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NCAA and NFL Summit keeps athlete well-being at the forefront

The focus on athlete well-being is more prominent now than ever before, which makes a partnership between the NCAA and NFL that began nearly five years ago increasingly valuable today. The partnership began in 2011 as an effort to maximize these national platforms in their focus on player development and preparation for the athlete’s next step in life.

The 2015 NCAA and NFL Summit, part of this partnership, once again brought together two education programs, the Athletics Professionals Workshop and the Coaches Academy, that develop professionals who directly impact the well-being of the athlete beyond the playing field.

“At the end of the day, we’re all preparing young men for their next steps,” explained Peyton Owens, assistant athletics director of student-athlete development at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, and an attendee at this year’s summit.

The summit, which was packed with strategies to improve student-athlete development and preparation as well as networking between life skills administrators and coaches, took place in Louisville, Kentucky, on February 19-22. The Athletic Professionals Workshop kicked off the weekend with conversations between life skills professionals from NCAA campuses and NFL player engagement directors. The Coaches Academy began the following day, educating and providing training for college coaches and current and former NFL players who are trying to advance their coaching careers.

“Talking with coaches and other development administrators made me realize we’re all talking about the same issues,“ said Owens. “We’re dealing with the same challenges. We have a lot to learn from each other, and the summit gives us this once-a-year opportunity to do just that.”

Beyond the summit, the NCAA leadership development department educates and trains football coaches through the Future Football Coaches Academy, which took place in January, and the Champion Forum each June. Leadership development also hosts the Life Skills Symposium each June to supplement the workshop as a professional development opportunity for life skills administrators at member schools.

The department, which is located at the NCAA national office, coordinates and facilitates cutting-edge education and customized training for student-athletes, coaches and athletics administrators from NCAA membership institutions, conference offices and the national office. To learn more about NCAA leadership development and other programs like NCAA and NFL Summit, visit:

 “Our goal for the programs is three-fold: We want to inform, educate and apply,” said Curtis J. Hollomon, director of NCAA leadership development.

While the workshop and the academy are designed as separate programs, the participants are brought together for a networking dinner, and then take part in a joint session focused on athlete development.

“The participants are sharing information with each other,” Hollomon said. “We’re educating them through the programming and the speakers we have planned, and they then need to return to campus or to their practice facility to apply what they’ve learned.”

The life skills administrators at the summit had numerous round-table discussions centered on idea sharing and hot topics regarding financial literacy, athlete mental health, transition programs and more. In breakout sessions, they learned of different programs they could use for athlete development and ways to enhance the players’ life balance.

“Besides connecting with the life skills administrators on campus who are working with the same athletes – knowing their challenges early on before they transition to the NFL – this weekend I learned the importance of connecting with these athletes at their heart, at their core,” said Marcus Sedberry, director of player engagement for the Philadelphia Eagles. “In my job, the most important thing I can do for the players is to get them where they want to be as people beyond their roles on the gridiron.”

Former NFL and NCAA greats Mike Singletary and Dennis Green were keynote speakers on the coaches academy agenda. Participants were captivated by their messages that shared advice on the real-life challenges of becoming a head football coach and the importance of buying into the game and making it their lifestyle, not just their job.

Sessions focused on elements of coaching beyond the game strategy, with the goal of opening the participants’ eyes to the full spectrum of a head coach’s responsibilities. Attendees learned about player conduct and a football program’s position in the overall brand of an organization. They also gained knowledge about managing relations with players and other coaches, professional conduct, budget management, recruiting and scouting, media training, the coaching search process and more. 

At the end of the weekend, the takeaways were clear: the goals of the NCAA and the NFL to inform, educate and apply came across strong. The participants built off each other’s enthusiasm and passion for their jobs and the people they help: the athletes.

“I came here to learn about the holistic approach to being a successful coach,” said Gerald Chatman, assistant football coach at Butler University. “Building a culture for the players is important; a good head coach teaches the players more than Xs and Os.”