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  1. The Dangers of an Alter Ego: How to keep your head on straight when fame hits

    by Dr. Timothy Thompson 04-03-2012 11:26 PM Human Relations

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    "I think a lot of guys get too preoccupied and overwhelmed with being a superstar. They think of that iconic image of Superman. In my opinion, they need to realize that not enough respect is paid to the alter ego: Clark Kent, Peter Parker, Steve Rogers. Those are the real guys. That’s who Superman is. He’s Clark Kent.

    “I’m real big on being an average Joe. A lot of people, especially in today’s society, want to throw too much praise at the character and not at the real person.”

    These aren’t the words of some average Joe who’s caught up in his own specially created fantasy world and can’t distinguish between real people and comic book characters. Rather, the speaker in this case is none other than World Extreme Cagefighting former 155-pound champion Benson Henderson, who, despite already being viewed as a future Cage Fighting hall of famer, continues to impress fight fans with his still-growing arsenal of skills.
     
    Henderson’s comments appeared in sportswriter Kevin Iole’s February 23, 2012 Yahoo! Sports article entitled "Lightweight contender Benson Henderson’s Clark Kent image might soon become Superman." In Iole’s article, Henderson was explaining how he keeps his focus firmly on the pursuit of ultimate perfection, and therefore keeps building on his already amazing level of fighting skills. According to Iole, because of Henderson’s practice of honestly assessing his abilities and pushing himself beyond his self-imposed limitations, the electrifying fighter actually “gets to be Superman by not being overly impressed by himself.”
     
    The balanced life perspective that Henderson displays is particularly impressive since resisting the strong urge to become overly impressed with ourselves in the face of constant public praise can be one of our most daunting off-the-field challenges. That’s why we should all heed Henderson’s success formula.
     
    It’s especially hard to resist hiding behind your brand image if you’ve created a heroic public persona to help you cope with the “virtual fantasy world” occupied by celebrities in general, as former NBA star Gilbert Arenas did with his Agent Zero “disguise.” In a February 20, 2012 SI.com article by Sam Amick entitled "Arenas opens up after lengthy hiatus from league, media (Pt. 1)", Arenas candidly explained why he struggled to stay level-headed, and how he allowed his public and private selves to blend too closely together, ultimately distorting his personal decision-making to a self-destructive degree.
     

     

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  2. Leadership Lessons from John Wooden

    by Cory Dobbs, Ed.D. 04-02-2012 09:00 PM Leadership

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    This post is adapted from an interview I did with Steve Jamison in 2010. March Madness is a time when team greatness is revealed. It is also a time when the best baseball players in the world go back to work—fine-tuning the fundamentals of their game. College basketball’s greatest coach was a tour de force for principled leadership and success. Great teams and fundamentals are of vital importance no matter what your endeavor, no matter what time of year.

    Do you need proof that leadership is not about style? The legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden suggests that leadership is influence derived from one’s character. For Wooden, the ideal leader is someone whose life and character motivate people to follow. The best kind of leadership derives its capacity from the force of example, not from the power of position or personality. 
     
    Much of what passes as leadership today is nothing more than manipulation of people by sticks and carrots—threats and rewards. That’s not effective leadership for the long-term. Authentic leadership seeks to motivate people from the inside, by an appeal to the head and the heart, not by use of command and coercion. Compliance seldom, if ever, leads to authentic commitment. 
     
    Wooden influenced players through his character which he displayed in everything he did, from the way he recruited student-athletes to the way he taught them to put their socks on. 
     
    For Wooden character is the essential element necessary for great leadership. 
     
    Steve Jamison, author of best-selling books on John Wooden and Bill Walsh,
    spent fifteen years working with Wooden on various books on leadership. He teaches Wooden’s principles to business leaders at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management.

     

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  3. Common Cents: The Reality of Performance Reporting

    by Matt Ramer 03-25-2012 06:18 PM Finance

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    Which is better, 7% or 8%?

    Part of the investment process involves monitoring and evaluating your success, or better yet, the success of the counselor or advisor who is charged with the responsibility of handling your investments. Unfortunately, it can be quite common among professional athletes, TV personalities, and screen actors to lack the understanding of how to do this, the time to do this, or even the interest in doing this. And often times, worse, many athletes put unwavering trust in an advisor who may be smart enough to obscure the reality of what’s happening behind the scenes. As such, I ask again, would you rather average a 7% return or an 8% return? The correct answer is: that’s not enough information to draw a conclusion.
     
