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J-da-flea interviews Frank Dubois

Frank Dubois is the Director of Leadership Development for Nike, and while in Indianapolis, he was interviewed by DBR's J-da-flea.

Conversation with Frank Dubois, Director of Nike's Leadership
Development Program (Part 1)

The Nike Men's All
America Camp is best known as a place for high school players to show
off their talents and to be evaluated by coaches and scouts. It
extends over the course of six days. The last three days of camp are
what most fans probably expect, a full schedule of basketball action
that includes controlled scrimmages, three-on-three match-ups, skills
stations, and shooting instruction. However, what many fans do not
know is that the second and third days of camp are devoted, in large
part, to leadership and college preparedness training. The players
attend seminars from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon. They have an hour for
lunch and then go back to the classroom from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
In the evening, they have practices and scrimmages.

Last week, I was
able to meet with Frank Dubois, Director of the Nike Leadership
Development Program. Frank is a former high school guidance
counselor who has worked with Nike since 1976. It was a real
pleasure talking with him; he is very friendly, good-natured, and
straightforward. During our conversation, it quickly became apparent
that he cares a lot about the kids at the camp. And, in some sense,
the word "kids" is an appropriate description. Even though
many of the players tower above the average adult, it is important to
remember that most of them are still fifteen to seventeen years old.
These campers are teenagers and, needless to say, they still have a
lot to learn about life.

Frank's job is to
coordinate a series of seminars over a two-day period that are
designed to help the campers develop certain life skills and to give
them information that may be useful as they make the transition from
high school teenagers to young adult college students. The camp
media guide quotes Frank as saying "We're helping to prepare
these players for some of the challenges they will face in academics
and in life. Having the opportunity to learn how to balance a
checkbook or how to conduct yourself during a job interview will help
give these young men skills that they will be able to utilize far
beyond basketball and throughout their lives."

Our discussion
lasted almost an hour. During that time, Frank outlined the
leadership development and life skills program that Nike sets up for
the campers. He also commented on a number of other topics, such as
the differences between the male and female All America campers (the
women's AA Camp follows a week after the men's camp), high school
players wanting to go straight to the NBA, the problems students have
with meeting the NCAA academic requirements, player entourages, etc.
Below is the first part of an edited transcript of our conversation.

Male Campers
Versus Female Campers at the Nike AA Camp

Frank Dubois: The girls
are so appreciative. The girls will say "thank you" more
times just in going through registration than what the boys will do
in the entire week.

Johnny Goldfinger (aka
: What do you see as the differences between the
boys and girls camps?

Frank Dubois: I think
the huge difference is most of the boys have been enabled most of
their lives. They were identified at a young age that they had this
talent and, as time has gone on, people in their lives excuse some of
their behaviors. The kid doesn't have a well-rounded focus and is
thinking he's going to make it into the NBA. And I see so many of
these kids who must not have been held accountable for being on time
and things like that. Because, when they come here, all of a sudden
they're shocked that they're expected to be where they're suppose to
be, and on time.

But the girls are
different; the girls are more mature too...The girls know there is no
career in this. They're playing the game, number one, for the love
of the game and, secondly, a lot of them are doing it to get a
scholarship to college. Every kid would love to go to Duke, but who
wants to pay $39,000 a year if you have to pay the whole cost? Some
kids don't have the academics to get a healthy scholarship. Boy,
when you think about it, at selective schools, it ends up costing
about as much as a house...

The girls are much
more goal oriented. They, for the most part, will know where they're
headed. They may not know exactly what they're going to do with
their lives, but they have set goals, things like what kind of grades
they want to get. They have a better idea of the schools they want
to go to. These girls will have researched schools already. They're
not necessarily looking at just the basketball. They're looking to
see if this place has [their] major, is it in an area of the country
that [they] want to go to, is it somewhere around the size that
[they] want to go to, and things like that.

So many of the
boys, when you talk to them, they have no clue. I was talking to one
of the kids, and I said, "Where are you thinking about going?"
He says, "Well, I don't want to go to a real big school".
I said, "I can understand that." He says, "I'm
thinking about Michigan State." Duh, 40 thousand students, it
doesn't get a whole heck of a lot bigger than that. He's just
whistling in the wind. He really hasn't done any research. But I
bet, if I ask any of the girls "where are you going to go,"
and, if the girl says, "I don't want to go to a big school,"
she's going to give me something like Carnegie Mellon or even Duke,
which is not a real big school; but it has lots of buildings, it's a
beautiful place.

High School
Players Trying to Jump to the NBA

Frank Dubois: In the
past, most kids stayed in school and if they left college they left
after their junior year. Now they've opened Pandora's Box and
everybody and their brother who thinks they can hit a hoop is looking
to jump into the NBA as soon as they get out of high school.

They're burning
their bridges like crazy behind them. A lot of the kids that jump
into the NBA, they don't have the grades or ACT or SAT scores to get
into a four-year school. Minimally, as an incoming freshman, you
have to a 2.0 grade point average to get into any four-year school in
the United States.

I don't know if
you remember a kid named xxxxx. He was in camp five or six years
ago. He was a leaper; he could leap out of the gym. He was about
our size. The guy could just get up there...he was like Michael
Jordan, he could fly through the air. He had signed with [a
university]. The only thing is [that university's] admissions then
said, no, you're not going to come here. It ended up, he's kicking
around somewhere in that Continental Basketball League. I was
recently talking to his high school coach who said he's probably
going to Europe this next year. But, you know what this dufus did?
He turned down $300,000 last year to play in the European league
because he was so sure that he was going into the NBA he wanted to
make sure he was available. Well, playing in the Continental
Basketball League, what do they make a night, $150?

