The Real Athlete Blog


Category: Athlete Career Development

  1. 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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  2. 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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  3. Haloti Ngata Q&A

    by Matthew Allinson 01-16-2012 01:33 AM Athlete Interviews | Philanthropy | Athlete Career Development | Human Relations

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    Haloti Ngata, 27, is widely considered one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL. The six-year veteran of the Baltimore Ravens earned his third consecutive trip to the Pro Bowl this season after recording 64 tackles, a career high, and adding 5 sacks. At 6-foot-4, 330-pounds, the versatile and freakishly athletic one-man wrecking crew is one of the anchors of the Ravens’ long vaunted 3-4 hybrid defense. Ngata and his Ravens will head to Foxborough next weekend to face Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game.

    Ngata spoke to Access Athletes at Anquan Boldin’s Inaugural Fundraiser Dinner about his approach to being a pro athlete off the field.
    Q: Start off by telling me what it means to you to be a pro athlete and how you leverage your celebrity to give back to the community. 
    Ngata: It’s huge for me. I’ve always wanted to be an NFL football player. I’ve always dreamed it. I always have looked up to guys like I could kind of be like, guys like Reggie White. That kind of person where he was a great football player, but then off the field he was a great man, a great father, and a great god-fearing man.  So that’s the person I looked up to and hopefully I can be that same kind of person. So now that I’m here at Anquan’s charity dinner and doing things like this, hopefully the guys that are coming up seeing us doing these things understand that yeah you’re getting paid a lot and you got a lot of blessings and talent from God, but you definitely have to give back to your community to whatever things you want to do. It doesn’t have to be what somebody else wants; it’s whatever you want to have happen. So it’s great that Anquan can do some things like this and that all of us teammates that are here can be here to support him and help give back—and then we know Anquan would do the same thing for us.


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  4. Leadership Principle #1: Do What You Say You Will Do

    by Cory Dobbs, Ed.D. 01-03-2012 11:44 PM Athlete Career Development | Leadership

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    Imagine a world where all your friends, teammates, family members, educators, coaches, and those you encountered on a daily basis took full responsibility for their actions. In this imaginary world everyone you interacted with did what they said they would do. And people approached interpersonal interactions with a perspective of looking beyond personal goals to consider those of the team or the community. 

    Trouble is, when it comes to answering for one’s word, many people see little value in honoring their word. Accountability entails taking ownership of one’s actions (which includes promises and commitments) or the expectation of one’s taking action and the consequences that arise from the action or inaction. By failing to honor our word we signal to others that we are unreliable and unpredictable.
    The problem is that we live in an era where the definition of accountability has become murky and, for the most part, open to one’s personal definition and situational interpretation.
    We often encounter issues of “accountability” within emotionally-charged interactions that involve blame, divisiveness, and hostility. Quality interpersonal relationships are essential to any cohesive team. And nothing destroys quality relationships more than losing confidence in the authenticity of someone’s promise or commitment.
    The First Principle of Leadership is to simply Do What You Say You Will Do. Leadership accountability requires a level of ownership that involves making, keeping, and answering for personal commitments. Simply put, when you hold yourself accountable, those around you know you can be counted on to complete your responsibilities or follow through on your promises. When you do what you say you will do you build credibility. 


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  5. Lead Like Tebow, Now!

    by Cory Dobbs, Ed.D. 12-26-2011 07:14 PM Athlete Career Development | Leadership

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    The world has changed. The pace and scope of change in the past ten years has been unprecedented. To succeed in our ever-changing world we need to find new leaders and new ways to lead. The challenges and opportunities we face are huge. To deal with these challenges we need people with diverse skills and perspectives to become leaders. In short, today everyone needs to be a leader.