    Now how could that be? Why would anyone prefer to accept a lower rate of return? The most obvious answer is that the investment having a higher average return may have necessitated the acceptance of greater risk. While that’s true, the risk factor still does not provide enough information to draw a conclusion to answer my question. In fact, in the interests of simplicity, let us assume that there is identical risk in these two hypothetical investments. I invite readers to re-assess why one may be happier with a 7% average return instead of an 8% average return.
     
    And the reason is… Because averages can lie. That’s correct. Have you ever heard of the swimmer who drowned in a lake with an average depth of only two feet? Sure the lake may have an average depth of two feet, while the deepest part may be 30 feet. And herein lies the problem with investment professionals and mutual funds who advertise average annual returns.
     
    I promise my readers not to bear down on mathematics and we really don’t need to. But I need to at least be sure that we understand what an “average” is. In our daily lives, we calculate averages all the time. If a player scores 10 points in one game and 30 points in another, we all know he/she is averaging 20 points. The actual equation is: The sum total of all numbers, divided by how many numbers there are. In this example, 10+30 = 40. Then we divide by 2 because we used two games. If a player scored in three games 10, 20, and 30 points, the average is obviously 20. The equation is: 10+20+30 = 60. Then we divide by 3 because we are discussing 3 games. 
     
    Now let’s get back to the point and talk about why averages in the investment world can be so terribly misleading.

     

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  4. Sports Wagering Primer for NCAA Student-Athletes

    by Justin Sievert 03-01-2012 11:57 PM Amateurism

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    With March Madness fast approaching, fans across the country are following NCAA men's basketball a little bit more closely as they prepare to fill out their "brackets" and begin to enter into various tournament "pools." In fact, the NCAA men's basketball tournament has become so big the FBI expects illegal gambling could reach upwards of $2.5 billion dollars. As a result, it is important for both prospective and current NCAA student-athletes to be educated regarding NCAA Bylaw 10.3 (Sports Wagering Activities).
     
    NCAA Bylaw 10.3, as applied to student-athletes, forbids knowing participation in sports wagering activities or providing information to individuals involved in or associated with any types of sports wagering activities concerning intercollegiate, amateur or professional athletics competitions. A prospective or enrolled student-athlete who is found in violation of Bylaw 10.3 would be ineligible from further intercollegiate athletics competition, subject to an appeal to the Committee on Student-Athlete Reinstatement. If a student-athlete engaged in activities designed to influence the outcome of an intercollegiate contest or activities that will affect the gambling line or gambles on the institution he or she attends, that student-athlete would lose all remaining eligibility in all sports. If a student-athlete participates in another sports wagering activity, the student will be ineligible for a minimum period of one year. If the student-athlete later engages in another sports wagering activity, the student-athlete will be permanently ineligible.
     
    To avoid finding yourself subject to Bylaw 10.3 sanctions, here are examples of impermissible sports wagering activities compiled from recent NCAA secondary infractions cases: 

     

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  5. Interview with a Sports Professional: Chris Dingman, Athlete Relocation Expert

    by Matthew Allinson 02-25-2012 09:21 PM Interview with a Sports Professional | Athlete Relocation | Athlete Services

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    “I can’t believe that I’ve been doing this on my own or that I have never known about someone like you before. The process is extremely less difficult when you guys are in the picture.”

    This is almost a constant refrain that athlete relocation expert Chris Dingman hears from professional athletes and their families after they have hired his company for the first time to assist them with moving.

    It’s no secret that professional sports careers are often short-lived, and that a player’s status on a particular team can change suddenly. From being drafted, to being traded, to being released by one team and picked up by another, players can find themselves on a new roster in a different part of the country numerous times in one season.

    For fans, it’s easy to get caught up in imagining that an athlete makes a move magically—seemingly appearing in a new city with a new uniform overnight. But that’s not the reality. In fact, for an athlete without outside help, moving to an unfamiliar environment at a moment’s notice can be an extremely daunting—if not impossible—task.

    That’s why Chris Dingman jumped at the chance five years ago to literally provide a comfortable landing place for uprooted and transplanted players, and built a business that could help: The Dingman Group, an athlete relocation agency based in Newport Beach, California.

