We got a press release this morning describing the hiring of someone who sounds like a much more important version of a sports psychologist.

It’s not to downplay the resume and career achievements of Annelie Schmittel, PhD, who was a player engagement expert for the Oakland Raiders prior to coming to Philadelphia. But she seems more or less like the Markelle Fultz whisperer, a 2019 type of hire to oversee the mental health and personal development of young athletes who become millionaires at age 20 while being simultaneously thrust into the world’s biggest spotlights.

Per press release:

In her new role as 76ers Vice President of Player Development, Schmittel will be responsible for creating, managing and overseeing the holistic development and implementation of programs that support the professional and personal growth of 76ers players, staff and families.

With nearly a decade of experience in athlete development, Schmittel joins the team after spending the last three seasons with the Oakland Raiders. Also boasting experience working with NCAA Division I and II collegiate athletes, Schmittel is a proven leader with an unparalleled passion for maximizing players’ athletic and personal growth, on and off the court. Under Schmittel’s creative leadership and innovative mindset, the 76ers will continue to augment on-court progress with off-court development and strive to help players balance on-court priorities and personal responsibilities.

This section from her Linkedin bio stood out to me, after the jump:

Annelie’s primary research area is crisis communication in sports. She maintains secondary research interests in the influence of social media technologies in the sports environment (sports organizations, athletes, fans, media outlets), and athlete development.

Jackpot, yeah? How timely considering Joel Embiid’s recent comments about his usage and the whole Brett Brown/Jimmy Butler film session story.

Schmittel’s role places her as the highest-ranking woman in the Sixers’ basketball operations hierarchy, which is cool.

She was featured in a recent ESPNW story, where she describes a family “bootcamp” she organized with the Raiders:

One of my favorite things we did [in Oakland] was a family boot camp. Each rookie — we flew in their family members and did a weekend-long program with them, talking about expectations, financial education and mental health. We address family dynamics and just spend a lot of time with each of them building relationships. I can’t even tell you how positive that was not only for us, but also for the players as they worked on their rookie season. And then also for the parents, because they knew exactly what was coming, what the time demands were, how they could help, how they could hurt the first year of the players. It was also an incredible opportunity for our coaches because, again, it fast-tracked some of the getting to know [them] and getting to know the past of the players and how they respond to situations and challenges and what makes them them.

I wonder if Markelle’s mom will be attending Sixers’ family bootcamp.

Two different thoughts on this hire:

  1. It’s true that young athletes need guidance. They need help transitioning from college to being a professional athlete, help with all of the attention and stress that comes with it. They’ve got agents and parents and friends and coaches telling them what to do, which can be overwhelming. You and I were probably fucking around as college sophomores, going to lame house parties and drinking Natty Light, sleeping until 11 a.m. the next day then firing up Warcraft 3 on the computer. Markelle Fultz went from being a kid to an adult overnight. He didn’t get the same easy transitional experience we did.
  2. An older generation of fans might scoff at the hiring of someone to do “holistic” things, seeing as these players are millionaires with the entire world in front of them. The world is their oyster, or whatever. They’ve got money, fame, cars, and Kendall Jenner. Mental health is a joke and all of that. You’re supposed to perform and be thankful for your talent and success while not being a pussy at the same time. That’s the “Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino’ approach to sports.

Thought #1 is where we are right now as a society. If doing bootcamps and involving family members helps everybody out, then why not do it? Personal development, personal growth, anything that helps mold young players into success stories on and off the court – that’s kind of the point, isn’t it?

Thought #2 can still be useful though. Some people respond positively to the “man up and get over it” motivator. Some people don’t. I guess that’s why you bring in experts like Annelie Schmittel to come up with a plan.