    Tim Tebow has captured the attention of the world. He has done so, because he exemplifies the leader many want to model. He has a mission and that mission gives him power to realize his full potential. And Tebow’s leadership comes at a time when Americans have issued a wake-up call to the coercive command and control transactional leaders that a massive shift in the balance of power is underway.
    Tebow’s leadership exemplifies the three dimensions of leadership necessary in this new world order. The industrial model of leadership has been dismantled brick by brick. We are now in a world that revolves more around sharing of information and the creation of knowledge than one shaped by making and selling things. Education too has seen a change in tools and tactics for educating its customers. 
    The three dimensions of leadership that participants in the new world order need to be a high-performing leader are self-leadership, leading of others and leading with others. The ability to lead with others is much more complex than the order-giver, order-taker foundation of the industrial age transactional leader.
    Tebow is first a leader of self. The best leaders have deep self-knowledge and are willing to commit to higher standards. His standards are higher than any that anyone else could place upon him. Tebow displays his commitment to self-leadership by demonstrating consistency between his words and actions. As his teammates will tell you “he walks his talk.” Receiver Eddie Royal says, “there’s nothing fake about Tim Tebow. He represents the game of football the right way, by his play, by his emotion, by his enthusiasm. He's the perfect example of the type of guy that you want to be off the field."
    It’s obvious that Tebow, unlike many leaders we used to consider to be role models, pays constant attention to ethics, integrity, and values. This is responsible leadership.
    Tebow’s excellence in self-leadership also includes taking the time to reflect, to learn from his and others thoughts, feelings, and actions. He’s forever drawing out lessons from his own experiences and thinking deeply about how his actions affect others. 
    The second dimension of leadership is leading others. To Tebow leadership is a verb. It’s about taking action. It’s about inspiring his teammates (and the rest of the world) to come along with him. Tebow understands responsible leadership involves developing one’s social and emotional intelligence. He’s fully aware that what he says and does matters to those around him.
    The final dimension of leadership is leading with others. The new world order demands this advanced type of leadership. Many student-athletes, most students for that matter, aren’t prepared to lead with others—a distributed leadership model that companies like Google and Facebook employ. Tebow takes the time to build relationships and connect with his teammates so they believe in what he is trying to do—and so they believe in him. 
    It’s clear that Tebow utilizes trust as the foundation for building relationships. His leadership resonates with his teammates because of his trustworthiness. Trust in Tebow stems from the selfless way he uses his energies and abilities for the purposes of the team. He understands that one of the most important ways to wield influence is to share it. This is because no single individual has all the answers or can make all the decisions. He’s comfortable leading with others and cares to create a team environment that sparks passion and leads to high performance. This happens because he’s genuine and authentic—his teammates want to lead with him.
    Many student-athletes don’t see themselves as leaders. This happens because from the time we begin to walk what we’ve been taught—that leadership and authority go hand in hand with certain roles. Our models are our parents, the school principal, teacher, or coach. Certainly these roles require leadership—and our followership. It’s simply that for most of us this becomes a process in which we’ve grown comfortable watching “others” lead. 
    What’s different today is everyone needs to be a leader. And what Tim Tebow illuminates so brightly is the fact that being a leader is not something that happens later. Every day the opportunity to lead stands before you. You must learn to lead and engage in leadership now. Every student-athlete needs to think this way. 


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  6. 10 Tips For Pro Basketball Players Playing Overseas

    by Corey Crowder 10-30-2011 11:58 PM Life After Sports | Athlete Career Development

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    This article is for American basketball players that have made a career out of playing outside of the United States, and find themselves without a job at the beginning of the season.  Your season just ended 3 to 4 months ago, but now you are without a contract and the season has already started. I know what you are going through. I faced this exact thing maybe 6 or 7 times in my 14-year career, 12 of those years in Europe. 

    For whatever the reason, teams have overlooked you, and nobody has stepped forward to offer you a contract to play on their team. What do you do now, while your agent continues to offer your services to teams around the world?
    I am writing this article, to give you some advice on how to deal with the uncertainty of future employment as a professional basketball player.
    Here are 10 things you must do to stay prepared:
    1.       Stay in shape
    a.       You must continue to eat right and monitor your weight. You do not want your agent to call you with a contract, and you show up overweight and get sent back home. Therefore, you need to really monitor your weight. 
    b.      Make sure your body is as healthy as possible to avoid injuries. If you have some type of injuries, make sure they are taken care of before you board that plane. I have seen guys be put right back on the plane because they fail their physical.
    2.       Play and workout everyday
    a.       Find a gym and play every day. You need to be putting up more shots, so that you will be able to step right into the job, once you land in that country. I have seen where guys got off the plane and went straight to practice or games. You will not be given a second chance to produce.
    b.      Do as many individual drills as you can on a daily basis. 
    c.       Also, run more and more sprints to make sure you have your wind. If you cannot make it through a practice, you will be coming back home...without pay!
    3.       Contact your agent on a regular basis
    a.       You should at the least call your agent once or twice a week. Some agents have many players, and you could get overlooked for some new young stud, fresh out of college.
    b.      E-mail is a quick and efficient way to communicate with a busy agent. Most of them have smart phones now and they will get your message immediately.
    c.       Also, maybe ask about different countries, outside of their normal areas of expertise. Maybe they can work with other agents in different countries.
    4.       Budget your money
    a.       Really limit your spending to things that you only need to survive. 
    b.      You may have just played your last game. Therefore, you need to make the money you have last as long as possible.
    c.       No more movies, eating out, gifts, joy riding, hanging out, buying expensive clothes, high telephone bills, 100 channels on your TV, barbeques at your home, etc. You get the picture.
    5.       Find something to occupy your time
    a.       Spend more time with your wife/girlfriend and kids. Now is a great time to catch up on the time you have not been home.
    b.      Give back to your community in some way. You should do some work with charities.


