The University of Northern Colorado (UNC) has been lucky to have donor support for its athletics programs for years. While the individual reasons each donor gives are specific to their philanthropic interest and ambitions, speaking with one of our coaches gives some insight into the areas donor support directly impacts athletics programs.
UNC’s Head Women’s Basketball Coach Kristen Mattio has had a long and successful career that has taken her all over the country to work with women’s basketball teams. She knows the ins and outs of what sets a team up for success, whether it be at practice or otherwise. This fall, the women’s basketball team launched the Excellence Initiative, a crowdfunding campaign which was fortunate enough to have public support and the support of a matching gift donor.
Speaking about the impact and importance of exceeding the $20,000 goal set this fall, Mattio illuminates what is on the horizon for women’s basketball thanks to the generosity of everyone who gave and continues to give.
Q: Does anything about the UNC women’s basketball team stick out to you as unique from others you have worked with before?
A: Every team is unique. Every team is different, every year, every group of 18- to 22-year-olds that come through. What I love is the area in the school I’m coaching at. There are the actual people within the program, and then there’s this area behind it too. We have a good group of girls, and I think we recruit players that have a high level of expectation, athletically and academically. To me, that’s what this group really represents: their passion and pride to not just show up on the court but make an impact academically too.
Q: What does it mean to have the support of a matching gift donor like Cook & Cossio Attorneys did this fall for the UNC women’s basketball program?
A: It just allows us to really double our resources and experiences we’re providing to our team. We think it’s vital to our team’s performance. We’re trying to enhance all areas of our program, and a big area that we’ve talked about this past year is overall wellbeing and making sure that they’re taken care of. Nutrition is something we focused on because we think that’s important for our team.
That matching gift allows us to not just touch the surface but go deeper and provide the best of the best. If we’re talking about nutrition, it’s not just providing a meal and skipping by, it’s “can we feed them well and healthfully?” That’s what that [matching gift] did. It took the efforts of a lot of people that gave and doubled it.
Q: What do you see this type of funding doing for your program in the future?
A: If we can, I would love to continue to partner with Cook & Cossio Attorneys. What we were trying to really focus on with our Excellence Initiative were four areas: nutrition, enhanced travel experience, technology and innovation. Some of those technologies are things that allow us to better observe our players, like understanding heart rates and sleep analytics.
I go back to nutrition because that was an area that we were really lacking—having a nutrition wellness space for our team. Meaning they were coming right from class and then have practice; [we want to make sure] they have something that they can grab [to eat] quickly.
The way they represent the university is different from some of the other students, especially where they’re travelling. We just played three games in seven days, but two of them were in two different states. It’s a matter of whether we can have more of a catered team meal versus a fast-food team meal – which we don’t eat fast food – but it makes a difference in the ways we can take care of and serve the student athletes that are representing our university.
That’s what we think of for down the road, that we continue to do things with excellence. That’s why we called it the Excellence Initiative, it allows us to do things at a much higher level.
Q: Is there anything you would like the Bear community to know about the women’s basketball team that they might not already?
A: Just like any organization on campus, we just represent [the university] from a sports platform. Our girls are in the community, and they’re obviously crushing it on the basketball court. The last two years, we’ve been ranked in the top 25 academically. There are about 358 Division I schools, my first year we were number 10 and the last year we were number 23.
We talk about “blue collar, gold standard,” that’s what these girls represent. They work hard, they’re you, they’re me, but they’re just 18- to 22- year-olds right now functioning at a high level in all areas.
We’d love to have people come out and support us and watch us. I think they’d really enjoy watching them play. It’s cool that you’re taking a second to highlight us and Cook & Cossio Attorneys as well, who provided a matching gift because that was incredible. That was incredible.
The generosity and support of donors have enabled women’s basketball, and every athletics program across campus, to support their students at a higher level. Crowdfunding campaigns like the Excellence Initiative are imperative to the success of our student athletes, especially as they travel and represent UNC across the country. Sometimes, the funds raised can be the deciding factor in whether a team can travel or not.
Support women’s basketball this week by coming out and cheering them on as they play Montana at 6 p.m. on Jan. 11, and Montana State at 2 p.m. on Jan. 13, at home.