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It's not just about playing the game...

  • 11/16/2012 6:19:00 AM
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It's not just about playing the game...

Kwame J.A. Agyemang, Ph.D



For those in the workforce, you may remember completing some type of training or orientation before you actually started your duties. Thinking back, how would you rate the usefulness of that training? As the days, months, and years went by, did it help you deal with your day-to-day responsibilities you faced on the job? Or better yet, do you surmise that it helped you uphold the mission and values of your organization? Believe it or not, these same questions and more are also relevant for professional athletes. Indeed, it IS more than just playing the game!


Professional athletes are expected to carry out a number of duties upon entering their respective leagues of competition. Upon being drafted, these individuals will meet their new teammates, fulfill media obligations and train for the upcoming season, among a host of other tasks. Lost in the mix, however, are the athletes’ obligations to uphold the mission and integrity of the league in which they compete. To assist with athletes’ transition to professional competition, the NFL, NBA, and other professional leagues typically offer transition camps to better facilitate this change in lifestyle.  For example, players will attend sessions on professional and life skill development, player development, personal development and education, media and community relations, legal education, and other related topics related to their transition to the league. Recently, a former NBA player and current assistant coach also stated that these sessions bring awareness about drugs, relationships, and finances. The importance of such camps was demonstrated during the summer of 2010 when Derrick Coleman who, after playing 14 years in the NBA, filed for bankruptcy. It is reported that he owed over $2 million to creditors. Earning more than $87 million during his playing career, Coleman was reported to have retained only a small fraction of those earnings.


                  Among other initiatives, professional leagues assist athletes by involving them with community outreach. Let us use the NBA as an example. A couple of programs are NBA Cares and Basketball Without Borders. Those who regularly tune into NBA telecasts may remember commercials showing athletes doing community work.  However, given the current atmosphere surrounding professional sport (e.g., player arrests, financial problems), some athletes and front-office personnel believe that professional leagues are not doing enough to assist athletes with their transition to a professional lifestyle. As these professional leagues move forward, they should evaluate their current practices and consider implementing new ones. The athletes are significant stakeholders in professional American sports, pulling in large financial returns for their employers.  Thus, you would expect leagues and sport organizations employing these athletes to invest in programs that will lead to positive outcomes for the league and the athlete. It is my opinion that even with the existing orientation camps, there is still a need for additional methods to assist in athletes becoming not only top-notch athletes but well-rounded human beings as well. Why, you may ask. Well, think about your own career. As an employee of your organization, you are being asked to fulfill more duties as compared to yesteryear. Thus, it would behoove you and your organization for you to receive the best training possible to realize all organizational goals.


For further reading related to this topic:

  1. Agyemang, K.J.A. (2011). Different from the rest: An interview with Nic Harris of the Carolina Panthers. Journal of Management Inquiry, 20 (2), 135-139.
  2. Kerby, T. (2010). Derrick Coleman is almost $5 million in debt. Retrieved April 10, 2010, from



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