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  7. Becoming a Team Leader

    by Cory Dobbs, Ed.D. 09-08-2011 01:55 AM Amateurism | Athlete Career Development | Coaching | Leadership

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    As a student-athlete it’s your choice to become a team leader. Because you are a student, leadership is an educational decision. If you truly desire a leadership role, you’ll need to make a commitment to preparing for the many challenges that will emerge daily. Learning to lead is a physical, intellectual, emotional, and social endeavor that leads to growth and development in leadership knowledge, skills, and abilities. When you choose to become a team leader you will have chosen to achieve your highest aspirations and potential. Those athletes that accept the challenge and learn to become leaders will be rewarded in a variety of ways throughout their life. 
    Becoming a team leader does not mean paying lip service to the role and responsibilities of team leadership. Rather, leadership will require you to exhibit courage, display character, and make a commitment to contributing to your team in this “extra” role.
    Think back over your experiences as a student-athlete. Ask which individuals truly delivered leadership that significantly impacted the team. In some cases you may have had exceptional team leaders, individuals you thought had a calling to lead. In others, you may have felt the team would have been better off without their leadership. 
    Most student-athletes choose not to become team leaders. They are unwilling to venture outside their comfort zone. These are the ones that say “I lead by example” and leave it at that. However, it will take a bold act of courage for you to engage with your teammates as a peer leader. The essence of team leadership is the act of making a difference. Choose to lead courageously and make a difference.


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  8. Serena Williams’ Comeback: How tennis is like an interview

    by Eileen Wisnewski 08-28-2011 09:55 PM Life After Sports | Athlete Career Development

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    After overcoming so much, Serena Williams is back in the game. Serena’s struggle and dedication to return has impressed many, and her recent win at Stanford was thrilling to watch. When I look at relating career development strategies with athletics, I thought it would be fun to discuss some of the similarities that I have always seen between tennis and interviewing.
    Here’s a few:
    1. One player serves the ball and the other player returns the shot, volleying until a point is scored. 
    2. Sometimes the shots come fast and furious and out of reach, and others may seem easy and close – but players can still miss them. 
    3. The bottom line, as in any sport, in order to be triumphant, players must practice. 
    1. The Handshake:
    Just like tennis, interviews begin and end with a handshake. How is yours? It is important to have a firm, and ideally dry handshake. Both men and women should be aware of this – I have shaken a few men’s hands in my life that were weaker than my nine year old niece’s (actually, she is pretty tough so this might not be the appropriate comparison). It is very awkward to shake someone’s hand only to find a rag doll. At the other end of the spectrum, you don’t want to crush the other person’s hand just to demonstrate how much you’ve been working out. One tip is to try to quickly sense the strength level of the other person and gauge your response to that. The best handshakes are when the shakers’ strength matches up – just like tennis.
    2. Serve & Game:
    The recruiter “serves” with each interview question. A successful candidate will get the ball and send it back without too much struggle. However, interviews should not be a one-sided serve-hit process. Recruiters hope candidates will have a conversation, and not simply answer each question. The perfect interview should be more like a “base line” game – don’t rush the net when you answer the questions. Take time to think through your answer before you speak – set up your shot. In the semi-finals, Sharapova was quoted after her loss, “It certainly wasn't my night. She was serving and hitting so well and I was extremely late in my reactions. I felt sluggish. It was a bad day but it's also a reminder that I need to step up.” Candidates who are not ready will struggle to keep up with the interviewer, and likely lose the match.


