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"Ohio Golfer forfeits High School Eligibility in signing for NIL Representation"

Yesterday I was sitting at my desk doing some research on an article I was writing about NIL in interscholastic athletics and my phone buzzed.

As I picked it up, I saw a message from a buddy who I coached high school golf with a long time ago with the words, “Did you see this yet?” and a picture of an article from the Columbus Dispatch.

I like to think I stay on top of NIL happenings at the high school level as good as anyone, but this article was still in my queue to read. 


Click Here to read the full article:


As I dove into the article, I received 3 more texts from former coaching colleagues (remember, I coached high school boys and girls golf at a large high school in Ohio that repeatedly competed against top level schools throughout the state).

Similar messages from all:

“Did you see this?”
“Wow, this is crazy!”
“Wonder if this will cause the OHSAA to open the NIL discussion again?” 

(Maybe, but I don’t think they did themselves any favors in what was presented last time.  It’d need some serious overhauling to get AD’s to feel comfortable in the OHSAA’s ability to manage everything).

It’s interesting to note that this isn’t the first time a high student-athlete has decided to forfeit their high school eligibility for Name, Image, & Likeness activities (or the potential there of).

But what’s unique (or interesting to me) about this situation is that:


  • It happened in Ohio (which is where I live, and coached) 

  • Ohio is a state whose state athletic association’s member schools voted down permitting NIL activity at the high school level (and is the only state for that to occur in thus far)

  • It’s a young (sophomore) female athlete in a largely under-publicized, in regards to NIL, sport (golf). 


Additionally, as the article in the Columbus Dispatch stated, 

the announcement of the forfeiture isn’t due to her already signing an NIL deal, it’s actually because of her signing with a sports management company for name, image, and likeness representation, 

which under the OHSAA guidelines violates her amateurism status for Ohio interscholastic sports.

As her dad (who also is her high school coach) said in the article, 

“It’s more about representation and guidance (through the NIL process) than anything else,” 
“We've had a lot of companies reach out to represent Mia and we don't want to do anything wrong to jeopardize her college eligibility.”

The last statement is one which I've heard from numerous AD's and student-athletes in Ohio that are being recruiting by high level Division I programs. None of them up to this point have completely move forward in the way Mia has, but, I do think there might be more coming in the future.

I’ve actually had the opportunity to watch Mia play, and she is really, really good.

The way she carries herself is a testament to her maturity, and the ability to handle the pressure of all that she has going on is well beyond her years. 

And let’s face it, she’s competed in numerous LPGA tournaments and held her own. 

But as I continued to read through this article, I came to a few overarching conclusions and considerations that I think may continue to be part of the conversations (or need to be) moving forward. 

AND, it’s important for people to understand and contemplate these without initial condemnation of this publicized decision at first glance.

Please also understand I’ll never take a stance on whether high school NIL is right or wrong, because as someone that focuses on HIGH SCHOOL NIL EDUCATION, I always tell schools, families, parents - it’s not my job to bias anyone, but rather, my goal is to support everyone in understand all of this further to make better decisions focused on safety, compliance, and growth. 

 

1. It’s not unheard of for elite golfers at young ages to not participate in high school sports.

I’ve been blessed to work with and be around some of the top level Division I elite golfers and college programs.  The path to get where they want to be is very different for all of them, but I’ve known quite a few student-athletes (even during my high school golf coaching days of 2006-2011) move to warmer climates, participate on junior tours that have been developed to competed against highest level of competition at tremendously challenge courses, as well as attend schools (both in person and online) that built for a different type of educational and athletic experience / focus.

 

2. High School policies / regulation are extremely unique for each state.

And while the Ohio High School Athletic Association does not allow NIL activity, it also does not allow student-athletes to sign with any type of professional agency for representation. 

Will this cause them to revisit both with their membership?  

Will this cause a state legislator or two consider how to put their stamp on something in this environment?  

I honestly don’t know, but, I have heard from individuals from states across the country that have transitioned into permitting NIL that if a rule their state association has is causing top level student-athletes to not participate because of missed opportunities that technically shouldn’t have anything to do with their athletic ability / school, it’s time to revisit it. 

