THE NEW ERA OF WELLNESS
EP2: Navigating The University Athletic Careers & Sponsorships
In this episode, we have Zachery Segal, founder of Student Player - a centralized crowdfunding platform towards sponsoring student-athletes; and Abbie Wolf, professional basketball player and founder of Wild Works Basketball, joining us in the conversation of university athletics. We talk about the career and sponsorship opportunities for university athletes and the new game-changing NIL bill California passed, which has caused ripple effects in other states and policies across the country.
ABOUT THE SPEAKERS
ZACHERY SEGAL was born in Manhattan, NY, grew up in Montreal and attended Brown University where he played on the Men’s Ultimate (Frisbee) team. At Brown, Segal was amazed by the intense time commitment required to play a varsity sport, even at a school that did not offer athletic scholarships. Segal wondered why those same athletes could not benefit from their NIL the way that every other student could. Before starting Student Player, Segal attended the NYU School of Law and Stern School of Business from which he received a JD/MBA. Segal currently lives in Denver, Colorado.
ABBIE WOLF is a professional basketball player overseas who graduated from Northwestern University. She is headed into her second year playing overseas, her rookie season she competed in Spain’s highest division with Club Deportivo Zamarat.
Her senior year at Northwestern, Abbie’s squad won a Big Ten Regular season championship and she earned All-Big Ten Honorable Mention. Abbie had a well-rounded college experience, graduating with honors from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism and even studying abroad in South Africa.
Abbie founded her training company, Wild Works Basketball, with the mission of empowering the next generation of female hoopers. She wants to provide a toolkit for improving individual skillsets and leadership skills that lead to confidence on and off the court.
Check out Student Player here and contribute to student-athletes.
Follow and support Wild Works Basketball here.
Mary: [00:00:00] Hi there happy money people. This is Mary and we are back talking money, equity, equality, and sports. We are continuing to talk these curated, deep-dive conversations into the world of sports and where the industry is failing as athletes. And of course, what the future looks like from here. Today, our fellow host, Nolan, sits down with Zachery, the founder of student player and, Abbie, a professional basketballer to talk university athletics, resources, realities, and of course the new game-changing NILthat's name, image, and likeness. Don't worry. We'll get into it in the episode. This has caused ripple effects in other states and policies across the country. And as Zach and Abby will dive into it, the ramifications of university athletics and the new NHL are only getting started. Let's go listen in with Nolan. He'll lead us through the conversation with Zach and Abbie.
Nolan: [00:01:02] Welcome to you both. We are so excited to have you today. I think this is going to be a great conversation. You both bring such an interesting perspective and experience to the world of collegiate sports. So I'm just so excited to chat with you, Abbie, let's start with you. Tell us about yourself, your journey with basketball.
You have this amazing career at Northwestern. You play professionally overseas. How cool is that? Tell us about your story.
Abbie: [00:01:30] Thank you. Thank you. It's good to be here. I have been playing basketball my whole life. I feel like it's a vehicle for opportunity and all my life experiences.
Mary: [00:01:43] This is Abbie Wolf. Abbie is a professional basketball player overseas who graduated from Northwestern University. She has competed in Spain's highest division with the club Deportivo Zamarat. Won a big 10 regular-season championship and, and an all big 10 honorable mention. Abbie has also founded WildWorks basketball with the mission of empowering the next generation of female hoopers using skill growth and leadership growth to build confidence on and off the court.
Abbie: [00:02:15] So I grew up in the New York area and I would say in high school and middle school, it's really like all I did, my whole identity was being a basketball player. Got me into college. I was obsessed like when I got in Northwestern or when I can admit it to Northwestern. And I knew that was my goal or where I was going. I had like a countdown app on my phone. So. I would say I was obsessed. And then I got to college and realized, 'Oh, this is a business'. It took me a while to realize that, but I love Northwestern and all the friends I made there, I call them my sisters the 14 girls that I won, the big 10 regular-season title with. In 2020. And so after that incredible experience, I was a journalism major in college. So it's pretty cool to be on the other side of the microphone. And went to South Africa for my journalism residency, which is like incredible. Considering I was playing power five basketball. My coach, let me go to South Africa for 10 weeks. So I feel like I got the most of my college experience and then senior year came and I didn't know what was going to happen. I started going to consulting info sessions and trying to figure out plan B because I always wanted to be a professional basketball player. Like I said, I was obsessed since middle school.
