Adonal Foyle spoke at the Professional Association of Athletic Development Specialists (PAADS) Summit about the importance of Player Programs. This annual conference has attracted leaders in Athlete Development from major sports organizations around the world. PAADS provides professionals with a place to connect and share ideas from their own perspective and field. David Stern, Dr. Jim Loehr, and Mike Whan have spoken at this summit in the past years and this year Adonal Foyle had his turn to speak along with many industry leaders.
Following his 13-year professional playing career, Adonal served as Director of Player Programs for the Orlando Magic. In this role, he worked directly with the players on various “off the court” programs.
Adonal addressed his platform of using an organic approach to working with today’s athletes. Adonal has the unique perspective of having both played the sport and now actively supporting Player Programs. He does note that Player Program specialists do not have to be former athletes, but must be passionate about serving in a support role.
“As an athlete, we can be a pain,” claims Adonal, but he feels this should not be a hindrance to being a valuable resource. A basic first step is to put themselves into the athlete’s shoes and try to understand their point of view. Athletes are people first – with many of the same issues, fears, and problems that we all face. If we see the athlete in this neutral light, and eliminate any pre-conceived notions, then the scope of our outreach can be fully utilized.
The next area that Adonal discussed was earning an athlete’s trust. This aspect is paramount in any relationship, but is the foundation for cohesively functioning in the role of providing a service or resource, which Player Programs are. Adonal suggests being straightforward, open, and honest with the athlete. This means even telling the athlete what they may not want to hear. Once trust is established, the working relationship truly can be successful.
Adonal also touched on the importance of Mental Health programs. Athletes face a lot of outside pressures that often are not correctly addressed. He shared the common strategy of “putting it off until the off-season” as a way to table issues or problems not related to the game schedule. Adonal feels this strategy is a recipe for disaster and often only leads to larger problems. In addition to understanding how to better deal with these issues, athletes often need someone to help them manage it in-season. A team resource in this space can prove to be very valuable for all involved.
Critics might argue that having someone on their payroll for a sport team that is just there to “talk to the guys” is a bad expense. However, considering the overall investment in player salaries, one should be looking at providing all the resources necessary to build a winning culture.
The biggest take away from Adonal’s speech is that Teams, Leagues, and Unions must buy-in to the need for strong Player Programs. These platforms need to be developed to address the needs of the today’s players. Conversely, athletes must understand and utilize these special resources to help navigate the waters of their playing careers and ultimately for preparing for life after sport.
(Ryan Nguyen is a regular contributor to the site and Summer Intern for AFE LLC.)