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    After Dingman's college football career ended at Santa Monica College—where he was teammates with current NFL players Chad Ochocinco and Steve Smith—Dingman developed a penchant for following the revolving door of player transactions and trades in professional sports. It made him wonder how players were being taken care of as they were constantly being shuffled from team to team.

    In surveying many coaches, athletes, and other contacts he had in the sports business, Dingman discovered that players didn’t receive much assistance at all from teams and had to make their own arrangements under extreme time pressure. He learned that in some cases, these athletes never even unpacked their belongings when they moved and their kids’ toys would remain in boxes in the garage. Aside from the sheer inconvenience this created, he was alarmed by hearing that many athletes were also being taken advantage of.

    “I had to come in and put together a really ethical and sound business plan and marketing plan, and make sure that these guys knew they had a trusted resource to take care of these things,” Dingman told Access Athletes.

    He took a big leap of faith leaving the corporate world to pursue his vision of simplifying the relocation process and helping athletes maintain the balance in their daily lives throughout the move. Dingman was determined to fill the void for an essential service needed by many pro athletes and their families.

    “I am the type of individual who when I set my mind to do something, I always dream about it at night. I day dream about it during the day, about it being successful and being the best it can possibly be.”

     

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  6. Stephen Howard proves there’s abundant life after playing pro sports

    by Dr. Timothy Thompson 02-20-2012 03:14 PM Athlete Interviews | Life After Sports | Athlete Career Development

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    As an athlete and/or sports fan, you’re probably hard-wired to zero your attention right in on the kinds of examples that your favorite playing icons set for how top athletes should conduct their lives off the court or field. That’s understandable too, since everybody seems to love focusing on the biggest stars. 
     
    But guys like former NBA sub Stephen Howard may just have more to teach you about how to transition from playing professional basketball to a mainstream career than Kobe Bryant, Dwayne Wade, Chris Paul, or even Ray Allen can. 
     
    Sure, those veteran master basketball superstars have proven their staying power in the NBA. But they’re also used to being among the most important players on their teams, which means that they’ve never had to worry about losing their jobs as much as players do who are lower on the pecking order. And for some of them, that status may translate more easily into front office, broadcasting, or even unrelated entrepreneurial opportunities later on because of the recognizability of their names.
     
    Lesser-known players, however, can never allow themselves the luxury of getting comfortable on a player roster. Because of the extreme lack of job stability for pro athletes everywhere, players who aren’t in a team’s regular rotation have a more urgent need than superstars do to prepare themselves for post-athletic careers.
     
    Of course, every player on a pro roster has dedicated years of physical and emotional sacrifice to don one of the official uniforms of his or her sport. So whether the player is the team MVP or the last one off the bench, the ritual-dependent warrior life of a professional athlete is so physically and emotionally taxing that making the transition to another career after one’s playing days are over can be a hugely traumatic life change.
     
    According to Howard, who is an entrepreneur, as well as a studio analyst for the NBA’s OKC Thunder and a college basketball analyst for ESPN, “I think most players don’t realize the true depth of that transition [from playing pro basketball to another career] and what it will entail once they get done playing. So that’s really what makes it so difficult when they leave the sport. It’s a definite process that you have to go through. It’s almost like a death, and you’re mourning it. You’ve been doing that work for so long.”
     
    Howard spent 15 years playing professional basketball internationally and domestically, including three seasons with the Utah Jazz, one season with the Seattle SuperSonics, and a brief stint with the San Antonio Spurs, between 1992 and 1998. He retired from playing oversees about five years ago. 
     
    Even though Howard was never an NBA starter, and played the remainder of his 15-year pro basketball career overseas after 1998, he explained that the rigid ritualistic behavior patterns and constant competitive focus needed by pro athletes are so unique, that any career that follows it is likely to be experienced by the athlete as culture shock. 
     
    “I even see it with myself,” said Howard, referring to the feeling of loss that accompanied his retirement. “I’m still transitioning after five years to not playing. For more than 15 years, I was playing basketball, and then for 15 years I was doing it professionally. So literally I could set my clock on what I was doing at any certain time of the year, month, or day. It was a routine. When you lose that routine, then you basically have to develop a whole new routine later on in life. And that’s a very difficult transition, mentally, to go through.”
     
