By Carleen Surrena @SURRENA_C
The first thing the four time Super Bowl Champion Keena Turner did when he started speaking was to have everyone stand up in the room. He wanted to make sure everyone had plenty of space.
“This is important,” he said. “This is going to establish our relationship moving forward for the next few minutes.“ Once everyone was standing he then said, “So, all of the 49er fans sit down.”
Many sat right away, some waivered. Turner jokingly said, “I just like to know who’s in the room and know who my friends are.”
The room was full of laughter from both audience and speaker.
The Las Positas Psychology club hosted Turner, former San Francisco 49ers linebacker on Oct. 20 on the LPC campus. The meeting took place in room 2460 where anyone was welcome to come and listen to Turner speak. Accompanied by his daughter and LPC teacher Sheena, Turner sat and shared his story and experiences.
Turner reflected upon his knowledge of the past and current psychological aspects of the National Football League players in the game when he played, opposed to the game and the players he now oversees.
There have been ongoing studies on how the continuous hits players take to their heads are affecting their brains, and the amount of violence associated with that is overlapping into relationships outside of football.
Turner has been with the 49ers organization for thirty years. He along with a team clinician, a team chaplain and team consultant Dr. Harry Edwards, a sociology professor at University of California Berkeley, focuses their time on mental health for their players.
The players’ ages range anywhere from their 20s to mid-30s. Turner and his colleagues focus on mental education, emotional stability and try to make it an environment where their players can succeed in not only a successful football career but maintain a healthy lifestyle outside of the sport.
Turner outlined the rookie intake and explained that there are mandated programs the NFL has implemented for the new players to take. There are ten separate presentations that have to do with relationships, unhealthy relationships, stress and the like that players must attend.
In Turner’s program with the 49ers, he has taken it a couple steps further. After the first year of initiation for a rookie, the 49ers program has been developed into another two year process. The second year involves a mentorship with 49ers alumni and the third year program focuses on finances.
According to an NFL arrest database published on the USA TODAY website there were 40 arrests amongst NFL players in the 2015 alone. These arrests included an array of offenses such as: drunk driving, domestic violence, assault and firing a gun in public. These are the types of instances that Turner and his group try to educate their players about and make themselves available for the players to come and talk to.
It has also been an ongoing study of the NFL when it comes to repeated hits to their players. CTE, otherwise known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy is a progressive disease found in people who have had a severe blow or repeated blows to the head.
“Unfortunately the only way to diagnose it is after death,” Turner said. “There is no test for those of us that are still here, and that has been the challenge,” Turner said.
Along with this challenge is also the topic of finances. In the ESPN film 30 for 30 documentary “Broke,” the series noted that 78 percent of former NFL players have gone bankrupt or were under financial stress off the field.
These types of circumstances are reasons why Turner continues his dedication to the 49er organization and to its players. He wants to see the players be successful not only in their football career but in life away and after football. He focuses in on the individual and how he and his staff can help.
“You have to focus on the core of whom that person is,” he said. Who you are and what your real values are as a person, because the rest of the experience is what you have to grow and learn from.”