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Rookie symposium just the tip of the iceberg

NFL, NFLPA develop extensive player development program. Jack Bechta

Print This July 02, 2010, 11:00 AM EST

On Wednesday, the 2010 rookie draft class wrapped up the 14th rookie symposium.

The purpose of the Rookie Symposium is to help prepare players for the opportunities and challenges ahead. The Players Association, the NFL and its teams are committed to providing the rookies with the best resources to develop both personally and professionally.

The program includes presentations, videos, and workshops about life in the NFL. The symposium’s agenda consists of multiple topics, including: personal finance, life skills, conduct, life as a rookie, NFL policies and procedures, personal experiences, family issues and player development.

Although the symposium gets a lot of attention, it’s just one small component of a bigger program. The broader focus of the NFL and the NFLPA is to make sure players successfully transition both into the league and out of the league, as well. Other components of the player development program include an introductory meeting at the NFL Combine, a rookie orientation program that takes place about 3 times a year within each club, and a rookie conduct management program that focuses on impulse control, stress management and decision making. The program also goes on the road and visits about 25 to 35 colleges a year, where the NFL representatives talk to collegiate players about responsibilities that come along with the privilege of working for the NFL. As program director, Adolpho Birch, explained it to me, "We want to remind college players you don't come to us with a clean slate; you come to us with all the decisions you made up to this point in your life".

Above and beyond the standard league policies for personal conduct, players are given advice on how to handle the everyday stresses that come along with their high profile job. Veteran players candidly talk to them about how to handle family members who may feel entitled to their new found wealth, or a how to avoid the temptation of partying to often.  They remind them that their livelihood is on the line every day and can disappear with one bad decision.  From talking to my players, I learned that this was their favorite part of the symposium this week, and that the veteran who did the best job of driving home these points was Cris Carter.  If you check out this video, you can certainly understand why.

Social media has also been an expanded topic at the ,as the NFL wants players to be mindful of their tweets and Facebook profiles.

In terms of players' conduct, Roger Goodell is clearly defining his legacy as the disciplinarian Commissioner. He's not afraid to get his hands dirty and get toe-to-toe with players. He actually enjoys the interaction and is in tune with the players' behavior. Roger also has been a champion of the player development program and was instrumental in bringing former players association President Troy Vincent on board as VP of Player Development.

On the transition out of the NFL side, the program helps to facilitate anything from resume training and interview skills, to broadcast boot camps and minority coaching programs. The NFLPA has struck deals with graduate schools such as Harvard, Wharton and Kellogg to have players attend executive courses in the off-season. Therefore, both the NFL and the Players Association share a common interest and actually work very well together under the Player Development Program.

Many of my clients who have been through the symposium have complained about how long and boring it can be at times. As one player put it, "I learned and chose not to use guns and drugs in junior high". Needles to say, there are many portions of the program that are directed at the 5% who might need a constant reminder to behave themselves.

The tools and resources exist for players to help themselves succeed, but the bottom line is they have to want to take advantage of them and manage their own actions.

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