Annelie Schmittel's path to becoming the Sixers VP of player development

Philadelphia 76ers

Annelie Schmittel's path to becoming the Sixers VP of player development

When Annelie Schmittel was growing up in the small town of Zell, Germany, her father always thought she would work in sports. 

Schmittel, on the other hand — who was a high jumper in college at Winona State University in Minnesota — was pursuing a degree in broadcast journalism and was on a path to becoming a foreign journalist or news correspondent. 

Schmittel also never thought her one year of studying abroad as a high school foreign exchange student in Black River Farms, Wisconsin, would turn into 14 years in the United States, and lead her to become the Sixers VP of player development.

 “This is part of this whole thing now,” Schmittel said, “being able to show other people or young girls or industry leaders in sports and other male-dominated fields that, if the Sixers can do this, and open up this kind of opportunity to a female, there is no reason that they shouldn't.”

Like many who grow up playing sports, when she stopped competing, she realized how much she missed that environment. While completing her master's degree in sports management, she started to realize she could help athletes.

When Schmittel started her research in college athletics, it was when Twitter had just started to become a thing. And Schmittel started to see a lot of her student-athletes tweet things that shouldn’t be in a public forum.

Whereas most colleges and coaches wanted to simply ban their athletes from using social media, Schmittel was focused on how to use it properly — how athletes could use their own platform and their own voice positively.

Schmittel dove into her research, on the quest for expertise that could set her apart from all of the former male athletes that were usually chosen for player development positions. 

Once she got to the University of Florida to earn her Ph.D., she was interested in crisis communication — what happens when athletes get in trouble and how can they repair their image? 

After months of emails and meetings and uncertainty, Schmittel landed a job in player engagement with the Raiders. That same year the NFL had just transitioned away from hosting the rookie symposium and teams took control of their own programs. 

Schmittel helped build the curriculum for the Raiders so the players could learn more about things like finances and social media usage. She organized trips to places like Facebook headquarters, so they could gain a deeper understanding. 

All of this prepped her for when she would stumble across the Sixers job posting. Despite not looking to leave the Raiders or the NFL, the Sixers intrigued her. 

You are always looking for teams that are going through change, that are innovative by nature. How much the Sixers were investing in the people that work here and the culture and the types of people that they bring in … I felt like it was a place where the leadership felt really strongly about player development and the role that it plays, not only off the court [but] on it, and that’s unique and impressive and exciting.

It was more than just Schmittel’s experience in the NFL — though that was a big part of it — that put her above the rest of the 550 applicants. 

“I've been in the NBA for 12 years, and that was far and away the most important hire I've ever done,” said Alex Rucker, executive vice president of basketball operations. “At its core level, player development is about relationships and trust, being able to work with people in an intimate way. This is stuff we really, really care about and we're passionate about, so how do we work together? Because that kind of an ecosystem often creates friction and can become an adversarial thing, simply because we care so much, and her ability to navigate that in a really safe and positive way is really interesting.”

While with the Raiders, each program was tailored to the teams' needs and what they felt like the player needed at that point in their career, something she’d like to do here.

“It’s not a player development program for the Sixers,” Rucker explained. “It's 17 different player development programs for 17 athletes and they are wildly different, and our ability to win championships almost relies entirely on those 17 individuals …

“And that's Annelie's core strength really, is seeing the bigger picture and everyone's role within it.”

And what about that whole being a female in a male-dominated industry?

When I took this job, I didn't even consciously think about what having a female in this position, what kind of attention that alone could cause. And I say this often, I look forward to the day, when a female gets a position, any job, whether it's in sports media, or in a sports leadership position or in any male dominated field, where it is no longer ‘Wow, they hired a woman,’ but the stories become they hired the best person for that particular job. 

But on the flip side, it's been really humbling and exciting and mind blowing, how many messages, I've received from young girls or from dads saying, ‘Hey, I'm raising a daughter and I just want you to know that you are a role model, and I would like to know what I can do to raise my daughter so that she can get a role like yours.’ So if me being in this role can help a young girl at home or somebody that is on this path working towards pro sports or collegiate sports, or any male dominated field, if they can see me as an example and say ‘OK, this is somebody that did it, so I can do it too.’ Then, that is awesome.

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Sixers take out frustrations on Cavaliers in blowout win

Sixers take out frustrations on Cavaliers in blowout win


If ever a team needed a laugher, it was the Sixers.

After dropping five straight road games, they took their frustrations out on the Cavaliers in a 114-95 win at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse Sunday.

It’s the Sixers’ first victory away from home since their thrilling win in Portland on Nov. 2. They improve to 8-5 on the young season. They’re back at the Wells Fargo Center Wednesday to take on the Knicks (7 p.m./NBCSP)

Here are observations from the win.

That’s how you get right

The first few possessions were not great for the Sixers defensively. It looked like another game that could be doomed by poor pick-and-roll defense and turnovers — a familiar theme throughout the young season. 

Boy, did that change in a hurry. 

The Sixers got a nice defensive boost from James Ennis, ending the first quarter on a 17-4 run and assisting on 12 of their first 15 makes. They played smothering defense and turned that into easy offense.

