Suited for success
In 2019, when the men’s Final Four basketball tournament was taking place in Minneapolis, the NCAA convened a panel of international student athletes. Among those invited was a member of the Gopher women’s basketball team.
Because the athletes would be speaking in front of a national audience, they were asked to dress professionally. But Melissa Maines, director of women’s basketball operations, quickly discovered the young woman who’d been selected to participate had nothing but team-issued athletic apparel, jeans, and casual tops in her closet.
“Players don’t always arrive at the University with something to put on that gives them confidence when they need to represent the University and the program,” she says, adding that she was able to use some discretionary funds to buy the player an outfit for the NCAA appearance.
Before joining the Gopher women’s team three years ago, Maines coached at Texas Tech University, which provided graduating seniors with professional development opportunities and an outfit they could wear to a job interview.
When two Gopher women’s basketball donors, Barb and George Hagemann, learned about what Texas Tech was doing, they wanted to bring the idea to the U of M. “Players on the men’s football team get suits and ties, but women’s basketball didn’t have a similar program,” says Barb Hagemann. “One player arrived on campus with only sweats to wear.”
With financial support from the Hagemanns, Maines created Suited for Success, which will provide all team members—not just seniors—with clothing they can wear when representing the team, meeting with donors, attending banquets and events, and interviewing for internships and jobs.
The team, including its two graduating seniors, will take their first shopping trip in June. “They’re so excited,” she says. “Having an outfit that you’ve picked out and love brings a level of confidence that comes with looking good.”
Maines adds that Suited for Success also will help when recruiting future players. “It sets us apart from what other schools are doing for their student athletes,” she says. “It tells prospective players that we’re invested in them and want to prepare them as best as we can to step into the world after college.”