Exciting new opportunities are on the horizon for student-athletes at Emory University. The Eagle Edge program has been a part of the athletic department since 2018, but the department is making the program a focal point of the student-athlete experience. The initiative provides student-athletes with supplemental resources outside the classroom and away from the playing field. New additions to Eagle Edge include in-house Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) counselor Kalyn Wilson, transition support for incoming athletes and nutritional services based within the department itself.
In an interview with the Wheel, Athletic Director Keiko Price discussed how the program goes beyond the competition.
“The way I look at Eagle Edge is to supplement the athletic experience,” Price said. “Coaches are providing support on the track, in the pool, or on the field. Instructors in the classroom are helping with [athletes’] academic experience. I look at this as the third part of us really making sure that [they are] taking advantage of [their] opportunities at Emory.”
To devote more attention and support to the growth of the Eagle Edge program, the athletics department turned to a familiar face. Tristan Reaves spent several years at Emory as a strength coach for the athletic teams. Before coming to Emory, he played football at University of Central Florida and was involved in a program similar to Eagle Edge.
“I got involved in a lot of community service and career development events [at UCF], and I really enjoyed it,” Reaves said. “I actually started my own business out of it at the time. I’ve always been very passionate about giving back to my community and working with athletes.”
Any of the athletes he has trained can attest to his devotion to the success of those he coaches both on and off the field. As a result, the transition to Coordinator of Student-Athlete Success Programs makes perfect sense for Reaves. He describes his new role as “threefold: helping freshmen student-athletes transition into college athletics, making our current student-athletes’ experience here the best [it] can be and ultimately helping our student-athletes transition out of athletics.”
The latest version of the Eagle Edge program will place a greater emphasis on utilization of Name, Image and Likeness (NIL). Reaves organized an NIL panel in February 2022 to give athletes further information about their opportunities. The panel included Emory Law School professor Sydnee Mack, the co-founder of Grit Player Services David Jaffin and the CEO of WalkOn Nation Michael Willett. Additionally, all of the athletes at Emory are provided with an INFLCR app account, where they can access photos from competition, find opportunities to take advantage of NIL and easily document their use of NIL.
Given how new the concept of NIL is, education will continue in the future as policies and benefits evolve. An NIL event in October will focus on proper use of NIL, including the intricacies of legal protection and distribution of earned funds. To supplement the NIL event, Eagle Edge will also be hosting a financial literacy workshop in November.
Reaves wants the Eagle Edge program to become an important part of Emory’s recruiting process.
“When coaches are bringing recruits to campus, the Eagle Edge is one of the talking points,” Reaves said. “They come into my office because they’re so excited to introduce these [incoming] freshmen to all these amazing opportunities to enrich their experience.”
While Eagle Edge is getting remodeled, it is not the only major project in the works. In March 2022 the athletic department announced a brand deal with Nike that went into effect at the beginning of this September. All athletic teams will now be representing Emory with the Nike logo on their apparel. Previously, coaches could choose which brand their team would wear.
Price is at the helm of this change which she believes will inevitably demonstrate a sense of unity among student-athletes and play to the benefit of presentation.
“I think for me, when you talk about excellence, and you talk about community and you talk about alignment, which is important to me as an athletic director…that is really tied into our teams being unified, and part of that is having some alignment with the way that we look and how we’re dressed,” Price said. “Having everyone wearing the same gear from the same apparel company is important for community building and excellence.”
Many athletes, including myself, have already seen the impact of the Nike deal. On the cross-country team, all of the team-issued shirts and jerseys are Nike. At the annual Takeoff Event, athletes were told to expect Nike backpacks and sweatshirts from the athletic department in the near future to further unify the athletic community on campus.
There will also be multiple incentives for coaches and teams provided through the deal to purchase and receive additional Nike products.
“With this deal there are bonuses where you can get [additional] Nike money,” Price said. “Teams can get Nike money if they make it to the postseason, if they win a UAA championship [or] if they win a national championship. There’s a bonus for GPAs—highest GPA for men’s and women’s team [as well as] bonuses for where we stand in our final Director’s Cup standings.”
A well-known company like Nike is also attractive to potential Emory athletes looking at the school. Many of the nation’s highest performing athletic programs, such as The University of North Carolina, Stanford University (Calif.) and Syracuse University (N.Y.), are sponsored by Nike.
“Having a name like Nike to back an athletic program is huge from a recruiting standpoint because it’s just the brand recognition and you want to wear Nike when you’re performing at your highest level. I think it’s a huge win for Emory Athletics,” Reaves said.
The athletic department is looking for not only more wins off the field, but more wins on the field. Price is excited for the upcoming conference seasons and additional projects she is working on.
“This year, I’m looking forward to more UAA and National Championships [that] I know we’re going to win,” Price said. “I’m looking forward to some of the bigger projects we’re working on that I think are important, whether it be some facility upgrades, whether it be the historic timeline that should be done by this time next year . . . that’ll be the focal point of [the Woodpec] . . . I’m really looking forward to [it] because it really captures our excellence and showcases it.”
But ultimately, the main excitement is, in the words of Price, “[moving] the needle to help our student-athletes flourish.”