But I didn't know if that was gonna happen. It hadn't started this year. It was going to be my first year starting senior year. So. Had a good year. And agents started messaging me in the middle of the season. I stopped going to those info sessions to be a consultant. And so the first year ever season went, well, I think we're gonna get more into it later. I realized. Stark differences of a power five resources in school versus a club in Spain. And yeah, now I feel like I'm on my own kind of figuring life out still. How much I want to be a basketball player, how much you want to be an entrepreneur. I started Wild Works basketball this summer, which is I held camps around the country really in Mexico. And so yeah, headed to Barcelona in, at the end of August, I just found out this morning. Practice starts earlier than I thought it did. And it should be an exciting year ahead of me in Barcelona and I'm overseas then to come, who knows how long.
Nolan: [00:04:32] That's incredibly cool. And yeah. Really excited to delve into your experience playing overseas.
Because that's, I think a window that a lot of Americans at least don't have too much insight into. So Zach, let's hear from you, tell us more about yourself and the story of how you started studentplayer.com.
Zachery: [00:04:51] Thanks, Nolan. I was born in New York, but really grew up in Montreal from seven til college and decided to go to Brown University.
Mary: [00:04:59] This is Zachary Segal. He founded studentplayer.com - A centralized crowdfunding platform where fans can contribute towards sponsoring NCAA student-athletes. He'll tell you all about it, but to get us started student player.com gives student-athletes the ability to focus on their education and the sport that they love by democratizing the recruitment process by empowering fans and alumni in the formation and development of college sports teams.
Let's go hear more from Zach and Nolan.
Zachery: [00:05:33] So when I got there, I picked up a sport that I enjoyed during high school, which was ultimate Frisbee. It was lots of fun. But as you and your listeners probably know it's a club sport, not a varsity sport. So as someone coming from Canada or growing up in Canada, I was less familiar with the NCAA and all the rules and regulations that they have.
But immediately found it interesting and unsettling that my rights as a Clubsport player were different than the rights of students who were student-athletes of a varsity sport. And it didn't really make sense to me, given the mantra that students are student-athletes are students first. So this was something that was on my mind from arriving at college and noticing the discrepancy. The rules were the rules. And while there were some initiatives to change them and lawsuits and protests, et cetera, it seemed like things were just going to stay the way they are. And so it was a situation that I tracked after college when I went to NYU for law school and business school. But again, the status quo remained the same. Until about a year and a half ago when California passed the fair pay to play-act. And that really got me thinking, you know, okay, things are changing. It's not just theoretical at this point or a discussion point it's really happening. And if California has passed a law, there's no way that the rest of the country won't fall. Because it would essentially lead to two leagues, you know, that would be the California league and the rest of the country of California was the only state allowing student-athletes to be treated like other students, essentially. And so that's what got me thinking about how is this all going to work? What's going to happen? How can student-athletes benefit from this? How can fans get involved? And student player was, was what came out of it. You know, it's a centralized crowdfunding platform that allows fans, alumni, businesses in the region of a school to contribute money that will be held in escrow and ultimately offered to student-athletes in the form of an endorsement deal. And I think we could get into it later, but that seemed like the best system to me, for everyone to get involved within the legal framework that has emerged and seemed as though it would emerge. Back when California passed its law.
Nolan: [00:08:12] Right. And I am so excited to chat with you more about that because it seems like this is a space that's changing quickly from my perspective. And I'm really curious, like what have your major learnings been so far since starting student player?
Zachery: [00:08:28] It's interesting, you know. Things happen slower than you expect and also faster than you expect. I sort of imagined once California passed their law that the federal government would almost instantly pass something just to unify the playing field so that each state could have a fair opportunity at recruiting an athlete. That did not happen. But ultimately, a Supreme court decision on an unrelated issue combined with effective dates of various states being July 1st, 2021.
Sort of tipped the NCA's hand and ultimately, you know, and, and this all happened. This is the faster part within a week of the deadline that the NCA just said, okay. We're into everybody can benefit from their name, image and likeness across the board. So, so the fact that things happen slower than you expect and faster than you expect are two of the big lessons that I've picked up so far.
Nolan: [00:09:28] Interesting. Yeah. It's that old phrase. Nothing happens until it all happens at once. Yeah. So Abbie, back to you, I would love to hear more about your experience playing overseas. What that has been like, what your experience has been, what's been the most shocking thing for you throughout your day.
Abbie: [00:09:48] What was shocking. I better not expose my club. I, I just love the cultural experience. I was in Zamara, Spain last year, which a lot of people don't know, except for La Semana Santa, when these people dress up, they look like ghosts for Easter. That's like the city where that happens. So it's two and a half hours from Madrid.
