Looking at NFL Player Development from a different angle (2)

After the death of NFL great Junior Seau, TheFootballEducator.com reiterated its call for an extensive Player Development Program that revolved around the efforts of a Player Performance Council. Independent of coaching and front office management, PPC would focus on designing and implementing individualized programs in the areas of Physical, Mental, Spiritual, Social, Intellectual, and Financial enhancement.

Part 2 of this 3 part series looks at the importance of helping young NFL players grow from a Social, Intellectual and Spiritual perspective.

One thing clear about communication in today’s fast paced and ever changing world, there’s an abundance of avenues to take when expressing individual thoughts, desires, opinions and feelings.  Whether through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, texting or any other facet of “real time” digital exchange, today’s NFL player is more directly or indirectly connected with friends and fans than ever before.

What’s meant to be a private conversation between two buddies can become a front page quotation the following day.  “Bits and bytes” are floating out there in the ethos, just waiting to be snatched up for the 24/7 news cycle.  The National Football League does its best to educate their player pool of the positive and negative effects of using these conduits (mostly during Training Camp).

But all you have to do is follow Twitter to see the lack of understanding when the emphasis begins to fade.  It’s important to integrate all types of communications into the overall Player Developmental Plan.  If the player understands what methods are best to promote his personal brand and which are best left for personal use, then it should become clear how to steer away  from communication SNAFU’s.

Public/Media Communications Director

Mission: Advise and assist players and staff in dealing with the public & media in various capacities.  Develop media and presentation training programs.  Will educate with regard to the culture and expectations of the organization.  Identify and communicate appropriately with club stakeholders.

Also important to understand the NFL is dealing with a “new generation” of player, instructed largely by an “older generation” of coach.  The same multi-media technology driving the way NFL players communicate today also drives how they learn.  This is a visual, multi-tasking generation of learner.  Reading and absorbing massive 3-ring binders of information is not how these athletes were brought up through the educational process.  Yet ask any Quality Control coach across the League what they’re doing Tuesday nights?  STUFFING PLAYBOOK BINDERS!

Don’t get me wrong, a number of clubs have made the transition to iPad formats or PC downloads.  But the way the information is presented remains the same; two dimensional drawings (8 to a page) followed by non-descript instructional analysis.  Play, after play, after play.

Furthermore, the desire to continue to learn is still there for a number of players and should be highly encouraged.  This is another program that the League has put a lot of emphasis on and done a solid job in helping players to finish their degrees.  But the Football Educator would like to see a more integrated educational process built into the development of a young player, and more internal motivation to finish what was started (college degree) as well.

Educational Programs and Curriculum Development Director

Mission: Identify and coordinate educational programs for players and staff seeking degrees or other education and training. Work with other Directors to develop their respective education and training curricula. Assist coaches in developing teaching / pedagogical strategies.

We’ve all seen post game huddles at the 50 yard line, members from both sidelines hand in hand, heads bowed in prayer.  Every team I’ve been associated with from college to pros will either enter the game or exit the stadium with a hurried up version of “The Lord’s Prayer”.  But true spiritual development goes beyond having a Pastor on the bench or once a week FCA meeting.  In a game as “emotional” as football; through grueling preparations, debilitating injury, glorious victories, agonizing defeats, abrupt endings, new beginnings, hiring and firing, and then life at home on top of it all – It takes a well grounded individual, with a even stronger support system, to come out on the other end a better man.

Team Chaplain and Community Outreach Director

Mission: Provide confidential spiritual counseling to players and staff. Identify community religious opportunities. Identify and coordinate charitable and community outreach programs for club, team, and individuals.

Many argue that Social and Spiritual aspects of professional players are no business of the business of football.  I disagree.  Just as the military provides for its own in these two areas, during and post career, so should the NFL.  Perhaps Junior Seau is our best reminder.

Next – A last look at Financial Responsibility.

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