While making her mark on and off the volleyball court, Oglethorpe sophomore defensive specialist Laney Higgins has connected with national name, image, likeness (NIL) legal expert and former Oglethorpe cheerleader Kristi Dosh.
Both have become leaders in the NIL sports marketing industry, linked by their passion for sports and Oglethorpe University.
Born and raised in Tampa, Fla., Higgins has been playing volleyball since she was 8 years old. She tried basketball, softball, tennis, karate among other sports, but she “fell in love” with volleyball. She attended Carrollwood Day School where she earned all-county honorable mention and was named an American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) “Phenom.”
Off the court, she was a four-time Academic All-American and received scholarships from USA Volleyball Florida Region, Positive Coaching Alliance and Heart of Champion. She signed the first of her 12 NIL deals immediately after volleyball season her senior year. Florida high school sports rules wouldn’t allow NIL deals, so she had to wait until she completed her high school career.
She sustained four concussions as a student-athlete in high school and was connected by a family friend to the concussion technology company Q-Collar, the makers of a band NFL and college football players were around their neck under the helmet. Higgins became Q-Collar’s first volleyball player to sign an NIL deal, and in the process was the first-ever female high school athlete in Florida to have an NIL deal. That’s when she met Dosh, a 2003 Oglethorpe graduate and former captain of the Stormy Petrels cheerleading squad, who reported on the business of sports.
“When I signed my first NIL deal, I began pitching different media members on it, because I wanted to provide as much value to the company as possible. One of the people I sent an email to was Kristi Dosh, and she shared with me that she was a proud Oglethorpe graduate. From there, we really hit it off and she’s been such an awesome mentor to me.”
Dosh became interested in the business side of sports during law school at the University of Florida. She had always been a sports fan, but it wasn’t until law school that she was exposed to the business and legal issues in sports. While she was at UF, the Gators won a football national championship and two basketball national championships. She saw firsthand the impact those titles had on the university.
She started a blog in law school on the business of sports, and continued writing her own blogs and other people’s sites into her early years as an attorney. She eventually focused on only covering the business side of college sports, and her career path changed. She landed a book deal about the business of college sports and in 2011 was hired by ESPN to be a full-time sports business reporter back.
“Laney reached out to me in my capacity as a journalist and pitched her first NIL deal when she was still a senior in high school,” Dosh said. “It wasn’t until I was interviewing her about that deal that I learned she had committed to Oglethorpe. I was so impressed by her early efforts to monetize her NIL and also the confidence it took for her to reach out to a national reporter to get publicity for herself. I was excited she was attending my alma mater, so we stayed in touch after that.”
Higgins described Dosh as the most reputable and knowledgeable expert on NIL and the business of college sports business. Though they haven’t yet met in person, they have done virtual panels together, and Higgins tries to collaborate with her whenever she can.
“I don’t know how much guidance I can claim to have imparted, because Laney has incredible instincts all on her own,” Dosh said. “I’m certainly always here if she needs a sounding board. I spend virtually all of my professional time now reporting, consulting and educating on NIL, and it’s incredibly special to have made a connection through my work with an Oglethorpe student-athlete. I brag about Laney all the time as I speak to college athletic administrators and athletes across the country as a shining example of how DIII athletes can leverage their NIL successfully.”
Higgins applied to be a part of Meta’s women’s sports marketing education program, NIL Empower 2.0. She was the only delegate in the cohort of 30 of the top female athletes from around the country that was from a small school.
“I tried to work as hard as possible to leverage the opportunity, and I was fortunate to take home the program’s Hustle Award,” Higgins said. “As part of my participation in the program, we were tasked with creating a content franchise for our social media channels, which I did called ‘W4LKING AND T4LKING.’”
She is currently producing a second season of ‘‘W4LKING AND T4LKING,” her Instagram Live series promoting college female student-athletes, and it is “empowHERed” or sponsored by lululemon. Among the companies she has agreements with are lululemon, Champs, Outback, Meta, Quest Nutrition, and Cerave.