And from the pictures, I was actually expecting to be smaller than it really was, but I just. No one spoke English there. I went to the grocery store. I needed to know, you know, the basic things, which was beneficial for me to try to improve my Spanish. Probably the most surprising was the way the community supported me and my other foreign teammates. I'd say community because I had a Spanish family and they were really just fans of the club. And so I'd hang out with these two kids, Martina and Leo and they would like cook these incredible Spanish stews for me once or twice a week. Really, whenever I could come over there and had that outlet apart from basketball, because coming from college where I was used to having like three or four courses, a quarter constantly scheduled, constantly supported. And when I got to the pros, it was like, all right, the practice was over and do whatever you want for the next. 16 hours. Okay. So I had this family's behind me and like my teammate really started that like the Spanish family thing. Cause she was returning. So I would say like as an overseas player, you can really.
come into it with so many different mindsets. You know, some of my teammates were there so they can make their money and go home to their other relationship or a gig. They were there for the bag. As you say, there for the money. I was there for the experience. I'm there to get a first taste of professional basketball and really made the most.
Nolan: [00:11:35] Interesting. Well, I think that's a great transition to what I want to ask you next, which is let's address kind of the elephant in the room that for many female athletes, the real struggle in professional sports is earning enough money to survive and to live the kind of life where you can thrive. So I'd love to hear from you and your experience and your perspective in your sport, other sports, what does it actually look like? And how does this affect the career decisions for female athletes?
Abbie: [00:12:05] Well, I like the word you use to thrive, not survive. I think. Like there's the honeymoon phase. Oh, I'm overseas. This is so nice. And then like this summer, I was just like a nomad. Okay. No community. It's, I'm just training by myself or my next contract, which is going to start in September. And that's not a life. Anyone wants to live, certainly not like a female. Community-based. Per team-based person. And it's not always like that overseas, but very often you have one-year contracts. And so it's very hard. I guess the height of women's basketball is WNBA, of course. However, there are only 144 spots than WNBA.mAnd that's 12 teams, max 12 players, and they renegotiated their salaries $58,000 minimum salary. And then like the best players, like the Atlanta, Della dons, and Sue birds. They're making about 221,000, but that's so the best, I don't know what other industry. The best 144 players in the world are making that kind of money. It's not a bad salary. And I looked up the men's, you know like the base MBA salary is 925,000. So you're telling me a whole team of 12 of the best woman should make about what the one of, one of the scrubs, not, they're not scrubbed if you made an NBA pretty good, but if you're like a bench NBA player, you're making about the same as a whole team in the WNBA. And it makes that reality that you don't, you don't, this is the first time I really looked up the numbers because it's not like I'm playing for the money. However, as a female athlete, you have to think about other things. It's very stupid to have a. Oh, I'm just going to be a baller. Oh, I'm just gonna make it WNBA. Even making the WNBA doesn't necessarily have the same monetary benefits as making the NBA or NFL or MLB would be. So you kind of need a plan B you kind of need to alternate identity that you foster outside of practice and things to promote yourself and have, you know, a full life span that's not dependent on your goal and making the WNBA.
Nolan: [00:14:17] Right. And I'm excited to talk to you about this organization that you founded this summer and hear more about that. But for a second, I want to hold on to the college experience side of things. So when looking at the scope of, you know, financial decisions, financial opportunities in the future for athletes, how do you think this affects college athletes and the way they go about it? And during their time in college, How does the lack of income or time, how does this affect kind of the college experience, both the athletic experience, the academic experience, life experience. What are your thoughts on that?
Abbie: [00:14:53] I felt fully supported as a Northwestern student-athlete. I probably would not make it.
Other than coaching, which I'm doing now and now people can do, which is great. Like Zach said before, the fact that a club player could coach and I couldn't without doing a bunch of paperwork and not going on Northwestern facilities is just absurd because this is my most marketable skill and most other student-athletes, we have specialized knowledge from nearly 20 years of playing our sport. I mean, probably more like 15 when you're in college. So. That I think the changing landscape is good. However, like I had absolutely everything I needed at Northwestern, and I really miss it. I'm actually visiting my college campus now and a meeting, you know, with my friends and administrators and like, wow. You know, our director always told us to have gratitude, but I have a lot more gratitude and appreciation for the support system of a power five school. Now that I'm a pro and there's no administrator. No NCAA looking over my contract and making sure it's equitable and it's fair. Like it's pretty common for girls to just get cut and forced out after like a month, if they're not producing the same stats like that does not happen at Northwestern. Everyone. One through 15 on my team is treated the same. Yes. Maybe the star is going to more media appearances, however there were many measures put forth to make sure that like I had everything I needed. So my rent was fully paid for. And if I really saved it, I could have even pocketed more money. So, you know, Northwestern is the best of the best. I'm never probably going to fly a charter flight my life again. I'm probably never going to have nutritionists and sports psychologists at my disposal again. So I have no complaints about my college experience, but it's exciting for the players who can now profit off of their name and likeness.
