University of Michigan Alumni Help Educate Future Athletes Worldwide
They’ve gone from showing their student IDs in the South Quad Dining Hall to showing their passport at the airport. From the grounds of Ann Arbor, to countries worldwide, many University of Michigan student-athletes continued their athletic careers after college. While less than 2% of NCAA athletes go pro, Ainsley McCallister, Devin Gardner, Hailey Kopmeyer, and Jordan Morgan have all found professional careers in the USA and countries worldwide.
Now together again (virtually), the former Wolverines have bonded together for a bigger mission: helping educate the next generation of athletes through Uru Sports. Uru Sports is a platform that helps educate athletes on their opportunities to continue competing, on the realities of what teams are really like to play for worldwide, and helps facilitate connections in the sports recruiting world. Founded by Ainsley McCallister, its goal is to add transparency to the inadequate and inefficient sports recruiting system. Although McCallister, Gardner, Kopmeyer, and Morgan have all described amazing pro-athlete experiences worldwide, it’s not without its unknowns, challenges, and horror stories…
McCallister played field hockey for the University of Michigan from 2010-2014, becoming an All-American and multi-year captain. After she graduated, she didn’t realize she could continue playing competitively. For McCallister: “I had no idea how field hockey operated in other countries and that in fact, there were tens of thousands of hockey teams across the world that would pay for me to come play. I could be a pro field hockey player.” But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Through McCallister’s career, she played for seven pro teams in Europe and Australia, but would only recommend about three of them.
“There was a major disconnect in what was offered and what was delivered. On one team in Australia, it wasn’t until I arrived that I learned the team wasn’t actually planning on paying me (like their past 5 players from the year before), and that instead of five high level trainings a week, I’d have 2 where sometimes we’d have five players show up.”
After her experiences, she knew that there had to be a better way to know what it was really like at various teams: “If I would have been able to talk to previous international players (imports), I would have known that that particular club never paid their pro athletes and either found another team that aligned with my personal goals. Everyone has a unique, valuable sports story, and there needs to be a platform to share. That’s why I started Uru Sports.”
Listen to more of McCallister’s story, here.
Gardner made it to the NFL playing for the Patriots and Steelers (Let’s Go Blue!), but there’s another team less on the public’s radar: The Nojima Sagamihara Rise located in Japan. Football? In Japan? Yes, believe it. On his episode of Uru’s podcast The Global Game (also produced by alum Emma Way), Gardner exclaims:
“I had no idea they played football in Japan and I thought there’d be no chance I’d actually go but to be honest the competition was for sure a high level… I committed to play there instead of to a team in Canada, because they were so into football and just for the experience of living there. It was life-changing.”
It was his global experience that helped him find his love for teaching young kids about sports, and we’re helping share his story through Uru’s platform and podcast. “You just don’t know what to expect, it’s the other side of the world. TV doesn’t do it justice…I think it’s tough. The sport is dominated so much by America. Japanese football is not going to make it on espn. So if you’re looking for an opportunity, there are people who can put you in contact to where you want to go, but you have to be proactive vs. sit and wait. You have to really be a go getter and connect with the right people.”
Listen to more of Gardner’s story, here.
One of University of Michigan’s favorite post players on the men’s basketball team, Morgan has now played for six teams in five different countries. FIVE! Now a member of the Slovenian national team (which he found out about the opportunity in a random email btw), there was a lot he wished he knew about the global basketball circuit. From contract negotiation, to understanding what needs to happen for travel, visas, and accommodation, Morgan knows there is more that can be done to educate athletes navigating this opaic world of sports. As a close partner and data consultant for Uru, Morgan is ready to make an impact on the next generation of athletes: “Having an app where you could get information and know what teams are really like overseas, and how to get to the next level would be unbelievably helpful. You’d be able to make the right decision for you, and feel confident in your next stage in sport.”
Listen to more of Morgan’s story, here.
Kopmeyer has played for big NWSL teams like the Orlando Pride and Seattle Reign, crossing paths with global stars like Hope Solo and more. Beyond her US experience, Kopmeyer has also played for professional teams in Cyprus and Australia. Kopmeyer was working a corporate job in LA while she shockingly heard from friends that saw on twitter that she was drafted to SeattleThe way she continued finding teams was no less structured.
“I got a random instagram DM about seeing if I’d be interested in playing for their team in Cyprus and a text from a past teammate about playing in Australia. More and more women are playing overseas (for the money and experience) but it’s a completely unorganized system to navigate. So many great open positions existed that I’m sure I’m missing out on just cause I didn’t know teams were interested in recruiting a goalie. I’m not sure what it’s like to navigate for men but in women’s soccer there’s absolutely no system in place to help there.”
Now working with Just Women’s Sports, Kopmeyer has been in close connection with fellow University of Michigan alum founder Ainsley McCallister to help provide education and insight into the world of soccer to help other athletes along their sports path.
Listen to more of Kopmeyer’s story, here.
In addition to the above athletes, Uru Sports has consulted with former athletes Shelina Zadorski, Zeke Harris, Moe Wagner, Nkem Ezurike, Sarah Lee, Lexi Dannemiller, Jehu Chesson, Emma Way, and more. With former Michigan athletes, former coaches, and multiple alum donors getting behind Uru Sports, McCallister and the Uru Team are set to change the way the world recruits:
“To me it’s crazy that most sports tech focuses on refining a skill instead of helping athletes find the right competitive training environment,” says McCallister, “When an athlete is in a great-fit competitive playing environment, they’re outside their comfort zone, they’re being challenged daily, they’re getting exposure to new styles of play and skills, and they can truly improve. At Uru, we are out to amplify athletes dreams and help them make it a reality. I am incredibly grateful for this wonderful Michigan Community, both the athletes helping us span across sports and the Michigan donors for backing our Uru Team. There’s nothing like a supportive community – we are excited for all that’s to come. Forever Go Blue!”
Photos courtesy of athletes’ Instagram, Fox Sports Detroit, Mgoblue.com player profiles, and more.