NFL Providing Players With Additional Post-Career Training
By: Kim O'Hara | Posted: December 18, 2012
After all the bad press the NFL has garnered in recent weeks, particularly of the vacated bounty suspensions and defamation suit variety, it's a wonder this story hasn't been pushed to the forefront of sports reporting Tuesday morning. Because this is exactly the sort of gesture the NFL should publicize: one that supports the overall well-being of its players.
The NFL has added four post-career training opportunities for its players this offseason, allowing individuals to participate in culinary management, restaurant franchising, social entrepreneurship and sports communications sessions, bringing the total of such workshops to ten overall. Throughout April and May, players will have the opportunity to listen to Panthers owner (and frequent restaurant franchisee) Jerry Richardson deliver a key note speech on his experiences in the restaurant world, or to attend the social entrepreneurship session organized by Notre Dame alumni Brady Quinn and Jeff Faine. These four new initiatives will pair with a variety of existing programs such as real estate, music and broadcasting.
As the "Broke" installment of ESPN's 30 for 30 demonstrated, professional athletes are often faced with a myriad of fiscal difficulties at the coda of their careers. Many are asked to financially support family members and a host of other hangers-on. Such responsibilities may seem feasible while playing in the NFL, but the average career lasts just over three years. For a living-the-dream career like professional football and the athletes whose blood, sweat and sacrifice are poured into those dreams, it could be understandably unfavorable for a player to willingly look beyond the final whistle, to acknowledge that his career will end one day. That he won't play football forever. That he will fade from relevance and another player will wear his number.
But in the name of financial security for these athletes, a realistic approach for the future is one way to ensure preparedness. Finding passions and skills beyond the football field is a terrific way to develop meaningful interests that will provide both income and purpose for retired athletes. The NFL has placed increasing emphasis on player safety in recent years; such a precedence could result in longer careers for the average player and should leave retired athletes with happier, healthier post-football lives. Developing a supportive environment for current players to prepare themselves for sustained financial independence after the NFL is a wonderful complement to safety initiatives.
The NFL's focus of on-field safety and post-career preparation is admirable, but the next logical step would be to extend support beyond financial preparedness to the psychological and emotional well-being of players. Six NFL players, former or current, have taken their lives in the past two years. The exact cause of this phenomenon, whether related to head injuries or the difficult adjustment to life as a traditional civilian, remains to be determined, but the NFL has a moral obligation to do everything in its power to prevent further loss of life among NFL brethren.
Until then, equipping players to discover purpose beyond the gridiron is a tremendous first step.
Kim O'Hara is the Associate Editor of TheFootballGirl.com. She is an avid fan of sports in general, but the NFL in particular. She has also been a contributor to ESPN the Magazine. Follow her on Twitter: @KimOHaraTFG
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