Nolan: [00:16:44] Sure. Yeah. So Zach, what I'm sure throughout your process of starting this company, you've talked to a lot of college athletes and I'm curious what your perspective has been on how they see there, you know, their financial situations in school and how they think through making financial decisions.
Zachery: [00:17:01] Well, I think that you know, every student-athlete and certainly the ones that I've spoken to.
Think about those decisions, the way every student thinks about them. You know, I, I was not an NCAA regulated athlete, but I had to decide, you know, do I want to pursue a professional, ultimate Frisbee career? The answer was a very quick, no, for a variety of reasons, including my skill level, but I think that the issue confronting. NCAA athletes previously were why are we being treated differently than everyone else? So that was the part that those are the comments that, that really stick with me. And that I hear a lot of, which is yes, we are thinking about our future, the way every other college student is thinking about our future. The difference is that every other college student has the ability to take various steps now, Which we do not. And one example, which Abbie brought up is coaching. You know, if, if a student-athlete wants to be a professional coach, later on, it might help to do some coaching while they're in school. But there's a bunch of hurdles and paperwork that they would have had to jump over to take on a job in that manner. So that's just one example of a restriction being imposed on a student-athlete. Even one who says, I am unlikely to be a professional. Who just wants to pursue their options, you know, but doesn't have the same ability as say a chemist who says, I want to go get an internship at a chemical company or, you know, I could go on. But every other profession allows - the colleges allow their students pursuing those to take a job in that field, earn income or. If they're famous, you know, to monetize their name, image, and likeness through an endorsement, sponsorship, appearance, any other manner. But, but that wasn't the case until recently, for student-athletes.
Nolan: [00:19:08] Right? So we touched on this a bit earlier, but I'd love to go a bit in the weeds on it. So Zach.
Is the current landscape in terms of student-athletes, ability to get sponsorships ability to pursue endorsement deals? What's it look like now? And do you think it's going to change in the near future?
Zachery: [00:19:25] Right now? It is wide open. So a student-athlete can benefit from their name, image, and likeness, which, which essentially means they can go out and get a sponsorship deal. There are other things as well. They can do such as coaching appearances, et cetera. But the vast majority of the income that's likely to come from this is probably going to be through sponsorship deals. So currently an NCA athlete can enter into a contract within a brand to use their name, image, and likeness and be paid for it. And that's amazing. It was not the case a month ago. How that shakes out I'm very excited to see, I think different athletes at different schools and different sports will have different opportunities in much the same way that different athletes in different sports, in different locations, professionally have different opportunities.
So it's going to be different for everyone. I think it will. The status quo will persist over time. You know, one thing that is still not permitted is being paid based on a certain result. So, so you can't say, you know, I'm going to pay you to endorse me. If you score 10 touchdowns, you know, you, you can wait. To see how someone does and then say, I would like you to endorse me, but it can't be tied to future performance. It can't be tied to, you know, things that are sort of in the pay-to-play mode. But, and, and similarly, a school at this point is not able to pay a student-athlete as if they're an employee, but the student-athlete can go to a third party and be paid for their endorsement. So. I imagine the endorsement name, image, and likeness portion, staying how it is. And it's too hard to tell whether schools will ultimately view their student-athletes as employees. There, there are times when you might say that sounds more accurate and there are times when you might say that does not sound accurate. So that question is a harder one. It's outside the purview of student player. But the name image and likeness endorsement piece are here to stay. I just can't imagine going back in time on that.
Abbie: [00:21:53] I think women's basketball is in a weird middle because we're, we're not a non-revenue sport or like Olympic sport, like soccer and field hockey. We're treated very similar to men's basketball, but we don't have, you know, the donors at all our games who may be interested in taking a group of guys out to dinner and supporting them financially. Like when we, we still have, you know, support. But I, I kind of was talking to an administrator for my school and she brought the point.
Yeah. Now instead of a local brand, you know, partnering with the team to get their logo on over face or something like that. Now the brand can go to their favorite star and he can bring the whole team out and they're going to post it on their social media. So it's, it's really just going to shake everything up. I don't know. There's going to be a significant, more amount of money involved. Now it's just going to go straight to the players. Good for a star football or basketball player, but it might hurt the hockey players sitting on the bench, who is not able to have Under Armour clothes and the same food as the football players and basketball players.
That is now going to this private dinner that a donor in the brand is sponsoring. So I worry about the equity, I guess. It's really, I don't think it's going to be that drastic. The changes, you know, the university still stills their systems. It's not like everyone's gonna all of a sudden say, oh, I don't want to support Northwestern anymore.
