University of Wisconsin student-athletes are mainly recognized for their spectacular on-field performance, highlight-reel plays and game-winning shots. But when competing at the highest level, things get lost in the shuffle and fans sometimes fail to recognize these student-athletes for what they are — college students.
Now, there is a platform for student-athletes at UW to tell their own stories. Thanks to UNCUT Madison, a non-profit media platform, student-athletes at Wisconsin can share stories in their own words through articles and video format.
The website (uncutmadison.com) is scheduled to air on Wednesday, March 3, empowering athletes at UW to speak out and help fans acknowledge players in a light traveling beyond their performance on the field.
By allowing players to communicate freely with other athletes about a wide range of topics — including mental health — UNCUT offers an immeasurable amount of authenticity in the content they provide.
“I hope that once we are running if a student-athlete is sitting there with a tough story and feel uncomfortable telling, they don’t hesitate to reach out to UNCUT as a safe platform for the student to share their story,” UNCUT Head of Operations Olivia Hancock said.
Upon the launch, Hancock and the rest of the Madison team will be the first Big Ten university to join the UNCUT platform. Wisconsin follows in the footsteps of North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Duke — schools already using the UNCUT platform at their universities.
Modeled after The Players Tribune, Hancock knew there was a need to get Wisconsin student-athletes involved for the website to excel. Thankfully, the stars aligned on Election Day 2020. Hancock volunteered as a poll worker alongside women’s volleyball star and 2019-20 Big Ten Female Athlete of the Year Dana Rettke and the two conversed about the potential idea.
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Rettke was in from the get-go and after hours of work, the duo laid out a plan for the website moving forward.
“We laid out this plan and she was on board from day one,” Hancock said. “Within a week we were scheduling calls with compliance and the athletic department to find out how we can make this idea happen.”
Rettke is one of four current student-athletes part of UNCUT’s team. UNCUT also boasts a decorated board of directors — all of which have connections to UW. From a content standpoint, the goal is to incorporate all student-athletes who want to share their story.
UNCUT’s content is split up into categories of four ranging from first-person storytelling covering mental health awareness and injuries to human interest angles about athletes who inspire others on and off the field. Another intriguing element about UNCUT is their “Dear Madison” feature, where alumni and students can expatiate on what being a Badger has meant to them. Through this, Wisconsin student-athletes can finally be heard.
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“It will be great to see athletes in a different aspect and not just seeing them as athletes,” UNCUT’s Head of Content, Drew Kocken, said. “We’re also trying to allow student-athletes to make their brand wherever they see fit.”
When starting a new media platform, it’s vital to have someone spreading the site’s message across media platforms. Thanks to Kocken, the ringleader behind UNCUT’s social and digital media efforts, the website has increased the site’s recognition by releasing teases across both Instagram and Twitter.
With the website’s message spanning across multiple social media outlets, Kocken and the UNCUT team hope their social media presence will be a welcoming invitation for athletes to come forward.
“We’ve been reaching out to a variety of media outlets to try to get exposure that way,” Kocken said. “Also, by having current athletes on board, we hope to establish a mutual excitement that radiates throughout Wisconsin Athletics.”
As the publication is set to release Wednesday, UNCUT’s main goal is not about views and exposure, but to share a student’s story. While Hancock wouldn’t mind the site receiving a lot of circulation, her main focus is on the players — assisting them is the true reward.
“Because of UNCUT, I hope that fans perceive these students as more than what they do on the field and I think what we’re doing right now has the chance to show fans this compelling, behind-the-scenes look of what our student-athletes are really like,” Hancock said.
When thinking about student-athletes, fans at times get caught up in a player’s on-court performance and not their true selves. With the release of UNCUT Madison, fans can finally sympathize with student-athletes for who they are. Through this collaboration, fans can connect with athletes at their beloved universities in a way never done before.