    Recalling the factors that helped to prepare him for accepting the challenge of transitioning into a whole different way of earning a living, Howard explained, “Playing 15 years on a 1-year contract, I didn’t have any years where I could just rest and kind of chill. I was auditioning every day, every month, every shot, and every game for my next team that I would play for in the next year.
     
    “People really don’t realize the difficult nature of being a professional athlete. But I think just as difficult as it is to become a professional athlete, it’s more difficult to leave that profession because, literally you’re living in a world that’s totally different from the real world just because of the money that you’re making, access that you have, and the different things that you do.”
     
    So What’s a Retired Pro Baller to Do?
     
    Given the intense and regimented nature of a pro athlete’s life, leaving your mournful feelings about the end of your playing career unresolved isn’t an option. Howard offers the following four tips to help pro athletes move through the inevitable mourning stages without falling into a debilitating depression.

     

     

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  7. Teams and Breakout Stars: Finding Your Jeremy Lin

    by Wesley Mallette 02-12-2012 11:53 PM Public Relations | Athlete Career Development | Leadership | Motivation

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    Ahh, how we love the splendid tale of the breakout star and oh how the world of sports never fails to deliver that "from nowhere to somewhere" story. 
     
    We are now just a week removed from the New York Football Giants Super Bowl XLVI win over the New England Patriots and the GMEN's incredible run (reminiscent of their 2007 Championship run) through the NFL playoffs. Just a few months ago, the St. Louis Cardinals made that same improbable run in baseball, winning when it counted and backing into the playoffs on the final day of the season, only to continue their white hot streak throughout the playoffs and end up with a World Series title. And just two years ago, we saw now Carolina Panthers' quarterback Cam Newton and his then Auburn Tigers do the same thing in college football. 
     
    What do these teams have in common? They were "All In." Literally. 
     
    If you listen to the pundits (which I don't), you would have counted both of these teams out. "Never had a chance. No way. Look at them on paper. They'll never do it." Sure about that?
     
    As ESPN's Chris Berman puts it, "THAT'S why they play the game."
     
    Championships are not won on paper. They are not handed out. A team has to earn them. And top-flight draft picks and big money signings do not guarantee wins. At every level championships are won by players who have the ability to come together as a unit, and the best team—and that doesn't always mean the team with the best athletes. 
     
    Let's take the past year in sports. 
     
    We saw the emergence of "overnight sensations" David Freese of the St. Louis Cardinals, Victor Cruz of the New York Giants, the Denver Broncos' Tim Tebow, and now the sports world finds itself captivated by the seemingly "shot out of a cannon" success of former Harvard standout and now New York Knicks' sensation, Jeremy Lin. (Granted, Tebow had a decorated career at the University of Florida with Heisman Trophy and a National Championship among his many accolades, but he continues to overcome the doubters and skeptics who said he "isn't, can't be, won't be" successful as an NFL quarterback). Cam Newton? Well he just shut all of his doubters up, didn't he?
     
    Athletes like this contribute greatly to the philosophical mindset that the unit, the team, the men or women in the locker room—is stronger than the individual athlete—and together the team can accomplish great things. 

     

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  8. Tony Gonzalez Q&A: His NFL Career, Family & Life After Sports

    by Matthew Allinson 02-12-2012 08:25 PM Athlete Interviews | Finance | Life After Sports | Athlete Career Development | Athlete Representation | Family Life | Sports Business

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    A few weeks ago 13-time Pro Bowl tight end Tony Gonzalez announced that the 2012 season will probably be his last. I have previously featured the 35-year-old future Hall of Famer here on Access Athletes in a piece entitled Tony Gonzalez is on a mission to spread his all-natural lifestyleIn this Q&A, we talked to Gonzalez about philanthropy, leaving school early for a pro career and adapting to the NFL, his belief that the NFL needs to create a job summit for former players, his experiences with sports agents and his publicist Denise White, balancing his family with being an athlete, becoming a businessman and running his company All-Pro Science, and much more.

    Q: Tell me about the Tony Gonzalez Foundation and some of its philanthropic initiatives like the Shadow Buddies Program

    Gonzalez: I’ve been involved with Shadow Buddies since my Rookie year, so 15 years now. Miles Postlethwait is the poster child for it. He’s the reason Shadow Buddies is around. He’s like a little brother of mine. I met him when he was 9 and now he’s 24. It’s crazy. It’s been fulfilling. I’ve been really lucky to be around some great organizations and a great charity spreading smiles. Shadow Buddies is not about finding a cure. It’s not about going out there and raising millions and millions of dollars. What we try to do is take a grassroots approach and we go out and hand deliver these buddies to sick children and senior citizens. It’s really about putting smiles on people's faces and sometimes I think that’s the best medicine, especially when someone’s circumstances are terminal, which is a lot of the cases.
     
