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Honest Game assists athletes with resources to achieve academic eligibility in NIL era

Joyce Anderson
Photo credit: Honest Game co-founder Joyce Anderson

Navigating NCAA eligibility is a daunting process, especially with the new addition of NIL deals and ever-evolving regulations. This can make it challenging for high school student-athletes to stay up-to-date and compliant. Honest Game seeks to empower students to overcome those difficulties.

Honest Game is a female-founded company that equips schools and student-athletes with the resources they need to achieve NCAA academic eligibility. It’s a first-to-market software as a service platform for high school staff, club sports, parents/guardians, and student-athletes.

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Backed by a team of experts, Honest Game was founded in 2019 to ensure that every student-athlete who has the dream of playing sports in college has that opportunity, and that they’re not facing barriers due to mistakes or lack of knowledge.

“Over 30% of high schools across the US are not setting up their students to be eligible to play college sports,” Honest Game co-founder Joyce Anderson said in a recent interview with The NIL Deal. “And in under-resourced communities, almost half of students are not on track.”

Anderson is a former high school counselor, attorney and NCAA Division I athlete. Her co-founder, Kim Michelson, ​​was the first female to play high school varsity basketball and baseball pre-Title IX.

“Sports raised me, I am who I am today because of sports,” Anderson added. “I was an NCAA high school advisor for a couple years. And what we found was that tracking academic eligibility for college sports is really complicated. Most people don’t understand it. And we realized that nobody’s using technology to help. So, we created Honest Game.”

Honest Game utilizes technology to simplify tracking NCAA academic eligibility for college sports. Their compliance software can identify student-athletes who are at risk for academic ineligibility and provide clear steps for planning a college athletic pathway.

The continued evolution of NIL makes things even trickier for high school athletes. As Anderson puts it, NIL is currently the “wild, wild west” for both high school athletes and staff.

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“High school staff are actually very nervous about it, because they don’t know how to manage it. And every state is different,” Anderson said. “It’s an exciting new frontier for families. We just want to make sure people are taking the right steps to ensure they’re not risking their future for a couple of bucks.”

NIL deals for high schoolers has opened up a brand new world of opportunity. Notable brands like Nike and Puma jumped on board quickly to ink impressive deals with notable high school athletes.

With these exciting prospects comes a new wave of requirements that must be properly navigated if student-athletes want to maintain their NCAA eligibility.

“NIL is such a hot topic, and we want people to understand how important it is that if you don’t play, because you’re ineligible, no one’s going to see you and no one’s going to offer you an NIL contract,” Anderson said. “And so for us, it’s just emphasizing the importance of academics and keeping up with not only your high school ongoing eligibility requirements – which Honest Game will be tracking soon as a pilot – but also are you on track to continue playing at the next level academically?”

When trying to acquire NIL deals, eligibility should be at the forefront of an athlete’s mind. Deals that render athletes ineligible – or academic ineligibility that prevents them from participating in sports and earning those NIL deals – must be taken into account when making decisions.

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Anderson emphasizes the importance of taking the initiative with these decisions, rather than relying on someone else to do it for you.

“The key is to be proactive for families. And I see it all the time – in chat boards, when I talk to families face-to-face, when we do webinars, when we work with schools – that people don’t understand all of the nuances,” Anderson said. “They assume someone’s taking care of it for them. ‘Oh, my counselor is going to do it. Oh, my coach will take care of it.’ And what you don’t want to do is leave it to chance. It’s actually not that difficult to manage, but you have to know where to look.”

Even though NCAA rules allow high school student athletes to monetize their name, image and likeness, rulings at the state level take precedent, meaning athletes could find themselves ineligible if they’re not following all the rules laid out for them.

These rules go beyond NIL deals. NCAA, NAIA, and JUCO all have different eligibility requirements.

“Honest Game will help you keep track of those rule changes to ensure that you’re staying on track,” Anderson said. “We emphasize that you don’t have to be an expert to get to where you need to go. But we’re here to support if needed.”

Honest Game has helped many student-athletes go from being academically ineligible to then playing sports at the university of their dreams. Honest Game offers an unbeatable combination of automatic and seamless planning strategies, along with straightforward guidance to ensure academic eligibility, making it an ideal choice for everyone.

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“We’ve watched students who see their Honest Game report freshman year and who are struggling in school, and then you watch the realization that they’re finally understanding and pairing that passion for sport with a motivation in the classroom and seeing those GPAs rise,” Anderson said. “We’ve seen students downloading their Honest Game reports and sharing it during the recruiting process – which is really valuable, because it maps out your academic eligibility for the college coaches and they can immediately see where you stand, instead of waiting for the NCAA to get back to them, which can take some time.”

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