standout, “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 sectors, and the transition is an ongoing process.”

Some argue why should any collegiate or professional organization provide transitional management services for former players?  After all, when an employee or volunteer is fired or leaves a volunteer position in the workforce, they are never provided transitional management services. My argument is simple, these staff and volunteers that work for a company didn’t dedicate a significant part of their youth and adult life to that profession or that company, neglecting other opportunities in pursuit of becoming the best athlete they can be.

The transition from sports to the real world is documented as a difficult one.    However, athletes experience many transitions before transitioning out of sports, which we neglect.  Collegiate and professional organizations seem to have issues and challenges providing adequate programs and resources to assist athletes when experiencing a transition.  While they have programs in place, these programs are either, out of touch or misinformed on the particular type of services athletes require. Therefore, we are witnessing unfortunate stories of athletes who have everything going for themselves and end up with nothing.

If we expect athletes behavior in and outside of the sport to improve, our behavior, understanding, and approach to assisting athletes with the transitional phases need to improve as well.  More importantly, accountability for the well-being of athletes must become more than lip service or driven by the buddy system, specifically on the collegiate level.

Athletes dedicate years to the sport and the athletic community as he/she attempts to become the best they can be, meanwhile providing entertainment for fans, alumni, as well as generating revenue. Collegiate and professional organizations have an obligation to provide transitional management services for athletes they encounter, even when an athlete is removed from the institution for a disciplinary reason.  Was Cliff Harris provided any assistance during the  transitions he encountered while providing athletically related services?  Has anyone reached out to offer assistance to him now?

It’s sad when a former collegiate athlete will receive a letter or call from their universities foundation soliciting dollars but never receive a phone call from the athletic department asking how they are managing the transition.

For information on the Institute for Personal Player Development, Transitional Management program click here:  Transitional Management Program




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Athletes Equal Business and the IPPD Partnership

The Institute for Personal Player Development has partnered with Athletes Equal Business to provide preparation and career services for the Institute. Athletes Equal Business is a company dedicated to coaching, counseling and placing highly talented student-athletes into the corporate world. Working in harmony with educational institutions and America’s top companies, Athletes Equal Business helps student athletes make a smooth transition from the playing field, to their vocational field, and find rewarding employment. The Institute for Personal Player Development provides top quality training and development for athletes and athletic staff, with an emphasis on the personal, social and professional development of athletes. The partnership will merge services and offer athletes and athletic staff assistance with post-collegiate career preparation, Transitional Management Assistance and will provide a high school and community college online program.

Research has clearly shown that making the transition from college athletics to the “real world” is a difficult, frustrating and often painful experience for student-athletes. The reason for this, unlike most traditional students, athletes are focused on practicing and competing in their sport well into their senior year. This significantly reduces the time available to participate in career fairs, campus interviews and other programs designed to help them find gainful employment.

According to Scott Cvetkovski Director of Campus Relations for, Athletes Equal Business, the partnership is going to provide a beautiful, holistic support avenue for athletes everywhere. The Institute and Athletes Equal Business share the same values, and we believe this partnership makes us stronger in our cause to make sure athletes are getting the most education and support to be successful before, during, and after sports.

Dr. Mark Robinson, Sr. Director of the Institute for Personal Player Development believes this partnership is another step in building a full-service personal development institute specifically focusing on the athlete and the global athletic community. The partnership provides our growing list of domestic and international Personal Player Development Specialist an in-house option to assist athletes with career preparation and development. The agreement also allows the Institute to move forward and fully implement our Transitional Management Assistance program in all areas, which I am extremely excited about.

To learn more about Athlete Equals Business or The Institute for Personal Player Development contact:

Dr. Mark Robinson





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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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Community College Student Athlete Conference

Dr. Mark Robinson and The Institute for Personal Player Development partnered with West Los Angeles College to deliver the first annual community college student-athlete conference. This was the first of several events and conferences targeting the community college student-athlete.  Take a moment and watch the highlight video of this historical event.



If you are interested in hosting a Personal Player Development event contact:

Dr. Mark Robinson
Sr. Director
The Institute for Personal Player Development

Follow the Personal Player Development Podcast

The Personal Player Development Podcast presents discussions on the issues in the area of personally developing the athlete.

Why is this important?

Athletes spend much of their time focusing on athletic development and neglect their personal growth. Before we can focus on athletic development we need to concentrate on personal development. Search the internet and social media and you won’t find another podcast dedicated to the personal evolution of the athlete.

Who should listen?

Anyone working with or has and interest in taking a personal approach with a player and developing that player.


Your Host and Guest

12997_10100431826612913_551173430_n copyBrandon L Sweeney is the host of the show. Brandon is a Motivational Speaker, who’s soul-stirring messages has impacted thousands of young people. Brandon is also a Personal Player Development Specialist (PPDS) and provides athletes with the tools to build a blueprint for the future in and outside of sports. Finally, he is the author of the book entitled “Loving The Game When The Game Doesn’t Love You Back.”





marc1Dr. Mark Robinson is Co-hosting the show. He is also the Sr. Director of the Institute for Personal Player Development. Dr. Mark Robinson is a world leader in understanding the behavior and personal development needs of students as well as being a pioneer on Athletic Identity. He has worked closely with high schools, colleges, professional athletes and foreign governments, helping them to understand the intricacies of students and athletes and professional athlete development. Over the course of a 20-year study, Dr. Mark, as he is commonly called, has developed a unique framework committed to the improvement of long-term student and student-athlete success. Finally, Dr. Mark is the author of “Athletic: Identity, Invincible, and Invisible, the Personal Development of the Athlete.” Dr. Mark has been a guest on a number of podcasts, blogs, radio shows and ESPN’s Outside the Lines addressing the issues and challenges athletes face today. Through his experience and success, he offers a uniquely qualified perspective unmatched by most in the industry.


The PPD Podcast features athletes and helping professionals who share their knowledge and experience in the personal player development industry. Log on to Soundcloud to listen, share and learn about the Personal Player Development industry today.



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

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

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

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

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


For further information contact

Dr. Mark Robinson

Sr. Director of the Institute for Personal Player Development

(415) 944-7731






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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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Last Chance U is Our First Chance

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

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

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


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

Twitter: @drmarkppd

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

Twitter: @Tommy_Speak



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