The transition from high school to college can be a tough one for athletes. Away from home for the first time and the pressure to excel at their sport in a competitive environment can be stressful and overwhelming for freshmen. The transition from college to the NFL can be even more challenging. Players are faced with adjusting to a move, wealth, higher levels of competition, lack of job stability, new teammates, different rules, and increased visibility in the public eye.
Last week's annual rookie symposium is designed to equip new players with tools for success. The 2014 symposium included practical advice from other NFL players. Bear's guard Kyle Long warned last year's rookies, according to Sports Illustrated, "There's a business in taking advantage of guys like us. Don't trust people."
Will Allen recalled his rookie symposium in 2004 when an HIV-positive speaker cautioned the new players about the dangers of unprotected sex. Arthur Moats found the lessons about money to be the most valuable. He recalled, via PennLive.com, "They tell you you got to decide: do you want to make everyone else happy and be broke, or do you want to hurt some feelings and make sure you're financially stable?" In addition to STDs and financial matters, rookies are educated on matters ranging from avoiding DUIs, DV, and head injuries.
This year, according to Pro Football Talk, VP of officiating Dean Blandino went over the differences in NFL rules, something that does require a bit of adjustment for athletes. While getting confused about an NFL news will not ruin a career, certain off-field infractions and conduct violations have the potential to bring even the most promising career to a screeching halt.
In addition to speakers and seminars on difficult topics, the rookies were able to reconnect with old college teammates and tour the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Steelers Bud Dupree was shown posing with former UK teammates:
It is unlikely that a symposium will prevent all instances of poor decision-making and hardship, but it should provide new players with valuable information to get them off on the right foot. It is up to them to internalize the message and their teams to reinforce important themes as they embark on their professional careers.