Playing the Field: How a Friendly Alumni Soccer Game can Double as a Networking Event
Most alumni remember their collegiate years fondly, but this tendency can be even more pronounced in the case of alumni who played sports in college. For the overwhelming majority of collegiate athletes, their years competing at college represent the furthest they ever advance in their sport, the highest level of competition they ever experience and their years of peak physical condition. All of these factors combine to foster fantasy-like memories of former athletes’ college years. Sponsoring an annual alumni game provides colleges with the perfect opportunity to capitalize on alumni’s feelings of nostalgia. New York University hosts such a game for their men’s and women’s soccer programs, where alumni are encouraged to return to Manhattan and enjoy an evening of fun soccer with the current varsity squads.
Alumni received an email in late August asking for an RSVP to the September 2015 alumni game, which included multiple small-sided 8 v 8 games featuring mixed squads of alumni and current varsity members, followed by a full-field 11 v 11 game for 30 minutes also with mixed squads. The mixed squads resulted in a fun, casual atmosphere that encouraged alumni to interact with the varsity team. Also, for the first time, the men and women shared the field, albeit on two separate halves, in an effort to foster further integration between the programs. Before the competition began, the alumni introduced themselves and their current post-grad position. Following the games, NYU hosted a reception where alumni and current students could network with each other over dinner. The intense camaraderie among varsity athletes, who hold a mutual understanding of the significant time commitment and dedication it takes to be a student-athlete, translates to a strong desire to help each other wherever possible, even in pursuing post-graduation jobs.
Email Invitation to NYU Alumni Game
Despite the NYU alumni game’s success, the school could benefit even more from the event by promoting it more aggressively and coordinating with the general alumni association in addition to the NYU Athletics Alumni group. Further, the event could have received increased traction if placed during parents/homecoming weekend, which actually turned out to be the following weekend. After the game, NYU posted pictures from the event to the NYU Athletics Alumni Network Facebook page, and also emailed the same photos directly to participants. The post-game communication did not, however, include any reminders to follow up with connections forged at the game or a reminder of the upcoming varsity schedule, forgoing an opportunity to stimulate interest in the current varsity season.
Photos Posted to NYU Athletics Alumni Facebook Page
Undoubtedly, NYU is a school ideally situated in the heart of New York City to host such an event since so many of its alumni remain in the tristate area. Sponsoring an alumni game, however, is an idea that should have universal appeal for universities. If timed correctly, such as during homecoming/parents weekend or a holiday weekend like Columbus Day, there is no reason for schools not to experience a high attendance rate. Obviously, a sport such as football does not lend itself to an alumni game, but sports like basketball, volleyball, tennis or swimming could all potentially work well. In general, hosting an alumni game is a fantastic opportunity for universities to simultaneously stimulate alumni interest in the current varsity season and their alma mater, and to provide the current varsity student athletes with a unique chance to network and receive valuable advice and guidance from a respected source.
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