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Former Athlete Founds TeamGLEAS

Give us some background on yourself and how you heard about Athlete Network.

My name is Lindsey Gleason and I'm the Founder of TeamGLEAS. I'm from Buffalo, NY and studied Business Management and Leadership at Le Moyne College where I also played Division II Volleyball. I first found out about Athlete Network through DJ Washington, the Vice President of Collegiate Relations, when he came to Le Moyne to speak to us about how Athlete Network can help student-athletes with the transition out of college. I thought the concept of connecting graduating athletes with former athletes was brilliant and it sounded like a network that might be beneficial to me in the future, so I had a meeting with DJ after his presentation and we agreed to stay in touch. I'm glad we did because here we are, 3 years later, helping each other out!

What is TeamGLEAS?

TeamGLEAS is the only web-based network that provides student-athletes with international, collegiate playing opportunities. We noticed an interest among student-athletes to pursue higher education, continue playing sports, and travel the world, so we built something that combines all three. Our online platform is free for students and allows them to connect directly with coaches overseas. TeamGLEAS not only matches students to colleges based on personal, academic, and athletic preferences, but we also assist students with processes necessary for studying overseas which can often be overwhelming, like booking international flights and getting student visas, through our partnerships with STA Travel and CIBT. All students have to do is sign up at teamgleas.com, log in, and build a profile. From there, students can search for available opportunities, and coaches can search for interested students. We're kind of like a social media, meets online dating, meets recruitment agency, minus all the red tape and membership costs for athletes. What's unique about TeamGLEAS is that we make it possible for students to continue playing college sports even after they've used up their NCAA playing eligibility in the states.
How did the idea of TeamGLEAS come about?

TeamGLEAS became an official company in July of 2012, but I thought of the concept in December of 2011 while getting my Masters in Business Management at Durham University and playing volleyball overseas in England.

After completing my undergrad degree at Le Moyne, I moved to Boston for an internship with the Division II Northeast-10 Conference, the same conference that I played volleyball for. I knew I wanted to continue working in college sports once my internship was over, so naturally, I found myself constantly checking job postings and planning out my next move through the NCAA. One day I found a post that said, “Masters, Volleyball, England.” Kind of vague, kind of scammy sounding, sort of intriguing. I had already considered the idea of getting my masters degree, and had always wanted to study abroad but was unable to during my undergrad because of sports obligations. Needless to say, I checked out the post. I had never heard of anything like it before which made it seem a little too good to be true. I put it aside for a few days, but my gut said it was the right move so I kept finding myself back at the post, just staring at it. I applied and long story short, moved to England 5 months later.

Within about 2 weeks it was clear that moving to Durham was the best decision I had ever made. Getting the opportunity to play again was incredible. I loved sitting in a classroom with people from all over the world, and I got to travel all over Europe. In December 2011, while studying at Durham University and between the volleyball and all the traveling, I entered a business competition called Dragons' Den, the UK equivalent to Shark Tank. I didn't have a business idea at the time but I was interested in startups and entrepreneurship so I really wanted to participate. I started thinking about things that I was passionate about and systems I've experienced that I thought could be improved. The first thing that came to mind was the completely random path that led me to Durham. Though the “Masters, Volleyball, England” post on the NCAA network caught my attention and the attention of 40 other American athletes that year, it was ineffective. What about all of the other student-athletes out there just like me? There had to be dozens, hundreds, thousands of student-athletes in the states who would have loved to see the world, get their masters degree, and play their sport overseas.  I felt strongly that all athletes should be aware of the option to study and play overseas, not just the select few who happened to see a vague posting on the NCAA website. I submitted a proposal on the concept, won the business competition, and haven't looked back since.

What does GLEAS stand for?

GLEAS is obviously part of my last name, which is cool, but I'm a sucker for acronyms so I really chose it after coming up with "globalizing education and sports." Yes, I know I cheated a bit with the L...but it was too much of a coincidence not to make the exception!