So we'll see. I already did the coaching in college. I just had to go through all the forms and then fax them to or scan them to the compliance office, which was a pain in the butt. But like, Pretty easy. And I really don't know what that did or whom it went to. Cause it was kind of pointless. I would just send it again or respond, you know, and they probably wouldn't notice if I never sent those. So it's, it's interesting seeing how this would play out, you know, personally with my brand, I kinda want to. If I really want to expand my business, I can say, oh, okay. I'll do the administration support and marketing and the t-shirts for this teammate of mine, where I go to your hometown, get 50 girls in their area.
And yeah, so now I'm going to make 50 50 with my teammate because I can profit off of her name and likeness and she can use my brand. So looking at it from my side of things, like it's great, but the student-athlete we'll see.
Nolan: [00:24:16] Right. Like the gender equity conversation about college sports has been a long-standing issue.
Right. That's nothing new. Even when you think there should be progress, Abbie, I'm sure you have thoughts about the NCAA tournament this past spring and the blatant inequities in terms of access to locker rooms and weight rooms and things like that. You know, it's, I can't imagine this as an issue. That's going to. Be solved anytime soon, but I'm really curious, you know, how this newfound world of financial opportunities for student-athletes might affect these inequities?
Zachery: [00:24:58] Sure. Yes. I think as a starting point what's going to happen is historical if you wanted to help your college. When the best players do well in a given sport, your only real avenue of doing that would be by donating to the athletic department. And I think many of us have seen the videos of certain locker rooms, you know, where they're, they're tens of millions of dollars. It looks like a professional facility, et cetera. The coach is a celebrity. And that stems from the fact that that's the school's best method. To attract the players they're trying to attract is a fancy locker room, because that was essentially all that was permitted. So now this is going to shift and to give you an idea, you know, the average of the top 50 athletic schools in terms of alumni contributions in 2018, I saw a stat that on average, they receive about $30 million annually. That's a lot of money with nowhere to go, but fancy locker rooms and high-priced coaches. Now those donors and brands, et cetera, can say, I want to funnel this money. In the form of a player endorsement and just taking, I will get to the gender equity. I promise. But giving, you know, what, what student player does is allow every fan to make a difference. Whether they're donating $1, a hundred dollars or a million dollars because it all gets funneled into one account that our perspective athlete can see before they choose where they go to college.
And then if they go to college at a certain school and the coach plays them, they know that there's a sponsorship opportunity waiting for them in the amount that was the total of all the contributions. And I think that is going to have much more power than a fancy locker room. You know, if a prospective quarterback or point guard. Knows that if they go to Duke over Michigan or Northwestern over Brown, they are going to receive X dollars, which is two times their other alternative. That's going to be of interest to them financially, where this gets to the gender equity and equality is I think, positive in that schools will now not have this big general fund. That gets allocated in a way that's opaque and unclear, but people will still support the schools and donate to the athletic departments. And it will be the school's responsibility to say our values are equal opportunity for men and women. And thus, we're going to provide the same opportunity to access the weight room, the same type of facilities, et cetera. Or they won't, and that would be unfortunate. But whereas in the past they had this cover of saying, well, the donations to Ohio state were primarily related to the men's basketball team. So it's important that we allocate a greater percentage of the country to the men's basketball teams facilities, that will no longer be the case.
So. Contributions to schools will be to help the student body and the student-athletes as a whole. And it will force the schools to show their values and say, you know, we're either doing this equally or we're not, and prioritize sports as they see fit for their individual communities, which I think is very exciting.
Nolan: [00:28:48] Yeah. Super interesting. So, Abbie, I want to turn it over to you. What do you think needs to happen to achieve genuine gender parity in college sports.
Abbie: [00:28:59] I don't think this name and likeness is going to help that at all. Like to be honest, like Zach said, it's, if more of the money is coming directly from the brands and owners to the athletes, it's unfortunate, but they're probably going to pick, you know, the male guy who a lot of, most of their peer alumni peers know of and, you know, everyone follows those games more. So it's more. Good deep-rooted issue. And like title nine has done an incredible job of bringing it to a pretty good place. And I think this name and likeness is going to shake it up because now there are smaller people making these micro-decisions rather than the blanket institutions, knowing and the compliance office having control over everything and the budgets and making sure it's allocated properly. So I think it comes back to the media coverage support. Like you mentioned the locker rooms instead ---. I was not outraged by any means. It was not surprising to me, but I'm really glad that it was covered and it was picked up. So people were outraged. It needs to be more things women's sports celebrated, not like a, a wow once occurrence like that. So I don't have an answer. It's going to be interesting. Something I want to bring up. I think I mentioned this earlier is kind of. The strange situation of female athletes and ultra egos. When we're on a court, we're just an athlete. Most of the time, we're not thinking about our appearance. However, like when you go out, you know, there are these expectations for females. Females present themselves differently. That's really not. It doesn't make sense when I'm on a basketball court and I'm sweating buckets. Like it's not going to be the same person I'm posting on Instagram. So I think you're going to see like a sharp contrast between who's actually performing and the big personalities maybe that are drawing attention or people are throwing money at versus.
