The National Football League is hosting a symposium for aspiring head coaches and general managers at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School this week, but don’t expect tips on blocking and tackling. The three-day NFL Career Development Symposium is aimed at giving the 70 or so participants the opportunity to hear key decision-makers in football share the stories and skills that helped their careers progress. In addition, there will be formal and informal opportunities to network.
“Like any successful business, it is important for us to develop a pipeline of talent,” says Robert Gulliver, chief human resources officer for the NFL in New York. “We want to develop the next generation of head coaches and managers. Football is the most popular sport in the United States, but it’s also a business at the end of the day.”
Twenty-one former NFL players—including Lake Dawson, who is now vice president of player personnel for the Tennessee Titans, Ray Farmer, the Cleveland Browns’ assistant general manager, and Jerome Henderson, the Dallas Cowboys secondary coach—are among the participants, according to the Baltimore Ravens Web site. The NFL chose two participants from each team after clubs submitted nominations from their staffs.
Presentations, panel discussions, breakout sessions, and networking events featuring owners, club presidents, coaches, general managers, and league executives will round out the symposium’s activities. Among football aficionados, the speakers are well-known, too. Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan, New York Giants owner John Mara, and Arizona Cardinals president Michael Bidwill will give presentations. Sessions include “Expectations of Leadership,” “Player Health and Safety,” “Managing Key Relationships,” “Brand Building/Media Training,” and “Developing and Describing Your ‘90-Day Plan.’”
Ultimately, the goal is to help those demonstrating potential to build their careers in the NFL, he says. “It’s important to take the opportunity to step back from the day-to-day and invest in one’s career,” says Gulliver.