As we sat down to reflect on the year that was 2020 and to consider the future of NextPlay, it did not seem right to open with anything other than an honest assessment of the world around us.
We all had high hopes for the start of 2021. We all believed that after a year like 2020, the only place to go was up. Yet here we are; headlines continue to be dominated by political division resulting in violence, economic suffering that is particularly stark for minority communities, and a pandemic that only seems to get worse with time.
The sports industry has certainly not been spared from the difficulties of the past year with lives disrupted, seasons cancelled, and a similar reckoning with racial inequity. Despite these countless challenges, we remain optimistic about the power of sports to shape our next generation of leaders and to change the world for the better.
With that belief in mind, we are proud of how NextPlay has constantly adapted over the past year in order to relentlessly pursue our mission of enhancing athlete outcomes.
2020 In Review
Building a Foundation: We began 2020 as a services business, working directly with athletes on campus in programs like Campbell MADE and launching new initiatives like Furman Future. While we already had plans for digital engagement tools in the works, the shutdown of athletics in the spring forced us to speed up our timeline and adapt on the fly. Fortunately, we closed our first round of investment in March, which set us up for rapid change.
Supporting Our Communities: Beginning immediately after the onset of the pandemic, we hosted workshops for student-athlete development professionals on working from home, managing digital burnout, and honoring the senior class of 2020. We led webinars for athletes on how to learn about new industries, build professional experience, and effectively network during a pandemic.
Student-Athlete Internships: We led a virtual internship program, providing internship opportunities to ten student-athletes from across the country, many of whom remain a valuable part of our team today. Stay tuned for information about our 2021 internship program coming this summer.
Commitment to Racial Equity: We started the HBCUnite initiative, which we hope will help minority communities to benefit from network effects in the same way that white communities have in the past.
Evolving with Software: We launched a software platform that will shape the future of our business. We have already announced some of our initial partnerships in this new venture, and we’ll continue those announcements in the coming weeks.
As we look to ensure that the rest of 2021 does, in fact, represent the improvement that we had hoped for, here are some of our goals for the coming year.
Expand Supportive Communities: It has never been more important to feel surrounded by a community that understands you and cares about you. Athletes are often isolated after graduation, feeling both an existential loss of identity and a physical loss of their connection to teammates. Our platform provides a space to maintain those relationships and to expand your network of support no matter where you live or what you do. In 2021, we will continue to expand the service that we provide to these communities with live engagement tools, an expanded employer marketplace, and customized reporting tools to demonstrate impact.
Expand Employment Opportunities: We are excited to continue expanding our partnerships with employers in 2021 to provide direct access to best-in-class talent through our platform. Most employers recognize the valuable skills, traits, and experiences that athletes bring to the table, and we are excited to partner with more of those employers to recruit some of the top athlete talent in the country.
Be A Good Steward: As demonstrated by our pledge to supporting diverse communities and our commitment to continuous improvement in the world of sports, NextPlay is committed to being more than just a revenue generating operation. We will continue to celebrate the power of sports and the successes of teams and athletes around the world, but we will also continue to pursue our mission of enhancing athlete outcomes and making the world a more equitable place.
From our team to yours, here’s to making 2021 the type of year we all believe it can be.