“It takes a village to raise a child,” is an old African proverb that is generally applied to child rearing. But, the proverb can further extend to the context of intercollegiate athletics.
At the root of the proverb, an entire community is required to provide support and create the experiences necessary for growth, development and maturation.
In intercollegiate athletics, departments such as Academic Services, Strength & Conditioning and Sports Medicine are often associated in those capacities, but the often overlooked Athletics Development area is equally important to providing the required resources for student-athletes to flourish academically, athletically and, most importantly, as people.
Correlations are often drawn between development and fundraising. And, a significant impact is made by a development staff in ensuring current and future funding. However, cultivating relationships is at the heart of all development officers, but not just to secure funding. Those relationships can, and regularly do, extend beyond financial support to services which help student-athletes grow in all aspects of their lives.
Northern Kentucky University has approximately 225 student-athletes filling the rosters of its 17 NCAA Division I sports programs. NKU’s Athletics Development staff is responsible for cultivating the relationships and building the village that helps support those student-athletes
In the last five years, the Athletics Development staff has worked in lockstep with the Go Norse Fund Board of Directors to not only expand the size of the community, but to also enhance the resources available to the student-athletes through that community.
Since the 2015-16 academic year, Go Norse Fund annual donations have increased 202% percent and now has over 400 annual members supporting NKU’s student-athletes through annual giving to the athletic department.
The Go Norse Fund Board restructured the Go Norse Fund Golf Outing and introduced the Night with the Norse Gala to further connect the community with NKU’s student-athletes, coaches and staff. The annual golf outing, traditionally held in late spring, features student-athletes and coaches interacting with supporters and provides approximately $40-45,000 revenue annually.
In 2016, the Night with the Norse gala was introduced. The event has grown to generate more than $110,000 each year, but more importantly it engages Northern Kentucky’s student-athletes with community members during a pre-event cocktail hour and provides an opportunity for coaches to build relationships during the formal event.
In terms of financial support, Athletics Development has cultivated a 330% percent growth in total support since the 2015-16 academic year. But, while generating revenue is important to the mission of Norse Athletics, truly living its core value of student-athlete well-being goes beyond generating revenue. Building genuine relationships opens doors for the community to nurture the “student” in “student-athlete” by sharing its various talents and skills.
Athletics Development assisted in opening some of those doors by facilitating career-preparation initiatives in conjunction with the Go Norse Fund Board and Athletics Academics. Interviewing and resume-writing highlighted the initial offerings of career-preparedness trainings, but over the course of the last four years a mentorship program evolved. Student-athletes are partnered with either members of the Go Norse Fund Board or other industry professionals who have a passion for nurturing others. The mentorship program exists to help the student-athletes as they prepare for their professional careers and provide an additional layer of support as they close out their time as athletes.
It truly takes a village to raise a child or, in the case of Norse Athletics, it takes a community to prepare its student-athletes for life following their sports career. Athletics Development nurtures those relationships.
Assistant Athletic Director
Communications and Media Services
Northern Kentucky University