This summer, high school athletes will be able to get a taste of business leadership at Wharton.
The National Football League recently partnered with the Wharton School for a new program — the NFL-Wharton Leadership and Entrepreneurial Program. The program aims to teach 36 promising high school athletes the basics of business leadership by combining course work with seminars and panel speakers. This is the first year the program is being held, running from June 25 to 27.
The NFL has seen that professional players have been having a hard time adjusting to life after their professional streak. For the past seven years, the Wharton Sports Business Initiative, an organization dedicated to combining sports and business, has been offering executive education to NFL players. This part-time educational program teaches business skills.
The NFL-Wharton Leadership Program follows the same line of thought. The NFL “wanted to intervene earlier and provide some leadership and business training to budding professional players” said Kenneth Shropshire, WSBI Faculty Director.
Shropshire said the NFL observed that certain players had a hard time managing large sums of money effectively, and thus the financial education portion of this program would be helpful.
In addition to rudimentary financial education, participants will also learn the basis of management and leadership styles, such as problem assessment and how to manage others.
Shropshire added that leadership is important both on and off the playing field.
“The main purpose of the program is the leadership. If you are at the top, you’re going to get a lot of people looking at you,” he said.
He cited the example of Marion Jones — a track and field world champion who was caught taking performance-enhancing drugs.
“If she had taken one more second to make the right decision, then she wouldn’t have ended up in jail for seven months,” he said.
“There doesn’t seem to be that much relation, but sports and business are similar in that they’re both pretty competitive,” said Wharton sophomore Tyler Kinn, a varsity soccer player.
He still believes the program will be successful. “Like in sports, business teaches people to perform in groups.”
Rob Dearborn, president of the Undergraduate Sports Business Club, said leadership is an integral part to athletics. However, he believes “three days is too short to teach leadership skills.”
“More time would be great, but three days is better than zero days,” Shropshire said. He added that this summer would be a pilot — “we got to get a good feel for it.”
In the future, Shropshire hopes to see the program expand, both in enrollment and length.
“The program would be key for teaching fundamental business skills,” Dearborn said. He also sees low employment rates for retired NFL players as a problem.
“One of the big problems in the sport is that they work for 10 years and then it’s over because they haven’t been educated in other trades,” he added.
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