Ainsley McCallister (MVS ’14) is using the knowledge she gained during her sports career overseas to develop an online platform for the next wave of athletes looking to play abroad.
The former stand-out University of Michigan field hockey player founded Uru Sports, a global sports platform that connects athletes to information and opportunities to play abroad after their collegiate careers are over. Uru currently has athletes in 28 countries using its platform to connect with playing opportunities tied to master’s programs or semi-pro teams.
“We’re helping athletes connect and learn what the real experience and opportunities are and will be like so they can help set up the best experience for themselves,” McCallister said. “Sports operate very differently in the US than around the world…there are global opportunities in so many sports, but people are just unaware of them. Sports can open doors to incredible things. A lot of the time when we graduate you cut the sports side out of you instead of using sports as a platform to open doors for learning, travel, education, and scholarships.”
After graduation, McCallister began playing professionally for two English field hockey clubs in Nottingham and Canterbury. She also played for clubs in Australia, for European Club championships in Holland, and she even coached in South Africa.
However, while competing, she realized there was a lack of transparent knowledge about opportunities for athletes looking to play overseas. According to McCallister, there wasn’t an athlete-focused platform dedicated to finding great opportunities.
“Right now people use their connections, but if you don’t know anyone in Australia, it’s really hard to find an opportunity to play there,” she continued. “The other way is to use an agent system, but for a lot of sports, an agent system doesn’t exist. Furthermore, some agent systems can be shady. So what I was hearing, especially from basketball players, was the need for a transparent platform where athletes can connect and find out what an opportunity is like. Uru Sports is empowering athletes to take ownership of their professional careers.”
I loved all the labs where we actually could learn about the body. As an athlete, that was super important and cool to see how to treat your body right. We’re working 20 hours a week to be the best athlete we can be, and to be in labs where classmates are models and see how it affects your body was cool.
McCallister ran into many U-M athletic alumni while playing overseas. She wanted to highlight and share their stories, so her team created the Global Games podcast in March 2020. She has had the opportunity to interview Devin Gardner (U-M football), Haley Kopmeyer (U-M women’s soccer), and Jordan Morgan (U-M men’s basketball) about their overseas experience.
“There are so many common threads throughout [these podcasts] of just unawareness and being unsure of what to do and how to navigate these situations. So together we can begin uniting and bringing the world of athletes closer together,” McCallister said.
The podcast does more than highlighting playing opportunities. Athletes can share their backstories and what they have learned since graduating. McCallister and her co-host also focus on how the athletes are using their sports platform to give back to the world.
A big thing McCallister learned doing her time at U-M was the value in getting to know people, adding she was “blown away” by the stories her classmates and professors shared. She said that her Movement Science degree taught her how to approach problems, communicate and ask for help, prioritize time, and how to effectively lead.
“I loved all the labs where we actually could learn about the body,” she continued. “As an athlete, that was super important and cool to see how to treat your body right. We’re working 20 hours a week to be the best athlete we can be, and to be in labs where classmates are models and see how it affects your body was cool.”
McAllister encourages prospective students to be ready to work hard, but at the same time have fun. “I think being able to learn to not put so much pressure on yourself by actually being able to make a mistake, learn from it, smile about it, laugh about it, and move on is important,” she said.
She also recommends taking the SM 101: Public & Small Group Communications class.
“No matter what your career, the skill of public speaking is important. I’ve presented in front of over 500 people at SXSW, the Standford Sports Business conference, and at other pitch events. The tricks and skill base I can rely on from that class has been invaluable,” McAllister said.
For more information on Uru Sports, visit urusports.com.