Sunday’s general session of the NAIA National Convention, led by John Leavens, chief operating officer, previewed the NAIA”s Pathways concept and several of the initiatives underway in the NAIA’s growth strategy.
“The NAIA growth strategy is a niche strategy, anchored by value and differentiation,” said Leavens. The NAIA Pathways concept represents a deliberate effort to inform, evaluate and connect high school student-athletes with NAIA coaches and institutions and provide the data and analytics for institutions to assess what they are offering in their athletics programs.
“We have tens of thousands of high school students hoping to play college sports,” Leavens said. “Most of them say they don’t understand the college athletics recruiting process or know how to get the attention of coaches. On the other side, we have NAIA institutions that are interested in enrolling more students or having greater access to a higher quality pool.”
“The basics of the NAIA growth strategy is to build a path for students to learn how the process works, show what it takes to be an NAIA-caliber athlete and give them an opportunity to prove they can meet those standards that are set by NAIA coaches.”
The student-athlete path will be supported with a mobile platform for learning about the college recruiting process from current students and coaches, building a sports profile and showcasing performance data, and connecting to the eligibility process. In addition, the association will launch the NAIA Sports Showcase, a multi-sport combine to be held in Central Illinois in June.
“With the Sports Showcase, the NAIA becomes the only college athletics association that offers an official event with professionally administered assessments and the opportunity for high school students to showcase their skills in front of NAIA coaches,” said Austin Bennett, manager of championship sports and a team leader for the NAIA Sports Showcase.
The Sports Showcase is also designed to provide a cost-effective recruiting event for NAIA coaches who have been instrumental in developing the showcase format.
NAIA Pathways also addresses the institutional side of the equation through the creation of Campus and Conference Initiatives team, devoted to delivering value to the operation of athletics programs at NAIA institutions.
“What if the NAIA could provide you with not only the data to analyze potential options in sports sponsorship, recruiting demographics or student-athlete experience, but the support to help you be successful?” asked Chesney Allen, manager for Campus and Conference Initiatives. “These are just some of the many potential areas we can add value to membership as a result of a sharper focus on analytics, more reliable data and wider shared expertise.”