So, what I mean
with the burning the bridges [is that] a lot of these kids haven't
prepared themselves academically to be successful in college. A lot
of them don't have the writing skills, reading skills, or math skills
to make it in 100 level classes. So they say, "I'm going to go
into the pros right away." Well, the reason they're doing that
is because they're not going to get into a four-year school. They'd
have to go to a junior college first. You know what the rule is
there now? You have to complete your degree there before you can go
on to a four-year school.

Johnny Goldfinger (aka
: What do some of these kids think of those
stories of people who declare for the draft out of high school and
don't get drafted? Do you talk to them about it?

Frank Dubois: They
think it's not going to happen to them...They do not want to hear it.
They have their mind set that this isn't going to happen to them.

NCAA Toughening
Minimum Standards for Eligibility

Frank Dubois: But, you
know a lot of the kids know they will never make it into the pros.
Those kids are using it as an opportunity to be able to get into
college and have it paid for. Out of the 180 some kids that we have,
there will be some that don't have a 2.0 grade point average. But,
by and large, the majority [of students] do. People have gotten
better. What's that old adage, if you raise the bar they will meet
the minimum expectations. I know that's not the exact wording of it.
Wherever you set the bar, people will work to at least get to the

You know the NCAA
is toughening its guidelines. It has been 13 core courses that [high
school players] have to have out of the big five: English, Math,
Social Studies, Science, and Foreign Language. In Foreign Language
you can use computer courses, not like keyboarding but things like [a
computer language]. Starting this year, it's been raised to 14 core
courses and you can't use any computer courses; it's just got to be
the classical five. With the classical five it will be 16 core
courses. So, in one of the categories, they require four years of
English. The new thing is going to be they are going to require
three years of Math through Algebra 2, that is, you have to have
Geometry, Algebra, and Algebra 2.

Is that starting
to ring familiar as to minimum college [requirements]? That's what
it is, okay. And then two years of history, two or three years of
science, and in that other category you can fill in with a foreign
language or one of the other areas. But English is dead because the
requirement is for four years of English already. So all you're
playing with are really four courses, a combination of Math, Science,
Social Studies, and Foreign Language. We're trying to get the kids,
especially in our classroom, to see that by the time you're a senior
and you get ready to graduate, things are going to be tougher for you
to be eligible to get a scholarship...which is still good, because too
many athletes go on to college thinking they're going to set the
world on fire and stuff, but very few people set the world on fire.

Getting the
Academic Message to High School Players Earlier

Frank Dubois: We have
our own developmental program at St. Louis University. This is for
eighth graders, freshman, and sophomores. I was so happy [to get
that program going]; I've pushed for that for years. My feeling has
been, our camp is real nice, but we're a day late and a dollar short
when it comes to telling the kids what they should do. It's almost
like you're telling them this is what you should have done. Because,
the majority of kids are going into their senior year, there's not a
whole lot they can do. They're only playing with five classes and if
you've been getting mostly Ds in high school you're screwed. If you
really look at it, you can screw yourself up by the end of the
freshman year if you don't know what the rules are.

I've seen kids
come in; I've been a high school counselor most of my life. I've
seen some of those knuckleheads that thought great things were going
to happen and by the end of their sophomore year they have a D
average in their core courses. Well, they say, "Hey Mr. Dubois,
I have a 2.0 average." I say, "Yeah, but lets take out the
art, let's take out the P.E., and let's take out the other electives,
and let's see if you have a 2.0." They say, "Oh, those
don't count?"

A lot of these
kids don't get that message early enough. A lot of high schools
don't really know what the rules are [with regard to the NCAA]. When
you really think about it, how many schools produce that many
Division I prospects in any sports? So, why is this going to be a
high priority item, when you have drugs, gang problems, pregnancies,
anger management problems, kids dropping out of school and things
like that? High school counselors will say, "NCAA? I'm just
trying to keep our kids in school and help them get a high school
diploma. It's surprising how many coaches don't know what the rules
are, high school and college coaches.

Entourages, and AAU Coaches

Frank Dubois: One of
the biggest problems that I see out there are these agents that are
out there. They're not like licensed agents; they're just "agenting"
for particular kids. They can't get into games here [at the Nike
camp]. But there are AAU tournaments and things; and, if you go to
an AAU tournament, there is almost an entire entourage of people for
these high profile players, of people who want to ride their
coattails and make a lot of money.

That kind of thing
has kids' heads turned in the wrong direction. This agent is telling
them you have to really practice and perform if you are going to get
into the NBA...[These agents] are talking about life beyond college
already. These kids have big bodies, but their still sixteen and
seventeen year old kids, you know. When I was sixteen or seventeen,
I'm sure I made a lot more bad decisions than a lot of these kids are
making, stupid decisions and just dumb things. I can't fault them
for being kids. But the people surrounding them, the adults
surrounding them, should really have the interest of the kid at
heart, rather than thinking "how is this going to be something
good for me" or "how am I going to profit from this damn

Johnny Goldfinger (aka
I'm assuming some of the players here have
entourages and hangers-on.

Frank Dubois: They
can't do it here [at the Nike camp]. You can get in and I can get
in, but if you don't have one of these passes [you can't]. Only
immediate family, media, and the coaches can get in. So, their AAU
coaches can't get in. Their high school coaches practically can't
get in. Most high school coaches really don't want to come here.
They're not really that interested in these things. There's a huge
difference in the dynamics between an AAU coach and a high school
coach. If you decide you want to be an AAU coach, then tomorrow you
can become an AAU coach and never have coached a game in your life.
You can have a record, a felony, anything.

Johnny Goldfinger (aka
Like Myron Piggie?

Frank Dubois: Piggie was
a Nike boy. I knew Piggie. I was always suspicious of him though.
As a high school coach, you have to have gone to college, you have to
have a degree, you have to be certified. You can't teach if you have
a felony.