Well, what I'm trying to say is their really pretty person with a bunch of followers on Instagram versus the athlete who's actually leading and rebounding and the strongest worker and biggest component of the team. Like who's going to get that deal. Probably the pretty girl sitting on the bench. I don't know if it's purely Instagram, shallow things versus people who have good understanding of the game and the value that they're bringing to their team and their institution and sport.
I'm very, luckily I was surrounded by. Good human beings on my team and I was never, oh my God. Look what she posted. I liked there was a genuine trust and respect and none of us were really ever like posting outrageous stuff in the season to get attention because we were so, so focused on each other. In our team goals. I look at some other teams. There were around me and I, I don't see that. I don't see the whole team hanging out with each other. I see some girls like posting stuff and getting a lot of attention for it and invites to maybe like a club event and the whole team not going, cause they're not invited.
So I think that with these increase opportunities, oh, she's cool. She's a Barstool athlete. Like whatever. Like it's to me, like pretty stupid, but if people want. Take the time to build their brand. They can. I think that's the biggest thing. If you're going to school like Northwestern and you're an athlete who really cares about school, you really don't have time to be an influencer.
So you're, you just have to go stay from practice to class, to another practice, to your study hall. You can vog and say, oh yeah, I'm walking into study hall now, but like, why would anyone do that? That's interesting, so I heard a story, another podcast actually about a D1, I think power five soccer player going to D three school so he could spend more time making videos and his TikToks cause he was passionate about that. So I think those are like the decisions athletes are going to have to make now. No, whatever. I'll, I'll get a C instead of an A because I want to gain my fault.
Nolan: [00:33:01] Interesting. So there's a bit of a segue here I want to take, but I think it transitions. Okay. Which is, I want to talk about mental health in sports and get both of your perspectives on this, right. You know, from my perspective, mental health is a conversation that crops up on occasion in sports. I've seen it a lot recently in conversations, partially spurred on by individuals like Naomi Osaka and, you know, the flashpoints, I guess, where mental health really can affect somebody's athletic career. So in the context of money or just the general college athlete experience, What are your perspectives in terms of his mental health in an under-covered topic or challenge for college athletes or are the support systems there? For folks, Abbie, we can start with you.
Abbie: [00:33:54] Yeah. I actually wrote a story with my experience about my experience that was published in like September or something. But I really wasn't comfortable sharing a lot until I was not attending Northwestern anymore because they are very sensitive topics. My teammate's suicide when I was a sophomore, I was a freshman. She was a sophomore kind of my own panic attack. My own identity crisis when I wasn't playing, I wasn't starting and. It's, it's not easy to come out and be vulnerable and tell your teammates and coaches what you're going through. Because when you have sprinted ahead of you for the day, why do you want to talk about, oh, I'm not feeling too good. You just kind of ignore it and get through it. And then we were lucky we had two sports psychologists that were within the school. And then by my senior year, they actually had offices and times and the student athletic complex. So, cause I knew that unique pressures that we were going through and really needed the support system. So there are definitely advances being made. I mean, May is mental health awareness month and there are a lot of initiatives that Northwestern -the green bandana project, which is you get certified in question persuade and respond.
So. You're taught the signs to know if, you know, a friend or a teammate is going through something and have questioned them what they're going through, persuade them to maybe see someone and respond by taking more action. So there are a lot of initiatives in place to kind of normalize and de-stigmatize it. But I know there's still a long way to go. And I came out with the story, but I still am not comfortable like talking about it day to day. And I got texts and, you know, comments like, oh, wow, this is so important. However, I don't feel like I'm talking about it more day to day because everyone is just on their grind and you just do it. You don't talk about it.
Nolan: [00:35:41] Yeah. Well, I mean, let me just say, I appreciate you talking about it here, and I think it's a good thing for you and other college athletes to be vocal about and being open about talking about mental health struggles, because, you know, I think the more people that hear it. You can really connect with.
Zachery: [00:36:01] Yes. I think, you know, as a general principle, the more someone is in the spotlight, the more likely there are to be associated mental health issues that come with it, whether that's in athletics or not. The challenge for college athletes is that they are much more in the spotlight now than they used to be, or at any other time in history, you know, and that's a function of a number of things. Financial considerations may now be one of them. But it's probably if you know, it's probably much more of the social media component than the prospect of being paid that I think will contribute to that. To the extent we can, you know, I'm excited for studentplayer in that the endorsements that we are going to offer come with very minor responsibilities. It will be a few, short social media posts that can be done from your phone in your room quick. Because fans are not contributing with the primary goal of seeing a long commercial spot or making a student-athlete at the school that they love travel across the country, meet with an agent, et cetera. They just want to see that person play at their school and be compensated. So. We're doing this in a way that gives the student-athletes both compensation and free time to focus on their studies and the sport that they love. So I hope that in at least some minor way that reduces some of the stress and mental issues that might come with feeling pressure to constantly be building your brand.