And if you want to go a step further, most state associations revenue comes from tournament ticket sales. If a state's top level student-athletes aren't participating in those state tournaments, the questions start to circulate on whether the revenue will go down as well. 

Again, I'm not saying that's a good reason to change the rules, just laying out some considerations. 

(And if anyone from the OHSAA is reading this, feel free to reach out as I’m always here to help!)


 

3. Is the value of high school sport participation going down because of NIL? 

I’ve been asked that question numerous times recently, and in some sports that may be happening. 


In golf, high level recruiting happens most often during elite summer tournaments and from national rankings. 


That’s just a fact. 


Does that mean it’s the only way to play at the next level? 


Absolutely not. 


But a 9 or 18 hole high school match score at a course that isn’t challenging (in comparison to larger, extremely competitive tournaments) isn’t something that most high level Division I college coaches are making (their career) decisions from. 


Additionally, when you look at the data in regards to high school student-athletes and NIL monetization, the amount of student-athletes actually participating in NIL activities is extremely small. 


For example - in an interview recently of a reporter in Savannah, Georgia discussing NIL activities and percentages of participation, he stated that there were around 44 deals thus far with the available 400,000+ student-athletes.


That equates to roughly 0.0001% of Georgia high school student-athletes participating in NIL activity.  

Does that fractional percentage of NIL activity mean that the value of high school sports is going down? 


I don’t think so. 


And let’s face it, high School sports has a lot of issues…. 


  • Crazy parents. 

  • Lack of Officials. 

  • Spectator Behavior. 

  • Financial Support. 


But does that mean we love it, or value it, any less? 

Probably not, at least not for me. 

Whether you believe in the impact of educational based athletics is an entirely different topic, one which I believe can also include applications of life skill development through applications of NIL (but again, that’s a soapbox I could go on for a long time!). 

No one knows what’s going to happen in the high school athletics environment, but I’m a firm believer that kids like Mia Hammond are not the issue. 


 

4. Give her Grace. 

I’ve already seen comments in response to the article that are on the negative side, saying she doesn’t care about her teammates, or her school, or what high school sports is all about. 

That’s not fair… and it’s not for any of us to decide for her or her family, or make a judgment regarding. 

Those comments are what’s wrong with high school sports - people thinking they have more power than they do, and hiding behind keyboards to let it fly on young kids. 

Ultimately this is a family decision for them, and if we’re being really honest - in her stage of development with the opportunities she currently has both on and off the course (and has already had), I think most of us would be advising her to do exactly what she’s doing if it’s what her and her family believe is the right next step. 

As I tell every one of the high schools and the thousands of stakeholders I’ve worked with, understanding NIL at the high school level can be cloudy, and it’s even tougher when you’re faced with a decision that impacts your ability to participate in a sport (that you love) in any way (whether that’s for your school or not). 

My belief will always be that we must continually focus on the educational needs in supporting ALL students (and stakeholders) in regards to high school NIL policies and considerations NIL activities from a safety and compliance perspective. 

A very low percentage of high school student-athletes are going to be in the same position as Mia and her family, but all we can hope is that whatever pathway is chosen, it’s the right decision for the future of the student in all areas, not just sports, and is one which the family has decided together with the student athlete and their best interest at the forefront. 

From all looks of it, that’s exactly what Mia and her family did, and bravo to them. 

Here to help in any way that I can!

Keep Being Awesome!

- Doc G


 

Dr. Scott Grant, or “Doc G” as his students call him, is former high school teacher, coach, and athletic director turned college professor in educational leadership / social media / branding, and founded Triple Threat Leadership LLC.  (www.triplethreatleadership.com) & NIL-Education (www.nil-education.com).

Need resources for Personal Branding & Social Media Education? Check out Dr. Grant's "Branding of ME" course, utilized by over 10,000 students, and integrated into hundreds of school curriculums across the country.

Need help navigating Name, Image, and Likeness and preparing your program? Dr. Grant offers services to assist, and will develop specific tools / resources that fit your districts need.

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