Improving Prospects: BYU’s Built4Life program focuses on long-term athlete success beyond the playing field

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© BYU PHOTO 2021

College athletics has hit the Big Leagues.

   While BYU and other athletics departments around the country balance student academic achievement with on-the-field wins, a new stewardship has hit coaches, administrators, parents and the athletes themselves. Through a combination of new state laws and NCAA regulations, athletes now have more protections and opportunities to make money off their name, image and likeness (NIL).

   Beyond sending their athletes out into the world to make a quick buck, the BYU athletics department has launched the Built4Life program that is designed to help student-athletes develop the skills necessary to prepare them for professional life and opportunities beyond their collegiate years while empowering them to take advantage of current NIL-related opportunities.

   “Billy Nixon (director of player experience for BYU football) and I had been talking about the changing landscape and space available with the new NIL opportunities,” says Gary Veron, associate athletic director of student-athlete experience at BYU. “We want to do things right. We also wanted to make the most of opportunities given to our student-athletes.”

   The result is the Built4Life program, which teaches participating athletes (the program is voluntary and open to all BYU student-athletes) four pillars of career success: learn, brand, work and love. It is designed to make “adulting” a bit easier for students transitioning from college to career.

Learn

   As a university, it is the primary mission of BYU to educate students and prepare them for the world ahead. However, BYU’s athletics department has identified some areas of particular need and interest — and is offering solutions. With the increased financial offerings that come with the NIL changes, business is a particular area of focus.

   “We offer courses in how to launch a business with NIL,” Gary says. “We bring in tax experts, entrepreneurs and others who offer real-world insight.”

Brand

   Branding is more than having a logo or a great vibe on social media. Built4Life informs Cougars about branding and what it can do for earning potential.

   “We remind them that everything they do affects their brand,” Gary says. “Branding makes its way into every area of their lives, including their private lives. We explain that BYU gives their individual brands great value, but everyone and everything else in their lives affects it, too.”

   To assist with this aspect, BYU works to connect current athletes with alumni who can help them build a brand that works.

Work

   One of the great benefits of the Built4Life program is the exclusive internship and work-experience programs associated with it. BYU has partnered with the Salt Lake Chamber and Downtown Alliance, the Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce and Silicon Slopes to create hundreds of legitimate, helpful, instructional experiences for athletes throughout the department.

   “We are looking to provide rich, meaningful experiences that help our athletes learn about different industries and prepare them to be valuable parts of the workforce,” Gary says. “I want our athletes to do such a good job that they are being offered jobs after graduation.”

   BYU is looking to develop specific partnerships with 300 elite, competitive and wide-ranging companies to offer a variety of available experiences.

   “We want enough connections in the Rolodex that we can pair athletes based on their interest level and industry,” Gary says.

Love

   The Built4Life team knows that life isn’t just about making money in a career. Giving back and responsible advocacy enriches the community and the lives of those who sponsor it. BYU is working to prepare athletes to start helping others now and in the future.

   “We want our athletes to embrace the causes they are passionate about,” Gary says. “Many of them are returned missionaries and already understand the power that comes from service. We want to support our athletes as they work to improve the world around them.”

   For example, six athletes have already created their own non-profit organizations and are giving back to their communities, with causes as varied as the athletes themselves.

   “My goal is that in two years from now, half of our athletes will have created their own non-profit organization or are working with a reputable non-profit,” Gary says.

   It’s a foundation for loving services that will enrich their lives after BYU.

   For more information about the program, visit BYUBuilt4Life.org or reach out to Gary at (801) 422-6962 or gary_veron@byu.edu.

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Greg Bennett

Greg Bennett is an editor and writer with Bennett Communications. His primary responsibilities are with Utah Valley Magazine and the company's custom publications division. He's the father of four children and has been married to his wife, Adria, for 19 years. Contact Greg at greg.utahvalley360@gmail.com.

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