You mentioned your creative/IT partner is also a former athlete, tell us more about how you got connected and what it’s like working with another former athlete.

Yes, my web designer's name is Anna Martin and she's also a former NCAA student-athlete. She played Division I volleyball at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Anna started her own website design and development company called August Interactive and I found her completely by luck as well. I came across her portfolio when researching web developers, was really impressed with what I saw, and shot her an email. I'll never forget our first conversation. Anna and I talked about our NCAA playing experiences, how she had also started her own company, had been to every country in Europe and wished that a company like this had been around when she was deciding what to do after college. I knew she was exactly the kind of person that could help make TeamGLEAS a creative success before I'd even hung up the phone.  When everyone on a team is passionate about the end goal and understands what it takes to get there, it makes all the difference. I never expected to find that combination in my web designer. Anna and I mesh so well. Our personalities, work ethic, and passions are almost identical. Thank you for being awesome, Anna!

You have 10 Schools signed up, which schools are they?

We now have 11 incredible universities signed up and are still in contact with several more! TG members include University of Birmingham, University of East London, University of Exeter, Imperial College London, University of Leeds, Leeds Metropolitan University, Newcastle University, Northumbria University, University of Nottingham, University of Surrey, and University of York. Over 70% of our universities are ranked worldwide.

How did you get these Schools to commit without having an established brand yet?

Since this is such a brand new concept and I knew that universities overseas would probably just delete my emails, I decided it was crucial for me to go back to the UK and meet with them face-to-face. So I reached out to 50 of the top academic and athletic schools in the UK and toured the country, meeting with 32 schools in less than 50 days.

Some of those days were the most stressful days of my life, but the trip was 100% worth it because it would have been impossible to portray my passion and prove that a market for this exists over the phone or through emails. I was able to put a face and a campus to every university I was in contact with, and I'm confident that being able to put a face to TeamGLEAS helped them too. I obviously wish all 32 universities had joined, but returning home with over 30% on board is a huge number for a startup.

You said you are targeting about 10 sports, which ones?

The most common sports that TG universities are recruiting for are basketball, volleyball, rowing, tennis, soccer, lacrosse, golf, rugby, field hockey, track and field, and swimming. UK universities call these their focus or performance sports.

 What’s your 5 year plan as far as expansion etc?

Over the next 5 years we plan to have opportunities available for students in Australia and New Zealand in addition to the UK. Long term, we want to have as many options for our students as possible so they can search and find opportunities that fit their unique needs. Each student's motives to study and play overseas will be different and we really want to make sure that we satisfy everyone's interests. Some students will want to study in a particular city simply because they've always wanted to travel there. Others will want to live in a particular country because that's where their family is from. We've done research to learn about the most common countries of interest, but we of course can't predict them all, so our goal is to eventually provide students with a nice long drop down list of countries and locations to choose from. For now, it's important that we stick with what we know and not expand too quickly. There's a little Business 101 for ya.

What student-athlete trait has really helped you become the entrepreneur you are today?

Tough question. I've thought about this one a lot because I didn't want to just rattle off the usual list of traits like hard work, teamwork, and determination, although those have all come into play here as well!

I'd say the student-athlete trait that has helped me become who I am today is perseverance. Playing sports teaches you how to lose gracefully. If I didn't know how to handle a loss or a challenge, I never would have been strong enough to take the risks that I have over the past few years. It's almost like I thrive off of challenges and uncomfortable situations. If I wholeheartedly believe in something and someone tells me, "No," or, "That's not a good idea," it makes me work that much harder to prove them wrong.

Being an entrepreneur is about viewing what other people might see as a failure, as a learning experience. You can still have a winning season even if you lose a game or two. Life should be looked at that same way.

How can athletes learn more or get in touch with you about TeamGLEAS

To connect with coaches and look for international experiences of your own, go to teamgleas.com and select "Sign Up".  To learn more about us, follow us on Twitter @TeamGLEAS, Instagram or check out our Facebook page