NFL Rookie Symposium: It’s Too Late

To quote a well-known retired player, “I wish you guys were around at the beginning of my career…[The education and coaching 44 management provides] is something players need and don’t even know they need it.”

The NFL has tried to show that it cares about it players by providing a Rookie Symposium for its DRAFTED players every year focusing on life-skills training. This year’s 2009 NFL Rookie Symposium will be held in Palm Beach Gardens, FL, from June 28-July 1. While the premise for this gathering is well-intended, the truth is the life-skills concepts are being introduced to the player too late. During this four day seminar, this group of drafted players is expected to learn all life’s lessons of the NFL. Yeah, right!?!?!? There is no way each player can retain, apply and master each of the unique situations that will come with his newfound fame. There will be some pointed and valid information shared at the symposium, and one or two guys conceptually will listen and actually be spared from a future negative situation. Players understand this symposium will introduce them to the fundamental issues most players experience throughout their careers; however, there is no mandatory follow-up program to the seminar on a yearly or continual basis.

The content and information provided come from real players and experiences, but there is no substantive support system for players throughout their careers and they usually figure out the “real” life and business of the NFL when it is too late. Therefore, the Rookie Symposium is in effective. With over 80% of NFL players becoming bankrupt, divorced, or unemployed within two years of their careers being over, there is a strong disconnect with the current message the NFL is sharing with its players.

The problems rookie players face, and all professional players, should be addressed before they are drafted, not after. Life as a professional athlete is a pressure like none other. Players must perform every day of every week, while coaches and football personnel evaluate and dictate whether or not they think a player is of value to the team. When working in the front-offices of the NFL, I told every rookie we drafted, “From the day you were drafted, it is my job to replace you everyday!” These comments were “real” and straight to the point. It was the truth and that is all any player really wanted to hear so he knew where he stood. This helped to garner trust and obtain relationships that were beyond superficial with players.

While the NFL may offer the “initial” fundamentals of life-skills for a selected few, players are not provided with the continual resources and support needed to enhance these skills. Again, many put the emphasis on the wrong person to help guide the player in his personal life, and that person is usually seen as the sports agent. Ladies and gentleman; that is not the primary role of the sports agent. Its not the sports agent’s fault, the rules and regulations of the sports agent business make it hard for the agent to serve this role even if he wanted to do so. Think about this from a practical standpoint. For example, do you really think the big-name agents, who have the big-name clients, have the time and energy to provide 100% “full-service” to the 20-50 clients they personally represent? The answer is a not so surprising: NO. The sports agent cannot be everywhere all the time for each player. This is where a company such as 44 management comes in and provides specific lifestyle and wealth management coaching for athletes and families of all stages, helping and advising on how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together resulting in a successful transition from the locker room to the board room.

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