Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Mentoring is missing in pro sports

Can you hear their cries? They are piercing my ears?

You can hear the screams each time an athlete decides to test his own mortality or decides to live the life of a thug/gangta/athlete that sounds good on rap lyrics or in fantasy but doesn't quite resonate in reality.

If it isn't Gilbert Arenas branding guns, it's Shawne Williams selling syrup or Delonte West carrying three guns on a motorcycle -- where was he going? And there is a common thread in all of these challenges to authority, these players lack not only discipline but guidance.

Covering professional sports, it's difficult not to build a personal relationship with the players you cover. You want to see him succeed. You want to see them make good decisions. You hope they are managing their money properly and are not swayed by the temptations of their lifestyle.

And when you see their mistakes, you cringe because in many cases, in knowing these young men, you realize they don't know any better. They were treated as kings on their college campuses and allowed to roam wherever they players, as long as they averaged a double-double. And in the real world, they are mostly surrounded by yes men who call themselves friends but are more like leeches who only benefit from the financial wealth of the lifestyle.

What the NBA, NFL and even Major League Baseball desperately need to do is increase their mentoring programs. There are so many former athletes looking for work, an opportunity to give back -- with some type of compensation, of course -- would could help and perhaps save the lives of these young men, some of whom grew up without father figures or whose fathers are their "business managers" or living off their child's success.

In talking with many of these young man, you realize how little they know about people skills, proper behavior and ediquette. Life is difficult enough for those 20-somethings without the lure of women, money and hangers-on and professional badly needs to address these issues for the healthy of not only their league but of the young athlete.

Both the NFL and NBA have collective bargaining agreements that are set to expire soon and both leagues have allowed their respective players association to handle issues such as mentoring or help with finances or substance abuse, etc. But it's about time for the leagues and players association to unite and form a mentoring group for individuals who seek help. It's acceptable to say that players can always reach out, but how many of these kids will before they cry out with an egrgeous act?

Mentors can serve as guides and examples for these young athletes. We assume because of their financial status and the fact they have agents, that many athletes receive proper instruction and consulation. Hardly. Many agents rarely contact their clients or represent so many other athletes they have little time to focus attention on those with problems.

Sometimes the solutions are basic. Perhaps if Arenas had better direction, someone he trusted in his circle who wasn't on his payroll, he would have made better decision and not banned for the NBA for a series of foolish acts. Because these young men look grown, doesn't mean they are grown and I'm not sure how many examples we need to see before the powers that be in professional sports change the system and reach out to these crying babies.

Do you think they hear them like we do?

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