If you know that nearly playing and completing the endorsement from your phone in your dorm room are sufficient to unlock the funds that studentplayer is holding in escrow.
Nolan: [00:37:54] Sure. Yeah. I'm really curious how that world will develop and how student-athletes will adapt. So before we get to the final question, I'd love to just check in with you both on, you know, what you're most excited about what you're doing now. So, Abbie, you started this organization Wild Works, right?
Abbie: [00:38:12] Yes.
Nolan: [00:38:12] Tell me about that.
Abbie: [00:38:14] Well going back to kind of the challenges of being a female basketball player. I had April to August without income. Cause my team pays me for the months I had playing in Europe and I didn't make it WNBA so I could either get.
An internship or job, or I could start my own business with my most marketable skill, which is basketball. And so I. Kind of hopped around. I was a nomad this summer. My dad lives in Florida and I held my first clinic there. Luckily my uncle ran a basketball league, so I had 12 girls and myself for a week, which was fun, tested a lot of stuff out, got some great feedback.
So I was excited about continuing it. My mom lives in Mexico and obviously, I am not gonna profit off of it. Mexican children who have a lot less and where I grew up in Connecticut. So I approached the local team and ran a few practices for them. And that was incredible. And the third part of this nomad summer, I was back in Connecticut, where I went to high school.
And that was where the brand was created around. So I held a bigger camp at 25 campers. And two counselors, one of whom I think was interviewed the other day Edona Thaqi. And so that was really fun. Now I'm in Chicago, not doing Wild Works, cause it's a lot of work being a coach after my own training sessions. And I'm exhausted. Do I want to yell and empower children? Not so not quite yet. So Chicago not doing anything. But yeah, I think the bigger point is kind of. What you do to make ends meet as a woman basketball player and just my obligation or not an obligation, my desire to share what I've learned, I'm dedicating myself to the game for the past 16 years. And kind of giving these kids a cheat sheet to the drills and the mindsets that helped me. So I re you know, clinic, I have a panel where I sit down and ask the counselors and share a story with the girls at home.
Nolan: [00:40:26] That's incredible. Yeah. And I love that you're doing like pro bono work for it too in Mexico.
And that's, that's just amazing.
Abbie: [00:40:33] Thank you. Yeah, it's been fun.
Nolan: [00:40:35] So Zach, walk us through the next steps for your company. What does the future look like?
Zachery: [00:40:41] I think that the future is just getting the word out now that it's happened, you know, the, the regulations and the laws are in place. And what excites me the most is that this provides a mechanism.
To level the playing field. And as we say, democratize the process where every fan's voice can count. You know, when, when California passed their law, my worry was that once Oregon got there, that film, I would just put in a call to someone at Nike and say, all right, we're going to offer every athlete here. You know, a few million dollars in sponsorship dollars and then we're going to win. Everyone else will be fighting for second place. And that was my fear that, you know, we were essentially going to enter a system where brands. Wealthy donors, boosters who are willing to pay the most would get the best players.
And that would be that, but through the creation of a centralized platform, you know, the small voices of many can outshine, you know, just one loud one. So that's what I'm really excited for. I, it's hard to predict exactly how things will shakeup. The next steps for us are, you know, continuing to get the word out. It's a bit of a complicated process. So doing that in an effective way, that's easy to understand is some of our biggest challenges, but I'm just excited to see which, which schools and teams have the most loyal and rabid fan bases and are willing to step up and really show the players that, that they appreciate the hard work that they put on, on the court or the field or, or whatever the playing surface is.
Nolan: [00:42:24] Sure. I'm. Very intrigued how it's all going to develop for sure. So, okay. We're going to close out here. It's kind of final thoughts time. So I'd love to hear from both of you about like any, any thoughts you've been itching to share that we haven't gotten to. I'd love to hear your take on resources specifically for college athletes, but athletes in general, if you'd like that athletes should be aware of what kinds of things they should be thinking through, especially in terms of managing.
Finances their life around finances, those decisions that happen and are, you're forced to take some times as a coach athlete. So what are, yeah. What are your final thoughts? What's your reaction to this changing world? Zach we'll, we'll start with you on that.