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  9. 5 NCAA Bylaws Incoming Collegiate Student-Athletes Must Know

    by Justin Sievert 07-14-2011 11:35 PM Amateurism | Athlete Career Development

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    Over the course of the next two months, the high school class of 2011 will begin to arrive on collegiate campuses across the United States. During the transition to life as a college student, these first-year students will deal with many issues including homesickness, more challenging class work, making new friends and becoming increasingly independent. First-year student-athletes will deal with many additional issues, one of which is NCAA rules compliance. In light of this, here are five NCAA Bylaws all incoming collegiate student-athletes should review before arriving on campus.

    1.  Student-athletes or his or her relatives or friends may not receive a benefit not expressly authorized by NCAA legislation (NCAA Bylaw 16.02.3).

    “An extra benefit is any special arrangement by an institutional employee or a representative of the institution’s athletics interests to provide a student-athlete or the student-athlete’s relative or friend a benefit not expressly authorized by NCAA legislation. Receipt of a benefit by student-athletes or their relatives or friends is not a violation of NCAA legislation if it is demonstrated that the same benefit is generally available to the institution’s students or their relatives or friends or to a particular segment of the student body (e.g., international students, minority students) determined on a basis unrelated to athletics ability.”

    2. Student-athletes shall not engage in unethical conduct (NCAA Bylaw 10.1).

    “Unethical conduct by a prospective or enrolled student-athlete or a current or former institutional staff member (e.g., coach, professor, tutor, teaching assistant, student manager, student trainer) may include, but is not limited to, the following:

    (a) Refusal to furnish information relevant to an investigation of a possible violation of an NCAA regulation when requested to do so by the NCAA or the individual’s institution;

    (b) Knowing involvement in arranging for fraudulent academic credit or false transcripts for a prospective or an enrolled student-athlete;

    (c) Knowing involvement in offering or providing a prospective or an enrolled student-athlete an improper inducement or extra benefit or improper financial aid;

    (d) Knowingly furnishing or knowingly influencing others to furnish the NCAA or the individual’s institution false or misleading information concerning an individual’s involvement in or knowledge of matters relevant to a possible violation of an NCAA regulation;

    (e) Receipt of benefits by an institutional staff member for facilitating or arranging a meeting between a student-athlete and an agent, financial advisor or a representative of an agent or advisor (e.g., “runner”);

    (f) Knowing involvement in providing a banned substance or impermissible supplement to student-athletes, or knowingly providing medications to student-athletes contrary to medical licensure, commonly accepted standards of care in sports medicine practice, or state and federal law. This provision shall not apply to banned substances for which the student-athlete has received a medical exception per Bylaw; however, the substance must be provided in accordance with medical licensure, commonly accepted standards of care and state or federal law;

    (g) Failure to provide complete and accurate information to the NCAA, the NCAA Eligibility Center or an institution’s admissions office regarding an individual’s academic record (e.g., schools attended, completion of coursework, grades and test scores);

    (h) Fraudulence or misconduct in connection with entrance or placement examinations;

    (i) Engaging in any athletics competition under an assumed name or with intent to otherwise deceive; or

    (j) Failure to provide complete and accurate information to the NCAA, the NCAA Eligibility Center or the institution’s athletics department regarding an individual’s amateur status.”


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  10. Rookie Symposium: You Don't Miss It Until It's Gone

    by Dr. Timothy Thompson 06-15-2011 12:29 AM Athlete Career Development | Education | Human Relations

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    I hope New York Giants rookie offensive tackle James Brewer's opinion about the cancelled NFL Rookie Symposium isn't shared by many other new NFL draftees. In a May 26, 2011 New York Post Online article, author Paul Schwartz reported that Brewer told him, "That's probably one thing I'm not going to say I'll miss, going to [Ohio] for three days or so of pretty much a freshman orientation. Kind of letting you know what not to do. I feel I have pretty good common sense, so I think I'll be OK. I don't think I need someone to tell me not to hit women and stuff like that.  I think I kind of know that already."

    But two days earlier on May 24, 2011, an ESPN NFL website article entitled "NFL rookie symposium called off" had explained that the symposium is much more multifaceted than how Brewer has chosen to perceive it. The ESPN.com article quoted a league spokesperson who explained that "the symposium is a large, complex event involving many professionals and others. In fairness, we could not continue to keep their commitment on hold."
    The article went on to say that "the symposium, which was to begin in Canton, Ohio, on June 26, is designed to teach rookies life lessons on dealing with football, finances and their new lifestyle. Many players who have been through the symposium have said it has been a positive first step in their transition to the NFL."


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