It was by far the Sixers’ best half of the season as they shot 68.3 percent from the field, committed just five turnovers and outscored the Cavs, 68-44. 

The most encouraging thing is that they didn’t let up. They kept their foot on the gas and never let Cleveland back in the game.

This is what it was supposed to look like

The Sixers had lost five of their last seven, which exacerbated the issues of the starting five. On Sunday, they looked like a well-oiled machine. We saw the “bully ball” offense out in full force. With their size, the Sixers are going to have mismatches pretty much every night. It was a clear emphasis against the Cavs. 

You saw Ben Simmons find Josh Richardson for a wide open three out of the post. Tobias Harris got doubled in the post and found Joel Embiid for an easy bucket. Al Horford ran the pick-and-pop with Simmons for a short jumper. 

No, Cleveland is not a defensive juggernaut, but this was the most encouraging offensive showing by the starters this season. At times, their ball movement was unreal. Now it’s about taking this performance into their next game.

It’s worth noting that Harris appears to be off the schneid as he stuffed the stat sheet with a game-high 27 points (12 of 14), five rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks.

When Jo and Ben are at their best …

For those screaming that Embiid needs to be in the post, this had to be refreshing. There’s no secret to it. Brett Brown didn’t make any crazy adjustments. It boils down to Embiid running rim to rim instead of three-point line to three-point line. He got down the floor and got early position for easy post ups. He screened and rolled hard to the rim as well, which makes a huge difference. He was his dominant self Sunday, but more importantly, he played just a little over 22 minutes.

Though as mentioned it was against the Cavs, it’s always encouraging to see both Embiid and Simmons get going in the same game. Cedi Osman was no match for Simmons. Simmons took him off the dribble and punished him in the post. Simmons also continues to be strong defensively. He looks more engaged this season and well on his way to earning some type of All-Defensive Team honors. 

He finished with 10 points, 11 assists, four rebounds, two blocks and a steal in just under 26 minutes.

Boost from the bench

The Sixers got just 11 points from their bench Friday in Oklahoma City. The reserves had 20 at the half Sunday.

Ennis was a huge part of that. He hit a trio of corner threes and was active defensively and on the glass throughout. Ennis has given the Sixers solid run his last three games. He had a season-high 14 points.

It’s clear that Furkan Korkmaz has cooled from his torrid pace, but it was good to see the Turkish wing put the ball on the floor and make a couple plays for 13 points. Rookie Matisse Thybulle was good in his first-half run, hitting a three and finishing on a rare drive. Trey Burke got the backup point guard minutes over Raul Neto.

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Sixers at Cavaliers: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

Sixers at Cavaliers: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

The Sixers (7-5) will look to get back into the win column in Cleveland when they take on the Cavaliers (4-7) this afternoon.

Here are the essentials for today’s game:

When: 3 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 2:30 p.m.
Where: Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia+ 
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

And here are three storylines to watch:

Time to get right

There’s no such thing as a good loss, but man, the Sixers’ losses have been particularly brutal. On Friday night, they held a nine-point lead with 7:20 to go but gave up a 12-2 run and eventually lost in overtime to the Thunder.

The Sixers have glaring issues — especially in their starting five — but Brett Brown feels like he knows what they are.

“If you're sick and you don't know why, that's a problem,” Brown said. “We are in a tough spot right now, but it's a long year. I think that it doesn't take much for me to understand where we have to get better. And it's really that simple. If you're scratching your head, sort of confused, then I think we got some problems and that's not what I'm doing. I think the guys understand the areas that matter most that can best impact changing the way things are going and get back on the winning side.”

We'll see.

Taking care of business

This Cavs team isn’t as bad as perhaps we all thought coming into this season. They start two extremely young guards in Collin Sexton and Darius Garland, but they’re still flanked by veteran bigs Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson.

Cleveland also gave the Sixers all they could handle earlier this week — especially veteran guard Jordan Clarkson (20 points). The Sixers were able to sneak out of the Wells Fargo Center with a 98-97 win. Then again, when is the last time this team played a game that wasn’t close?

While the Cavs are maybe better than anticipated, this is a team the Sixers should be able to get well against. On Tuesday, they held Cleveland scoreless for over three minutes to close out the game. They need to bring that for 48 minutes and get right with a win over a team they’re clearly more talented than. 

Sorting out the bench

Furkan Korkmaz was scorching hot for a six-game stretch. He shot 50.9 percent from three and averaged 13.8 points in mostly bench minutes. In his last three games, he’s just 4 of 16 from distance. The issue with Korkmaz is if he’s not hitting shots, he doesn’t bring much else to the table. You saw Oklahoma City pick on him in overtime after Tobias Harris fouled out.

Korkmaz has been getting the most minutes off Brown’s bench recently. Should he be? Rookie Matisse Thybulle got off to a roaring start, but has looked overmatched offensively. With that said, he’s just so special defensively, Brown should deal with the growing pains on the other end. In games Thybulle has played at least 12 minutes, the Sixers are 6-1.

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