From NFL to NBA, Schmittel Brings All-Encompassing Approach to Player Development

by Brian Seltzer
Sixers.com Reporter

Annelie Schmittel grew up in Southwest Germany, near the Black Forest region, not too far from the country’s southwestern border with Switzerland. The area is not, as you might expect, all that well-versed in American professional sports.

In less than 10 years since graduating from Winona State University, where she ran track and field, Schmittel has accumulated a wealth of experience in both amateur and professional sports, with a focus on holistic player development.

As she jumps right into her newly created position of Vice President of Player Development with the 76ers, Schmittel joins The BroadCast to talk about the goals she’s set for her new role, and reflects on her past stints working with NCAA athletes, and, most recently, the Oakland Raiders.

To listen to the podcast, click below. And be sure to check out excerpts from the conversation as well.

On her new role as 76ers Vice President of Player Development:

“The VP of Player Development role really boils down to the Sixers wanting to continue to be at the forefront of having the best experience in the NBA for players, their families, and staff. It’s the on and off-court development of the players, and there’s a lot of layers within that. But our goal is really to provide opportunities for players to maximize their growth both on and off the court, well beyond their career. We’re trying to maximize growth, and minimize distractions and challenges.”

On the circumstances that influenced her to pursue her current line of work:

“I sometimes look back to how I got started in this. Of course, being a [track & field} athlete myself helped, because I understood what it’s like to have injuries. I understood what it was like to, from one day to the next, lose the one thing you identify with the most—which is being an athlete if you’ve done sports your entire life, and you play in college or you play at the professional level.

“My now husband, we met a long time ago in high school. He was a really talented football player, and he sustained a severe injury before going to college, and then wasn’t allowed to do contact sports anymore. So seeing him first hand go through that transition of when something drastic happens and you lose the one thing you love the most so fast—that, I think, became the catalyst of me [helping] athletes deal with those types of transitions.”

On breaking into the professional sports player development field as a female:

“Honestly, I think the breaking in part is always the hardest. Once you’re in, [gender] is usually not an issue at all. I never had any issues being a female once I was [with the Raiders]. I think it’s more....how it can diversify everything, and give a different perspective, and how helpful [diversity of thought] can be for athletes. I actually thin, in a lot of ways, it was an asset to be a female in a very male-dominated field. Because the athletes, they’re so used to being around other males. So when you are one of the few women in an organization… they gravitate towards you because they want to have different conversations. They want to have different perspectives.”

On the programs she helped initiate with the Oakland Raiders, including Raiders Family Bootcamp:

“We were allowed to fly in two family members for each of our rookies, drafted and undrafted, to Oakland for a weekend. And we put them through a boot camp. Truly, it was structured like a normal day in a player’s life—early mornings, late evenings, meetings, activities. They got to hear what the expectations are, what the time commitment is, how they can really enhance the player’s experience, or how they can hurt it.”

On appeal of joining the 76ers:

“There’s so much I need to learn, just transferring from  one sport ot the other, to a different organization, a different group of guys. I’m really excited to get to know all the guys well, understand their passions, and the way they tick in a lot of ways. The make up of this organization is so incredible. Just to be a part of it, soak it in, and help shape it in a small way, that’s what i’m excited about. Being here, being in Philly, getting acclimated to the team’s culture, the city’s culture, and learn everything I can from everyone around me, because there’s such a wealth of knowledge.”

On approach to developing relationships with players on team:

“I’ve met a couple of guys in passing already, and definitely looking to fortify those relationships as we go on. Because their schedules are so crazy, you become really good at what we call these strategic “bumps.” You bump into them at lunch, or breakfast, or in the hallway in passing. You don’t necessarily get these deep conversations where you sit down them for hours at a time, but you gain a lot of knowledge just having quick conversations in passing. It will happen organically, and I’m looking forward to it, same thing with the family members. That’s definitely the part I’m looking forward to.”

On the importance of a holistic approach to player development in professional sports:

“When you’re looking at sports and considering athletes, all you really often see and are aware of on the outside is when they play games. But there’s so much that goes into the day they step on the court.  We’re interested in the on-court success, and the games, and the practice, and that’s really important, but there’s so much more than the season, there’s so much more than the game. We really want to make sure we support the players 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, and that they have a support system that addresses the different facets of their lives.” 

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