    We’ll go to cancer wards and kids are in the later stages of cancer or leukemia or whatever it is and they haven’t smiled in a month-and-a-half, and then you go in there and give them a buddy and spend about 5 minutes with them. When you walk out they’re smiling, and then the nurse comes up to you and says, “hey, she hasn’t smiled in a month-and-a-half,” and she’s in tears. We’ve had those experiences. That’s what makes it all worth it for me and the people involved with Shadow Buddies. It’s great spreading that word and trying to make it as big as possible, and I’ll continue to do it.
     
    Shadow Buddies is close to my heart, but now I also want to get into health and childhood obesity and helping kids because they’re our future. We have a Type 2 [Diabetes] epidemic going on in our country, which really wasn’t seen 20 years ago in kids. And now you see it all the time. And you can’t tell me it’s not because of our nutrition and what we’re feeding these kids. So, I’m definitely getting involved with that. That’s definitely a way that I want to push—making sure kids are eating the right things and putting good stuff in their bodies.
     
    Q: What is one thing you now know about the NFL lifestyle that you wished you would have known when you entered the league that would serve as a helpful tip for current players or rookies coming into the league?
     
    Gonzalez: Making the most of your time. You’re going to have a lot of extra free time now, especially during the off-season. You go from this whole routine of practice and getting out of there late and playing games during the week to seven months of not doing anything. I mean you can work out and stuff like that, but I think that goes without saying. I always worked out, but that’s just two hours a day. After that, what are you going to do with the rest of your day? Don’t just play video games. Don’t just watch TV or go out there and get the latest car and go to the club at night for the single guys out there, which I was. You can make so much more out of your life. You have all this free time. You can do whatever you want. The world is at your fingertips and you need to just exercise that. Just make sure that you make good decisions!
     
    Q: What advice would you give to this year’s NFL rookies about how to put themselves in the best position to succeed in the NFL?  
     
    Gonzalez: Things aren’t what they used to be and we’re under a microscope now. Anything can get reported on because there are so many media outlets and they need to fill those time slots. I would definitely say just be smart. And when I say be smart, if you’re going to go out and you’re going to have a good time at night, there’s nothing wrong with that. I encourage you to do it, especially if you’re a young, single guy. There’s nothing wrong with that. Be smart about it. Be responsible. You take a taxi or hire a driver. That little hundred bucks that it’s going to cost—well if you take a taxi, it will be cheaper than that—it’s going to be so much cheaper than paying for a DUI or paying for a problem at a club or whatever. Along those lines, surround yourself with good people. Surround yourself with people that have your best interests at hand. Nothing wrong with keeping your old friends, but make sure they have your best interests and they want to see you be successful and they’ll tell you no. You need a couple of “no” people in your life, not a bunch of “yes” people. 
     
    Q: According to Sports Illustrated, 78% of former NFL players have gone bankrupt or are under financial stress because of joblessness or divorce by the time they have been retired for two years.  Why do you think the numbers are so high and what sort of things have you been doing to avoid becoming another statistic?
     
    Gonzalez: They’ve been playing football their whole career. They’re not prepared. They’re young kids. When we go to school, for better or for worse, the reality is that we’re playing football in school. It’s number one. I don’t care what anyone says. When you’re playing for the university, your coach wants it to be number one. I know they say student-athlete and student comes first. I think it’s a crock at times. And it doesn’t sound good. It is what it is. We are talking about university. You got a scholarship there. More than likely, I wouldn’t have gotten to Cal if I didn’t play sports, but I’m there because I play sports. It’s a great opportunity and I took advantage of it when I got there. But some guys just can’t recognize that.
     
    So, when you’re coming out of the NFL, you’ve been really trying to play football. That’s what you’ve really, really been focusing on because you’ve had to. We’re talking about this is your job. You haven’t really thought about what you’re going to do after your done playing because you’re trying to stay focused. Bang! Then you’re out of the league. You can’t make a team... It’s like now what are you going to do? You can try to go back to school, but we’ve been doing this our whole life. I think the only way they can really get that number to go the right direction is kind of what they’re doing right now. The NFL gives you access to programs during the off-season and they help guys. 
     
