Wharton School of Business

Athlete Development Professional Certification Program

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About the course

Player engagement — a key role inside most sports organizations — requires more than a passion for players; it requires management and leadership skills to work effectively with athletes, their families, and other stakeholders.

Wharton’s Athlete Development Professional Certification Program offers a unique professional development experience targeted at those directors looking to build up their management and strategic skills, especially if they have not had traditional business school training.

Designed by Wharton faculty and National Football League insiders through the Wharton Sports Business Initiative, this program consists of a four-day in-person module, virtual sessions, and a hands-on small-group project.

Program Highlights & Benefits

  • Develop essential management and leadership skills, including critical thinking and decision making, negotiation, influence and persuasion, finance for the sports professional and collegiate athlete, and crisis and media communications
  • Hone your personal and professional leadership skills to motivate and engage peers, players, staff, and league decision-makers

Experience & Impact

Sports player engagement directors know the stakes are high for sporting organizations, especially when the public spotlight turns to a team or an individual player. They need to be prepared for the unexpected, equipped with the leadership training to handle any situation and to be a solid and trusted resource for player development.

Wharton faculty, led by Ken Shropshire, faculty director of the Wharton Sports Business Initiative, apply their field-based research and the latest strategic insights to help participants strengthen their management skills and ability to effectively influence players and others. Shropshire worked closely with the NFL to design an executive education program that meets the needs of these sport player engagement directors, many of whom are former professional athletes themselves. Now they can gain additional skills they need to be successful by enhancing their critical thinking and decision-making, crisis communication, and leadership capabilities.

Emphasizing the importance of strategic and personal leadership, this program presents a comprehensive approach to leadership and business acumen development to help participants serve players with clarity, consistency, and credibility, which, in turn, will position them for long-term success.

Session topics include:

  • Working Across Organizational Boundaries
  • Building a Learning Community
  • Management Negotiation Workshop
  • Critical Thinking and Decision-Making
  • Leading with Emotional Intelligence
  • Making the Most of Your Communication Style
  • Playing to Your Strengths Through highly interactive lectures and group application projects, both in the classroom and in smaller work groups, this certification class will equip participants with the ability to be a stronger leader by knowing their strengths and how best to communicate and influence others.

Upon completion of this program, participants will better understand how to enhance a player’s growth and have the skills and confidence needed to create, lead, and manage effective player growth strategies. In addition, they’ll develop a strong network of program graduates and colleagues across sports leagues and college and university athletic departments.

During this program, participants will:

  • Stay engaged and connected with AED colleagues in between sessions through ongoing virtual content and action learning projects
  • Apply classroom discussions and newly acquired professional skills to real challenges facing themselves and their colleagues through hands-on, small-group projects
  • Handle high-profile leadership moments and crises while guiding players through the process
  • Better understand how to enhance a player’s growth and have the skills and confidence needed to create, lead, and manage effective player growth strategies

Who should attend

The Athlete Development Professional Certification Program is designed for professionals currently in the athlete engagement or player engagement role in either professional or collegiate athletics, with a minimum of three years’ experience. The program also is ideal for professionals currently in the sports industry management field in either professional or collegiate athletics looking to move into the athlete engagement or player engagement role.

The NFL and Wharton will jointly review applications and determine acceptance to ensure diversity of experience within the group. Faculty tailor the program content to address the most pressing leadership issues facing this group, so participants enjoy a learning experience that truly resonates with them and meets their learning needs.

Participants leave the program with an expanded peer network, plus specific tools and frameworks they can use to make a meaningful strategic impact on the players they serve and the overall sports organization.

Trust the experts

Gregory Shea

An awardwinning teacher, consultant and author of numerous books on leadership and change, Greg’s expertise covers organizational and individual change, group effectiveness, and conflict resolution. For over 30 years, he has consulted extensively with senior organizational leaders of companies fa...


Cade Massey

Research Interests: People analytics, judgment under uncertainty, organizational behavior Cade Massey is a Practice Professor in the Wharton School’s Operations, Information and Decisions Department. He received his PhD from the University of Chicago, and taught at Duke University and Yale Unive...


Anne Greenhalgh

Anne Greenhalgh is an awardwinning teacher who is chiefly responsible for the design and delivery of the Wharton School’s foundation leadership course for undergraduates, Management 100: Leadership and Communication in Groups. She was voted the Best Lecturer in the Social Sciences by the entire s...


Kenneth Shropshire

Kenneth L. Shropshire joined the Wharton faculty in 1986 and specializes in the subject areas of sports business, negotiations, diversity, and general business law. He teaches the Negotiation and Dispute Resolution course both at Wharton's main campus in Philadelphia and at Wharton West in San Fr...


Course reviews

NFL / NCAA Player Engagement Program: Chic Ejiasi (Tennesse Titans)

NFL / NCAA Player Engagement Program: Parys Haralson (San Francisco 49ers)

NFL / NCAA Player Engagement Program: Jacques McClendon (LA Rams)

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