Zachery: [00:43:11] Sure. I think, you know, my, my parting advice would be that the time you have in college is limited and special, and you're a part of a team as well as a large institution that has many other things to offer.
So the changing rules will not change the fact that you are a part of an institution that has lots of great resources, regardless of which one. And my advice would be to take advantage of it. You know, you don't have the opportunity to just walk into a professor's door and said, like to chat after college. So keep your options open, think about all kinds of different things and make sure you, you use the time you have in the way that's going to provide you with the most fulfillment and including focusing on the sport that you love.
Abbie: [00:43:59] Yeah. To piggyback off that. I had the pleasure of sharing dinner with a Northwestern donor after I graduated and with a few other teammates and she just, we were talking, oh, you could, you could make that, send that email.
I'd be so grateful. She's like, of course, you just have to let me know and ask, you know, like these people, like Zach said, can't read your mind and what your goals and what you want. And you really don't know what you want until you explore. So I would say, you know, tap your resources, your network, don't focus on social media.
And necessarily, at least for me, I had never focused on the likes and the popularity, like. Intimate relationships and even community building. You could, even, if you do want to capitalize on this name and like this thing, go knock on the donor's door and they probably have kids or that who want to be coached and they don't even know they began.
They can't read your mind that you're willing to do that and make some extra money on the weekends on an off day. So I would say, take that steps and then email get out there. And because no one can read your mind. So college athletic programs, should we have Northwestern, unfortunately, has career development called any for life or they connect us to donors and things that should be a lot more prevalent at other universities. They really took the initiative of one guy, David biller, and to support that my brother played football at Duke. Surprisingly Duke university does not have a career development system for student-athletes. I don't know if like Stanford has one. I should ask my friend if it's as organized as Northwestern, you know, you're not going to make a career.
You know, a few will out of being an influencer you will make a career out of, you know, educating yourself on the possibilities. So that should be addressed. And also along with the career development, there should be some type of. Everyone always says, you know, in high school you don't learn how to pay your taxes and pay health insurance.
I had social security in Spain and when I came back here, I was not my dad's anymore. And I had to figure it all out. It was the end of the month and imagine being a 23-year-old, trying to figure out the US health system, that was just, just a disaster. So I think, you know, people need to. Educate themselves and the command of college, like what it means to be an individual like on your own which is a lot of things, but I just mainly wanted to say like the health system thing and support and education for athletes is more important than educating yourself on how you can be an influence.
Nolan: [00:46:45] I love that for college athletes who are listening, I hope you heard every word of that for people that know college athletes who want to help those in your life, who are thinking of pursuing that route. I hope this unlocks some ideas on how you can help those people you care about. I mean, and you're talking about schools like Northwestern, Duke, Stanford.
I mean, these are some great schools. So imagine all the other schools out there where, you know, I'm sure it's across the board in terms of how. High of quality, I guess their career development programs, are there life skills, financial literacy skills development programs may be. So I guess, you know, for, for college athletes and prospective college athletes, like that's something to really think about and look for in the program of your choice and to push the schools that you're at to be thinking about that stuff.
Abbie: [00:47:36] Absolutely. I mean, I brought up Duke because you would expect them to have something like that for recruits. There's nothing wrong with going back to your hometown and becoming a personal trainer. However, it's shameful for universities to take advantage of student-athletes and their name, their names, and their bodies for four years.
Not only are, they're not compensated, but their schedules are packed for the whole day so that they can't eat much less the opportunities that the rest of the university has to offer, because if they want, you know if they have 6:00 AM workouts, what are they going to do after their 8:00 PM study hall, go home and go to sleep. And they're not going to go explore the entrepreneurship center on campus. They're not going to go into a nearby city and do some networking and shadowing. So it's really a disservice to the student-athletes. And this is something that while a lot of normal people can't. They call you NARPS, by the way, non-athletic regular people.
Nolan: [00:48:32] I had no idea. And I love, I love that. I now know that
Abbie: [00:48:35] so yes, everyone agrees, they should be paid. But however, like what are other needs that athletes are not being met? Like I think the career and development is the most important.
Nolan: [00:48:48] I love that. I think that's a very important message to end on.
Well, both of you, I can't tell you how much we appreciate you coming on and sharing your stories and perspectives and all this. It has been such a pleasure.
Zachery: [00:49:01] Thank you.
Abbie: [00:49:02] Thank you.
Mary: [00:49:03] As always. Thanks, listeners for settling in and listening was Nolan. As we started the conversation on athletes, university NIL, and the candid university reality and experience athlete.
Next week, we will continue our conversation on sports and the new era of wellness. As you listened, we hope you're catching some Tokyo Olympic moments and watching the world of athletics grow and evolve right before your eyes. As you listen in with us on this new era. We'll chat soon and happy money-making.