    There is a really good idea—and I heard this; this isn’t my original idea—for a program they should really install in the NFL, which would be really beneficial for all professional athletes. Currently they have a Rookie Symposium for all incoming rookies that is a 3-day summit. They need to make a mandatory 3-day summit for guys that retire and give them some leads, instead of saying you’re cut and “see ya later.” Now you can’t be a part of that program anymore because you’re not in the NFL and the team really has no one you can turn to, honestly. The NFL as a whole needs to have more concern for these guys and maybe create a summit or something similar where these guys can go and get job skills, or at least get some ideas for jobs and how they can deal with their relationships. Because that’s another big part of it too—a lot of guys get divorced when they retire. They need to go to some classes and learn. It’s like anything else—you have to educate yourself. I think that would really help a lot if they had a symposium for newly-retired guys. You can’t make it mandatory I guess, but I’m sure any guy with his right mind would go to it if the NFL is going to pay for it. Have another 3-day summit/symposium on skills and doing something to make that transition easier now that they’re not going to have football anymore. And maybe have people there that can give them jobs or at least point them in the right direction. 
     
    Q: Tell me about Tom Condon and how he’s helped you throughout your career, especially when you got traded to the Falcons in 2009 and how he assisted you with that whole transition. 
     
    Gonzalez: Tom wasn’t my agent my whole career. I started off with Leigh Steinberg. And then when he had his whatever—his problem—I left him and David Dunn. I left them both. They were both good for what it was worth. This is before David Dunn formed Athletes First. This is when they split up. They were going through their divorce, and I was one of the kids seeing the parents’ divorce. So, I was like I will see you guys both later. I don’t want anything to do with either one of you guys. So, I went ahead and sought new representation. That’s when I found Tom. He played in the league. First and foremost, he gets the best contracts in the NFL, or at least he’s one of the top guys, and I just got along with him. It’s like he knows how to communicate with people because he has that background and he’s played in the NFL. For 12 years, he played in the NFL. And he’s got the backing too, with CAA. And at that time, it was IMG, which is pretty much the same type of stuff. With CAA, if I did want to be an actor or if I want to be a commentator or some type of broadcaster when I get done playing football, I have access to that and they can hook me up with that. So, it’s kind of a one-stop shop.
     
    As far as my transition coming to Atlanta, he was there every step of the way, talking to me. He would say, “Okay, this is what we’re thinking… This is the team that is going to get you and all that stuff.”  I knew I was going to get traded, but I didn’t know it was going to be to the Falcons. 
     
    Q: How successful has Denise White of EAG Sports Management been in enhancing your brand and marketability?
     
    Gonzalez: She’s the wizard behind it all. I mean she’s the one pulling the strings behind it all, as far as what I’ve been able to do off the field. Obviously, I know that I got to do what’s on the field, but then she helps me translate that to off-the-field success, in terms of getting your brand out there and getting your face out there. She brings me good stuff and helps me make good decisions. It’s like helping me when to say yes and when to say no. We’re very, very close. Shoot, I think I was one of her first clients. We’ve been together a long, long time. I’ve seen her grow just as much as she’s seen me grow. Now, she’s built her business up to whatever it is now, 60 clients. I remember it was pretty much just me and maybe one other client. It’s been a fun process with her, watching each other grow and we help each other. It’s more like a brother-sister relationship. We fight like cats and dogs, and in the end, we get along great. She does a great job for me in pointing me in the right direction.
     

     

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  9. Ovie Mughelli Q&A: Advice on Transitioning to the NFL and Post-Athletic Career

    by Matthew Allinson 02-12-2012 05:27 PM Athlete Interviews | Life After Sports | Athlete Career Development

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    Over the summer, I published an in-depth profile on NFL Pro Bowl fullback Ovie Mughelli and his tremendous work as an eco-athlete and environmental activist who teaches underprivileged youth about the value of “going green.” Mughelli also had plenty of advice to share with Access Athletes regarding his experiences transitioning to the NFL and how to avoid the pitfalls that ultimately take down so many elite athletes.
     
