Protecting the Goal: Portland Trail Blazer’s Security Director Helps Young Athletes Navigate Life-style Choices

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Kevin Tucker, director of Security for the Portland Trail Blazers, uses compelling life lessons to teach athletes about distancing themselves from negative influences.

Athletes need to understand that the consequences of how they behaved in earlier years, before they even reach the professional level, can affect their future

The Portland Trail Blazers, contenders in the 2011 NBA playoffs, have a 16th player on the team. Kevin Tucker, the team’s director of security, is in charge of security plans to protect the Trail Blazers’ players, fans and staff. He also has a new angle on helping athletes manage their lifestyle choices. Through his program, “Protecting the Goal”, Tucker uses compelling life lessons to teach athletes – particularly those in high school and college -- about distancing themselves from negative influences.

Tucker says that while most athletes know that prior to the NBA draft, the organization conducts background checks on potential players, they do not realize what that entails or how extensive it can be. “Athletes need to understand that the consequences of how they behaved in earlier years, before they even reach the professional level, can affect their future.”

Through his experience with the Trail Blazers, and prior to that, with the Phoenix Suns, Tucker knows what is involved in background checks. “Investigators look at character, mode of living, general reputation, as well as friends and associates.” He sees the effects of negative behavior that may take place as early as high school. Tucker’s premise is that, “The ‘goal’ is their future and whatever they want that to be, whether it’s in sports, education, technology or a corporate boardroom. It’s critical that they protect it early so that choices that they make now don’t hinder their success as they move forward.”

In “Protecting the Goal”, Tucker tells players that “Everyone doesn’t always do the right thing. Even family members and friends can, often inadvertently, put someone in the wrong situation,” he says. “I teach athletes how to distance themselves from these circumstances so that they stay on the right track.”

Tucker finds that social networking can be another challenge for young athletes. “Anyone with a camera or cell phone can instantly send text messages or publish photos of athletes in compromising situations.” Instead of behavior involving gambling, unhealthy relationships, negative peer pressure, and drugs, Tucker encourages positive behavior such as good sportsmanship and integrity.

Tucker’s father, a 30-year veteran of the Secret Service, helped him stay on the right track and stoked his interest in law enforcement. Growing up on the south side of Chicago, Tucker was exposed to negative behavior in his neighborhood. The family later moved to the suburbs and subsequently he attended Northern Arizona University where he majored in criminal justice and played point guard for the university’s basketball team. Tucker’s career has taken him from working for the U.S. Drug Enforcement of Administration to coordinating security to such events as the Academy Awards and Golden Globe Award presentations. For the last 10 years, he’s been conducting background investigations for the NBA. In working with both the Trail Blazers and the Suns, Tucker saw how he could combine his knowledge and experience to help athletes avoid adverse situations.

Professional athletes who have benefitted from his advice include Reggie Miller (retired from the Indiana Pacers, now with TNT); Steve Nash (Phoenix Suns); Shaquille O’Neal (Boston Celtics) and Tracy McGrady (Detroit Pistons). However, through “Protecting the Goal”, Tucker’s outreach extends to high schools, colleges and all sectors of professional sports.

Tucker has worked with sports programs at Syracuse University, UCLA, USC, the University of Arkansas, DePaul University and California State University, Northridge, as well as the University of Memphis. Glynn Cyprien, assistant men’s basketball coach at Memphis, says that “Having Kevin talk to our guys about how to handle themselves off the court was a great lesson for them. He explained that people make mistakes in all walks of life – not just on the basketball court, and you never know who’s watching. His words of advice have really helped my players learn to carry themselves well no matter where they are.” Cyprien says that since Tucker talked to the team, there have been no incidents of negative behavior. “We always remind the guys of Kevin’s speech and that’s the way they should carry themselves in life.”

Tucker says that in the schools where “Protecting the Goal” has been introduced, few if any negative incidents involving athletes have been reported. With the wisdom that Tucker provides to players, he has become a life coach, as his lessons go beyond the basketball court or a playing field. He says, “The most important thing is for athletes to choose positive influences so that they protect their most valuable assets: themselves.”

Tucker is anticipating a busy off-season as high schools, colleges and professional athletes are filling his speaking schedule. Schools that would like for Kevin Tucker to speak to their students should visit http://www.protectingthegoal.com.

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Krista Coleman

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