Blog Entry Education, Youth Development, Narrative Change

April 2017 Spotlight: How This Leader Helps Black Athletes "Beyond the Field"

For many Black men and boys, athleticism is not only a fun passion, it’s also a vehicle for potential success in the fields of collegiate and professional sports. Still, much has been made of the challenges that athletes are faced with during and after their careers on the field or court, particularly as it relates to managing finances and wealth.

Chris Rogers, a former University of Alabama football standout, has first-hand knowledge of some of these challenges, both from his personal life and from interactions with other athletes over the years. In 2010, Rogers founded Together Assisting People (TAP), Inc., a non-profit organization that aims to prepare young aspiring athletes to be well rounded in their pursuits, and support experienced athletes through their post-career transitions. For our April spotlight, CBMA got to speak with Rogers about TAP Inc., his forthcoming book, and the driving motivations behind his work.

What is it that motivated you to establish your organization, TAP Inc.?

Rogers: During my senior year at the University of Alabama, I started to ask guys in the locker room, “What are some things that you wish you would have known before coming to college?” The majority of my teammates replied, "Man, I wish I had known about finance. I wish I had known about this or that."

I realized that we all shared the same sentiments. I'm a first generation kid. I experienced firsthand the adverse effects of educational inequity on inner-city and rural-area African American youth. A lot of athletes struggle to read, myself included. I didn't know how to read until after the ninth grade.  I believe this is because society does not invest in helping at-risk African American kids, particularly male athletes, to overcome the achievement gap.  Instead, we are taught how to run a 4.4 40-yard dash or bench-press 300 pounds. 

As a result, many of us matriculate through university, carrying entire teams and cities to national championships, while lacking the skills and knowledge required to carry ourselves successfully in the real world.

This is the reality and societal dysfunction that led me to create TAP.  You've got to find ways to connect with young males in order to engage them. We use sports as a catalyst-- a means to an end-- rather than the ultimate goal.  Athletics help us talk to kids about professionalism, workforce development, entrepreneurship, community service, and technology. 

Can you talk about how you're engaging young people in these programs and what kind of progress or success you've been seeing?

Rogers: One of the units that we teach to our TAP Leaders is called, C.A.S.H., short for Changing Athletes’ Spending Habits.  ESPN’s “30 for 30: Going Broke” episode inspired us to write this unit. According to the episode, 78% of football players go broke within 3-5 years of retirement.  I believe that this is again due to a lack of education and knowledge.  The average credit score for African American males is 550. Nobody talked to us about that when we were students.  We never learned about the difference between leasing or purchasing a vehicle.  In order to overcome that gap, we’ve created partnerships with both local and nationwide banks and car-dealerships. As a result, our leaders have direct access to financial advisors and dealers; they are able to have kinesthetic experiences at a young age. 

Another unit is called, Watch Your Mouth.  In this unit, we teach kids a variety of different skills including: social media, interview skills, and business etiquette. We teach a total of six units from our custom-developed curriculum, “Beyond The Field: An Athlete’s Guide to Greatness.”  

Together, these units have led our young leaders to become financially literate, business professionals that are ready to face the real-world.

You also help connect young people in your programs to potential employment opportunities as well, right?

Rogers: Correct. TAP is not just a one-time program.  We mentor our leaders beyond program graduation.  We stick with them and help them leverage the skills and knowledge that they’ve learned from Beyond The Field in order secure employment.

How do you use data to track TAP’s impact?

We’ve built pre- and post-tests for each unit into Beyond The Field, our custom-developed curriculum. Each leader receives his own copy of the curriculum and uses it to take the tests and record his scores. We track progress unit-to-unit, as well as overall progress at the end of the program. We also use GPAs. The average GPA of a new program member is a 2.0. TAP Leaders generally graduate from the program with about a 3.0.

Lastly, we work with their parents, coaches, and school administrators to check-in and see how their attitudes and behaviors have changed. More often than not, their social skills and manners have improved drastically.

What role has mentorship has played in your own life?

Rogers: Mentorship has been critical for me. When I was a kid, I got kicked out of middle school. A guy named Coach Rich came to meet with me and said, "Hey, you’ve got a chance to go play college football on a scholarship." At the time, I was having trouble at home and my mom was getting ready to kick me out of the house. He let me stay with him while he helped me get my life on track.

A lot of times, kids don't see what we see in them. Sometimes, you have to show them positivity and affirmation.

Coach Rich paid it forward for me, and now I'm doing what he did for me in Alabama.

Can you tell us about the new book you have coming out?

Rogers: The book is called Beyond the Field: An Athlete’s Guide to Greatness. I wrote it from the perspective of what I think all athletes need to know. I have had so many people say, "Chris we love what you're doing, but we can't do what you've done." I wanted to give them something I know works that they can implement.

Anyone can purchase a copy of Beyond The Field by visiting our website.  The first 1,000 books sold will be offered at a discounted price.  Additionally, they will be hand-signed by me. The best thing about Beyond The Field is that you don’t have to be a part of TAP in order to benefit from its teachings.  Anyone can read the book on their own time and learn critical skills and knowledge that will help them overcome educational, personal, and career challenges in their lives. 

How are you hoping that TAP will impact the broader field of Black Male Achievement?

Rogers: TAP will continue to be a game changer for generations to come. People naturally gravitate to athletes. If we can guide our athletes to become financially literate, tactfully leverage their social media, make sound decisions and most importantly give back to their communities, then I really believe it will have a ripple effect on our entire societal structure.

I believe that if we can transform our athletes into true role models, then young people across the world will follow suit.

How can CBMA’s members support TAP Inc. and the work you’re doing?

Rogers: Anyone can visit our website in order to support the movement. I will say that while donations are great, I really love partnerships. Leaders from other organizations are more than welcome to purchase our curriculum and use it during their programs.

I think it's something to be said when leaders from other organizations are able to come together and work for a core mission. If you're serving 50 kids and I'm serving 100, that's 150 kids that we're serving together. All of our kids need different things and there’s no one organization that can do it alone. There has to be a multitude of organizations working together to figure out ways to help rather than work against each other.

To learn more about TAP Inc., visit www.tapnfp.org. In the meantime, check out these videos on the organization.


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