Over the years, I have seen and played with some of the most talented athletes on the planet. I’m talking about Hall of Famers and people with rare God-given talent. Unfortunately, I’ve also seen some of these same people squander their talent and opportunity because they didn’t prepare off the field or felt the rules didn’t apply to them.
One of the worst things that can happen to an athlete is to be treated differently because of their talent. I went to high school in suburban Detroit, Michigan and attended Detroit Country Day. I remember when I was drafted the preferential treatment that I and other players received at school. I remember being pulled out of my history class to talk to the head coach at the University of Colorado! It was great to be recruited, but the message was that my football career was more important than my education.
Even the applications I received from various universities were different from those of my peers. Many schools that required an essay, waived the requirement because I was an athlete. While I was on campus for my recruiting visit, very few schools took the time to talk seriously about my education. Most of the emphasis is on sports and what I might do on the school field, with little to no discussion of what I should prepare to be off the field while I’m there.
When parents, teachers, and recruiters stop emphasizing the importance of school and education, it leaves a great void in a person, and they are often not ready for life during or after sports. Too many players struggle because school was something they did to play sports, not something they did to prepare for life.
80% of NFL players end their careers broke! Why? Because they never learned the value of a dollar and they thought that money will always be there. Worse still, many athletes don’t know how to promote themselves off the field, because they were given everything on it.
If you are an athlete, or helping to develop one, push him just as hard off the field as you support him on it!