Lacrosse is the most celebrated sport at Hopkins, representing the University in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division-I college lacrosse. The men’s team has won 44 national championships, including nine NCAA Division-I titles, 29 U.S. Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association titles and six Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association titles, making them the first all-time in titles by any college lacrosse team and second to Syracuse in NCAA-era national titles.
In July 2021, the NCAA made a major change to its policy, enabling student-athletes to monetize their intellectual property. Though a fantastic opportunity, many student-athletes are unsure as to how to navigate that sphere and make those educated decisions.
Who are you? What do you want to do when your sport goes away? What do you stand for? What’s your brand? What’s your legacy? These are questions that many student-athletes need the answers to, and one resource that strives to help them reach the peak of their athletic and personal growth is The Players NIL.
On Sept. 1 the University announced its partnership with The Players NIL in an effort to provide “name, image and likeness” (NIL) to its lacrosse programs.
In an interview with The News-Letter, The Players NIL founder Mark Koesterer drew upon his own life when asked about why he started this organization.
“Wouldn’t it be great if we could use athletics to better the lives of people around us? For those in our community — our neighbors, our friends and our family,“ he said.
As a former Division-II football player, Koesterer took his own lived experiences and made them into a program that would benefit a future generation of young athletes. From receiving advice from his father, who was a junior high gym teacher, to his collegiate career as a Division-II football player to his involvement in his children’s athletic journeys, Koesterer is motivated to promote education among athletes.
The Players NIL is an online platform designed to help student athletes through the process of professional development throughout their career, from high school athletics and college recruitment to post-collegiate careers. The program has an extensive range, covering topics such as handling mental health and rehabilitation to professional networking and raising capital for a startup.
At Hopkins, lacrosse athletes will have the opportunity to listen in on seminars, participate in Zoom meetings and attend guest panels. They are also required to complete the Five-Pillars Course, which is a specially-designed curriculum catered towards success both on and off the field. The five-hour course addresses the topics of personal brand development, influencer and brand relations, legal, tax and compliance, philanthropy and community service and financial literacy.
These courses are dynamically produced. Each course contains interactive videos, cartoons, games, tests and scores to gauge one’s knowledge of the section and keep them engaged. Students can also earn badges by moving through different stages of the course, which they can then post on social media as proof of their growing knowledge and skillset.
The Players NIL also has an abundance of partnerships aimed at increasing opportunities for its athletes. In May of 2022, the organization announced a strategic partnership with BuzzU, a software company and provider of local marketability rates, to offer marketability scores for student-athletes. Through this collaboration, students are offered a grade on their local marketability and measurement of their reach.
Though currently catered towards student-athletes of all ages and disciplines, The Players NIL is not exclusive to only that group. Koesterer explained that these skills are fundamental to those pursuing a multitude of careers, including music, science and art.
Koesterer shared his vision for the future of The Players NIL, both overall and with Hopkins.
“We’re at the beginning of this. We want to establish ourselves as an Athlete Focused Center of Excellence,” he said. “We’re here for the long term for the education of the student-athlete, to support the lacrosse program and [Hopkins] athletics as a whole.”