Oregon State University’s Beyond Football program was created in 2013 to help student-athletes identify their interests and skills by connecting them with professionals in a range of industries, including craft beer. Here, participants are seen at Randall Children’s Hospital in Portland. Photo courtesy of Oregon State Athletics
By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
For all the glory we see on the football field, student-athletes also face unique challenges — including preparing for life after college- or pro-level athletics. At Oregon State University (OSU), the Beyond Football program is a tool the Beavers use to set up student-athletes for post-graduation success.
Kayla M. Gross, Beyond Football coordinator for OSU, explains that the program was created to help the student-athletes identify their interests, skills and passions, and from there determine a matching professional direction. That direction might even lead them to Oregon’s ever-growing craft brewing industry. “We connect student-athletes to business professionals, through leaders and community members who will expand their worldview, way of thinking, and network,” says Gross, “and foster an understanding of community, global needs, and a culture of volunteerism and lifelong civic engagement.”
Empower, Engage, Prepare
Started in 2013 with a donation from an OSU alumnus, Beyond Football is a component of OSU athletic director Todd Stansbury’s focus on developing “everyday champions.” All student-athletes participate in the program, which aligns with football head Coach Gary Andersen’s belief that athletes should train and prepare for success not just on the gridiron, but off the field. Currently, approximately 120 student-athletes have participated.
“Student-athletes that achieve success in the classroom and community are prepared to make an impact after graduation,” says Gross.
The program centers around three central concepts: empower, engage and prepare. Through a diverse array of programming, seminars, classes and other opportunities, students train for success in life and the workplace just as they train for success in competitive athletics.
Staff monitor success by measuring increases in key metrics: team GPA, number of undergraduates employed after graduation and number of hours volunteered. And the numbers say the work is paying off. “Over the last winter and spring 2015 academic terms, Oregon State Football has posted the highest cumulative and term GPAs since 2009,” says Gross. “Football student-athletes have also increased their volunteerism to one appearance per week.”
From Block and Tackle, to Brew and Tap?
Through university and industry connections, Beyond Football has connected OSU football players with companies and professionals in a range of industries, including manufacturing, distribution, sales, financial services, law enforcement, health/medical and staffing. “We aim to provide student-athletes with opportunities to meet representatives from many different companies and agencies,” explains Gross, “so they can make informed decisions about what career options align with their skill sets and interests.”
Players also gained greater awareness of opportunities in the craft beer industry during a luncheon in Portland, where two OSU fermentation scientists led a presentation about craft beer in Oregon and the U.S. “It’s an industry we’d like our players to have more exposure to,” says Gross. “Oregon State University has an exceptional Fermentation Science program, and we recognize how important the beer and wine industry is to our state and how strong it is.”
The goal is to help students identify potential career paths, while also fostering skills to succeed in any professional endeavor. “We have students majoring in business, communication arts and public health, among others, that would all have something to contribute to a successful business,” says Gross. “They have high levels of discipline, dedication, perseverance and sense of team. Through our program, we’re fostering the development of their character, sense of innovation, and understanding of civic involvement. We believe those three attributes are the cornerstones of a successful career.”
Beyond Football continues to evolve to better meet student needs. Behind the scenes, the Beyond Football team is building on their successes and student enthusiasm, while also building more relationships with businesses, nonprofit organizations and other entities.
“We take a lot of pride in the fact that our student-athletes have increased their GPAs so significantly over the past three semesters and currently have the highest term GPA in the past several years,” says Gross. “Success in the classroom and involvement in the community is really the foundation for the other components of the program, so we’re very excited about what’s to come.”
Is your organization interested in getting involved with Beyond Football?
Contact Kayla Gross, Program Coordinator
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.