    One piece of advice that really stood out from the rest was Mughelli’s insistence on preparing for your post-athletic career while you're still playing:  
     
    "The smart guys got to start the second career during their first career. Because it’s a lot harder to get into that after you finish football. Guys have to use their playing days to leverage their celebrity and to leverage their contacts so that when you finish football you already know what you’re going to do, as opposed to waiting until your done and trying to find yourself."  
     
    This bonus Q&A is packed full of exceptional insight from a professional athlete who has risen to the top of his game both on and off the field.  
     
    Q: When you first entered the NFL in 2003, what were some of the toughest aspects of adjusting to the NFL lifestyle?
     
    Mughelli: Some of the toughest aspects of adjusting to the NFL lifestyle were you have to fit into something so much bigger at the NFL. Of course, college was always big and particularly crazy because you had your college you had to be mindful of and your family. In the NFL, you kind of are property of your team, the Atlanta Falcons or Baltimore Ravens, or whoever, and you have eyes on you all the time. You really can’t mess up and you can’t make mistakes, and if you do, you will be on TV, you’ll disappoint your team, you’ll disappoint your family, you’ll disappoint everybody, and you could possibly lose your career. I’ve been in instances where as NFL teammates we’ll be out at a lounge or a club, and somebody will step on your shoe, spill a drink on you, or try to fight you, and all you can do really is just walk away. And sometimes run away, because if you choose to forget that you are a multi-million dollar athlete who represents a team who you can’t have bad press, you can really mess up your career. I’d say that getting used to the fame . . . I didn’t have this problem because I was a 4th round draft pick and my parents are from Nigeria and started with nothing and worked their way up to be a doctor and my mom as a business manager. She has a master’s in business and manages my dad’s office. I appreciated the dollar and understood the blessings that I had. It’s very easy for guys to let the money intoxicate them and spend too much, and buy a couple of cars and put rims on all of them and buy a house bigger than what they need. It’s hard to go from college, where you really don’t have a job, to the NFL where it is a job and you have to focus.

     

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  10. The Risk of Extreme Sports: The Sarah Burke Tragedy

    by Emi K. Ryan 02-08-2012 09:01 PM Athlete Career Development | Insurance

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    Even if you’re not a fan of freestyle skiing, there is no doubt you’ve heard about the recent tragic death of Winter X Games superstar Sarah Burke. The iconic Canadian skier died on Jan. 19 following an accident that had occurred nine days earlier during a training run in Park City, Utah.  Burke crashed and sustained fatal injuries performing a routine trick known as a Flat Spin 540 on the Eagle Superpipe at the Park City Mountain Resort during an event sponsored by Monster Beverage Co.  As a result of Burke’s fall, she suffered a ruptured vertebral artery in her neck, one of four major arteries supplying blood to the brain. This led to severe bleeding on the brain, causing her to go into cardiac arrest on the scene. While doctors were later able to successfully repair the artery, the 29-year-old British Columbia resident had suffered "irreversible brain damage due to lack of oxygen and blood to the brain during cardiac arrest," according to a statement released by her publicist.

    Along with the debate over the danger and safety issues related to extreme sports like freestyle skiing, much commentary and outrage was spawned over another aspect of this horrible tragedy: Sarah Burke’s massive medical bills. Almost just as shocking as her sudden death were the reports that her family would be stuck with a bill for over $550,000 from her hospital care at the University of Utah Hospital.  
     
    While Burke had $5 million in medical coverage through the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association (CFSA), a largely government-funded body that fields Olympic competitors in the sport, the CFSA's policy only covers athletes that are competing in officially sanctioned events and training where coaches are present. Kelley Korbin, media relations manager for the association, told msnbc.com, “This was a private sponsored event, so none of our certified coaches were there.” Burke’s accident occurred while she was training at an event hosted by Monster Energy Drink for a group of athletes the company sponsors, excluding her from being covered under the CFSA’s policy.
     
    As a Canadian citizen, Burke was entitled to reimbursement for out-of-country costs through British Columbia’s Medical Services Plan; however, the plan would only cover a “smaller portion” of the total amount according to a statement released by the B.C. Ministry of Health. Apparently, the national health insurance policy only pays for what the services would have cost in Canada, which is usually only a fraction of what medical care costs in the United States. When someone is traveling outside Canada, the Ministry of Health typically suggests purchasing third-party insurance to cover the difference.

     

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