“This is the first national NIL campaign lululemon has done, which is so incredible for me to be a part of,” Higgins said. “As you can see, I have a unique NIL journey and one that’s been very life changing for me. As a result of several of my NIL deals, I have been fortunate to give back more than $5,000 to charities such as USF Health, the College Football Playoff’s Extra Yard for Teachers and the Women’s Sports Foundation.”
Higgins is a frequent speaker on national programs about NIL. She was selected by Instagram to be a panelist at the NIL Summit, was featured on a panel for the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics convention this past summer, hosted a session on NIL at the AVCA convention in December called “Navigating NIL for all Levels of College Volleyball”. In late January she hosted a virtual session on NIL for the Creighton University volleyball team.
As National Girls and Women in Sports Day approaches, Oglethorpe will host a special day of sports clinics and a women’s basketball game and women’s lacrosse game on Feb. 11. The day will begin at 11:30 a.m. with clinic options presented by each sport available at Oglethorpe. Volleyball, soccer, basketball, tennis and lacrosse each offer their own sessions, but those looking to explore multiple sports may choose an all-encompassing session. The latter will also include track & field and golf. Then, participants are encouraged to attend either the women’s basketball game or lacrosse game, which both start at 1 p.m. on campus.
“I’ve recently been focused on donating a significant portion of my NIL proceeds to benefit the Women’s Sports Foundation,” Higgins said. “I met their CEO Danette Leighton, and she really inspired me with how they support girls and women in sports. I feel that I have been blessed with a motivation and platform to help support other girls and women in sports just as I have been supported throughout my journey.”
Dosh said National Girls and Women in Sports Day is important because study after study shows that women who participate in sports have higher levels of self-confidence, more positive body image, improved mental health and learn such skills as teamwork, leadership, time management and more.
“One study showed 80% of female Fortune 500 executives played competitive sports growing up” Dosh said. “Not only do these insights make a compelling case for why it’s imperative that women have access to play sports, but it speaks directly to Oglethorpe’s call to ‘make a life, make a living and make a difference.’”
Higgins loves being a Stormy Petrel and is glad she chose Oglethorpe.
“We have an amazing coach in Olivia Tidmore, and I’m learning each and every practice from her and my teammates,” Higgins said. “My focus is always on being the best teammate possible and helping the team be successful however I can. I’m studying both communications and business at Oglethorpe, and it’s been amazing. I love the school, my teammates, my coach and our entire Stormy Petrel family. My experience at Oglethorpe has exceeded every expectation from when I first committed.”
Oglethorpe was a special experience for Dosh just as it has been for Higgins. She described her time at Oglethorpe as “incredible” and appreciated her fellow students, professors and administrators. Since graduating, she served on the Board of Trustees and has served as an alumni interviewer at scholarship weekends.
Higgins plans to work in sports marketing, and her NIL deals have given her a head start on her career after volleyball. Her advice to female student-athletes is to take advantage of the small window in college to prepare for a post-playing career.
“There’s nothing better than being a student-athlete” Higgins said. “Only 4% of high school volleyball players make it to play in college, so I don’t take that lightly. It’s really an honor and something we all have an ability to leverage. I live by the motto that the moment you stop caring what others think about you is the moment you start to become successful.
“I used to fear putting myself out there because I’m an introvert, but now I see how much being myself and sharing it with the world can be really rewarding. There’s nothing better than getting messages from other small college athletes saying that I’ve inspired them to put their all into NIL. I want my efforts to help open the door for other female small school student-female athletes that follow me in future years.”
Dosh said from the very beginning of NIL, there has been a false narrative that women wouldn’t have as many opportunities as men with NIL.
“It’s simply not true. There are women all across the country making six and seven figures with NIL, not to mention many others making enough to cover what their scholarship doesn’t or allowing them to buy one more plane ticket, tank of gas or meal. Even small amounts of NIL money can be lifechanging for some of these athletes. More importantly, only a few years in we’re already seeing women dramatically changing their post-graduation plans because of the doors NIL has opened.”