Today, 254 rookies will travel to beautiful San Diego for a week at La Costa Resort and Spa. However, there will be no massages, golf or swimming. Instead, there will be classroom lectures on finances, sex education, conduct, and life skills backed by advice backed from former and existing NFL players.
This annual symposium was created in 1997 by the NFL, in coordination with the NFLPA, to help rookies get a handle on the responsibilities and personal challenges that come along with being an NFL player.
I commend the NFL for doing this, and I would even recommend they lengthen and expand the program to more live workshops and a follow-up seminar after the season. I believe players want education and want to be empowered to make good decisions. However, I’m not sure how effective a three-day crash course is for an energetic group of 22- and 23-year-old young men who now have some money and a few weeks of summer left to burn before camp. Regardless, it’s better than nothing, and I have witnessed its positive impact on players.
A few years ago, one of my high-round picks was so scared by the financial horror stories he heard at the symposium that it took him two years to make his first modest mutual fund investment. To this da,y he doesn’t make a move with his cash until he has talked with me, his financial advisor, his accountant and has done his own research.
In one sex education course, players were instructed on how to use a condom with a banana as the stand-in. One of my clients told me he was surprised to hear how many players had never used one and had some problems with the exercise.
Overall, the symposium does a good job of using both scare tactics and education as tools to get through to the players. High profile retired players share their personal experiences with the rookies, which can have a powerful impact. Experts from all fields give practical advice on how to make good decisions, along with explaing the consequences that come with bad ones.
I will have four rookies in attendance, all of whom are excited about the chance to learn from both the vets and the experts. After the conclusion of the symposium, I will get a debriefing from my rookies and let them know I am always available to help them with any decisions. Continuing education for all NFL players is a never-ending process. Each NFL team employs a player development executive who is responsible for guiding vets and rookies alike through the challenges of everyday life as an NFL player.
Pro athletes have to grow up fast if they want to manage their business, social and family affairs successfully. Unfortunately, the job of a pro athlete can also extend adolescence if a player decides to let everyone handle everything for them. By Thursday of this week, 254 pro athletes will be better prepared to face the world.
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