Basketball legend Nancy Lieberman praises the new SEQL app and its co-founders
SEQL is a social impact platform looking to level the playing field for all athletes. Co-founded by former college football players Robert de Wolff (Virginia Military Institute) and Bryant Drayton (Ferrum College) who were teammates at Trinity Espiscopal School in Richmond, Virginia. Drayton and de Wolff are also the CEOs of the free app for sports equality that is backed by basketball legend Nancy Lieberman and several other sports stars like Barry Sanders, DeAndre Hopkins and Quinn Cook.
Lieberman, Drayton and de Wolff joined Sportsjam with Doug Doyle to discuss why the app and social impact platform is designed to help the 21st-century student athlete.
Even in this day and age with huge budgets for college athletics and expansive networks of scouts, high school players fall through the cracks. That's where SEQL comes into play. With its nationwide network of videographers (“Vuber” – videographer meets Uber), SEQL enables athletes who have been overlooked or simply not scouted at all to put together tape for recruiters. They in turn are able to amplify that to college decision-makers.
According to various outlets, 41% of high school athletes are socioeconomically disadvantaged.
That motivated Rob de Wolff, former defensive lineman at Trinity Episcopal, and his close friend, former teammate and quarterback Bryant Drayton to move back to Richmond and start their own company.
Rob says they wanted to start a company that would provide a cost-free opportunity to help all students achieve their dreams.
"We moved back. We were hanging out one day, honestly we were having a deep discussion about inequalities in sports. That was right around the time that equality became an important discussion in today's world. We said how can we create a more equal tomorrow for athletes. I grew up in a very fortunate financial background. Bryant grew up in a different environment than I did. I had access to resources. My parents had the means to pay for highlight tapes, trainers, etc. Bryant grew up in a different household where access to capital like that just didn't happen. He was a better athlete than me but because I had access to all these things, I had a different sports trajectory. I had all these opportunities coming my way. Bryant did not. We ended up saying that's not fair. The color of your skin, your parents' financial status and where you are located geographically shouldn't affect your sports career. We said hey if we can create a more equitable tomorrow for the next generation through sports than we could really do something positive."
Drayton says it's all about giving back.
"We want to empower athletes, especially this next generation to know they have a chance to be seen. In this age of NIL (Name, Image, and Likeness) and scholarship money dwindling because of the results of COVID and the economic situation were are currently in, how can we still make athletes feel like they are secure and their play on the field is going to provide them opportunities. So, we're happy to be here. We're happy to be on this ride."
SEQL works with a variety of companies (50+ so far) from Adidas, to Lasso, to Legends who cover the costs of the videographer network in exchange for access to these rising high school athletes through SEQL’s app. The athletes know which brand is sponsoring the videographer to come out to capture their highlights.
Nancy Lieberman created amazing highlights at many levels, including her All-American career at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. During that time, she and her team won two consecutive AIAW National Championships (1979, 1980) and one WNIT Championship in 1978. She was the first two-time winner of the prestigious Wade Trophy, a national player of the year award in college women's basketball. On November 5, Old Dominion University will honor Lieberman for her achievements on and off the court by unveiling a 6-foot bronze statue of the legendary player.
Lieberman is a supporter and partner in SEQL. She stressed when she was growing up in Queens, New York, she didn't have family support or resources to achieve her dream of playing basketball at a high level.
"There was a lot of discrimination, racially, there was a lot of sexism. I don't have any anger today but I had disappointment growing up because I had all those Nancy can't-moments. Nancy, you can't play with men. Nancy, you won't get a scholarship. Nancy, you're a tomboy. Ms. Lieberman, what's wrong with your daughter? Why don't you take her to a psychologist?"
Lieberman says SEQL addresses all those questions and concerns.
"We have a psychologist, it's called SEQL. SEQL is giving you the wherewithal, mentally and emotionally. And then you go to that app, and you don't have to worry can I pay for this or not pay for that? There's somebody there. There's this next generation of hope, love and kindness that is trying to give you an opportunity. Today's athletes don't have to fight for their scholarships. Women don't have to fight to break every glass barrier. My generation did that because we didn't have that opportunity. I could have only hoped that I would have had a Bryant, Robert and a SEQL. My track was different, but it's okay. Somebody has to be strong enough. I was strong enough. God doesn't make mistakes and he chose me. Now I get to partner with these guys. They don't want people to break the glass ceiling. They're trying to make things normal."
Lieberman knows all about breaking down barriers. She has done it as a player and a coach. The court wizard was hired in 1998 as a GM and head coach of the WNBA's Detroit Shock. She coached for three seasons. After leaving the Shock, Lieberman worked as a women's basketball analyst on ESPN.
In 2009, Nancy became the coach of the Texas Legends in the NBA Development League (now NBA G League), an affiliate of the Dallas Mavericks , thus becoming the first woman to coach a professional men's basketball team. The team began play in November 2010.
In July 2015, she was hired by the Sacramento Kings as an assistant coach, becoming the second female assistant coach in NBA history. After the Kings, she became a broadcaster with the New Orleans Pelicans.
Three years later, she was hired as a head coach of Power in the BIG3 league.
Lieberman, who was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1996 and the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999, says the social impact platform SEQL will make a huge difference in so many lives.
"Everybody throws words around like diversity, inclusion and equality, but what they're (Robert and Bryant) are doing right now, they're encouraging all ethnic backgrounds to take part in sports which is healthy for mental health, for physical health, for building the bond of friendships, but is also a representation to me of all levels of participation. What Robert and Bryant have done is they've taken these young athletes who might not have the money this platform for people to see their skill set."
While attending Far Rockaway High School in Queens, Lieberman established herself as one of the top women's basketball players in the country by earning one of the 12 coveted slots on the USA National Team. In 1975, while still in her teens, Lieberman was named to the USA Team designated to play in the World Championships and Pan American Games, where the team won a gold medal.
She wore No. 10 because former Knicks great Walt Frazier was her hero.
You can SEE the entire interview with Nancy Lieberman, Robert de Wolff and Bryant Drayton here.