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What is Athlete Development?

Athlete development has different connotations to different people. For some it is the development of specific athletic skills. For others it is about turning athletes into better competitors.

For the Professional Association of Athlete Development Specialists (PAADS) athlete development is about helping organizations and individuals develop the whole person in an athletic context. We care not only about helping the person excel athletically but ensuring they are prepared and capable of achieving success outside of sport.


What are Athlete Development Specialists?

AD Specialists focus on creating opportunities for athletes to excel in their sport while mitigating the challenges and issues many aspiring elite or professional athletes face during their playing careers and after.

AD Specialists come from a wide range of educational backgrounds and athletic experiences. AD Specialists have degrees in Psychology, Business, Engineering, Social Work, Sports Management and many more. AD Specialists also aren’t all former professional athletes. Many have played high school or collegiate level athletics and some have never participated in elite level athletics.

The common denominator for AD Specialists is a desire to see athletes shine in all facets of their lives.

What is The Professional Association of Athlete Development Specialists?

The Professional Association of Athlete Development Specialists (PAADS) was created from the annual Athlete Development Summit, a concept originally created by the NFLPA and hosted by the NFL in 2002. In conjunction with the NBA, the Athlete Development Summit was expanded in 2003 to include additional leagues and athlete development experts. Since then, the Athlete Development Summit has continued to provide a forum for the exchange of ideas and best practices by leaders in the field of athlete development. The growing interest in the Athlete Development Summit was the impetus for the creation of a standing organization to:

  1. Provide organizations and individuals who work with athletes with more opportunity to share information, resources and best practices
  2. Elevate the standards of the athlete development profession through the creation of education, training and certification programs.

In early 2011, PAADS was formally created as a non-profit, membership corporation by its Founding Leagues:  NBA, NFL, LPGA, WTA, ATP, NCAA and MLS. The Professional Association of Athlete Development Specialists (PAADS) brings together the leading thinkers in Athlete Development from the pre-eminent sports organizations in North America including the; National Football League (NFL), National Basketball Association (NBA), Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA), National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and Major League Soccer (MLS).


We are an association of professionals who help athletes maximize their potential and overall well-being.  Through inter-sport collaboration, we establish standards to advance the athlete development profession.


To be recognized as the global leader in the profession of athlete development.

Our Activities

PAADS is dedicated to providing value to its Partners and Members. This includes providing their athlete development specialists with education and other resources that will enable them to create programs that are utilized by athletes and have a measurable impact on the organization and the athletes. Individual Members are also provided with education, networking opportunities, and forums for the exchange of ideas, which will help enhance their professional skills and reputations as athlete development specialists. Specific PAADS activities and initiatives include:

Athlete Development Summit (ADS):  

The annual ADS provides athlete development specialists with the opportunity to hear from experts and to connect with other athlete development specialists from around the world, in order to share best practices and ideas related to athlete development.  

PAADS Online: provides current, topical news and other information for the athlete development specialist, as well as special content for PAADS members. PAADS members stay connected through LinkedIn,Twitter and other social media to keep members updated on current issues.

PAADS Athlete Development Research Digest:  

Published ten times a year, the Athlete Development Digest provides a forum for the discussion and review of relevant athlete development research, athlete interviews and other topics related to athlete development.

PAADS Athlete Development Specialist Certificate:

PAADS, in conjunction with the University of Florida and a group of dedicated PAADS members, created the Athlete Development Literacy (ADL) concept. The ADL is predicated on the idea that elite performance is based both in effectively managing issues related to sport performance (e.g. training, nutrition, etc.) and the personal factors that impact athletes (e.g. media, finance, family, etc.). The ADL is the basis upon which the PAADS Athlete Development Specialists Certificate was developed. The certificate provides relevant and meaningful education to those seeking to (or who are already working with) work with elite and professional athletes.

Professional Level Certificate Program:

In partnership with the University of Florida’s online Master’s Degree in Sport Management, PAADS offers a certificate program for entry-level or junior athlete development specialists, and is seeking additional universities to partner with in offering this program.

Athlete Development Research Symposium:

PAADS continues to pursue an evidence based approach to athlete development. To that end we launched the Athlete Development Research Symposium. The symposium provides a forum for academics, students and other researchers to share research and to interact with leagues, player associations and the professionals who regularly work in the field of athlete development.


Kathleen Stroia - Senior Vice President, Sport Sciences & Medicine and Transitions, WTA

Board Member and Chair

Rory Sparrow – Vice President, Player Development, NBA

Board Member and Treasurer

Erika Kegler – Director of Player Development, ATP

Board Member and Secretary

Paul Heptonstall - Senior NRL Welfare & Education Manager, NRL

Board Member and Vice Chair

Kristin Altman - Manager, Talent Relations and Development, WWE

Board Member

John Bobo - Managing Director of Racing Operations and the Substance Abuse Program, Legal Counsel, NASCAR

Board Member

Arthur McAfee - SVP, Player Engagement, NFL

Board Member

Stacey Collins - SVP Tour Operations, LPGA

Board Member

Jon Coyles - Labor Counsel and Senior Director, MLB

Board Member

Leslie Klein - Director of Athlete Career and Education Services, USOC

Board Member

Shamaree Brown - Director of Student Athlete Programs/Compliance, ACC

Board Member

Duncan Fletcher

Staff - Executive Director