Talking NAIA NIL With Tucker La Belle

Tucker La Belle is a lacrosse student-athlete at Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa. But he’s far more than that. Between classes, he also manages social media for the Field of Dreams Movie Site. He co-founded a semi-pro lacrosse club, the Iowa Dogfish. He’s Chief Business Development Officer for Bearpaw Lacrosse Events. He co-hosts a local TV show. He’s also student body president.

He’s juggling more than most student-athletes and performing at a high level, on and off the field.

The NAIA was forward-thinking and gave their student-athletes a jump start in the NIL era. La Belle dove right in, securing partnerships with brands like True Temper Lacrosse and Rowdy Energy.

Paying it Forward

Growing up, La Belle’s parents were photojournalists for newsrooms and universities which led him to his interest in marketing, entrepreneurship, and social media. In high school, he noticed the lack of media and marketing coverage for the sport of lacrosse and started an Instagram account to talk about the sport: Thunder Street Lacrosse.  The account was a success in helping grow the game and led to unique opportunities for himself, like attending the National Lacrosse Convention and playing in Italy for a year.

“The biggest reason I appreciate social media and encourage people to be involved on social media is it’s the most modern form of communication where you can reach anybody across the universe,” La Belle said. “I’m talking to you right now (doing this interview) via a tiny screen that all started from a social media message. That’s the beauty of social media: it connects everybody everywhere. That’s what continues to draw me in.”

His experience as social media coordinator and content creator for the Field of Dreams Movie Site and All-Star Ballpark Heaven Tournaments has allowed him to learn a lot and translate it to his personal social media channels. He knows how to properly represent a brand. He frequently speaks to groups of school kids and leaves them with advice as they begin to grow their personal brands and leave a digital footprint.

“Whenever I get the opportunity to talk to kids younger than me, the biggest thing I tell them is post stuff that you know your parents and your grandparents are going to appreciate you posting,” he explained. “Keep it clean and professional, and know that people outside of just your family and friends are viewing your social media because social media is the greatest recruiting and marketing tool to ever exist. It reaches the greatest audience.

“The cleaner your image and the more intelligently designed your image, the better it’s going to reflect on you to that greater audience. I always tell them, ‘Think about every single thing you post, think about what’s the effect it’s going to have. Who is this going to reach? What is that audience going to think?’ Every message has a repercussion, but make it a good one.”

Playing a sport that is emerging has provided a lot of opportunities, especially in Iowa where lacrosse is growing in popularity. La Belle noted, “If you’re in a small enough, specific sport, it really doesn’t matter what level you’re at because your importance is going to be there.”

Typically, there’s a stronger and more tight-knit community that wants to support athletes who are working to grow and bring awareness to the sport.

“The biggest thing that I’ve learned is that I am marketable. Once people realize they’re marketable, the sky’s the limit.”

Long-Term Vision

La Belle’s packed schedule is a balancing act, but it is achievable because of his positive outlook. His attitude drives him.

“I just go with it and I take every opportunity that comes my way,” La Belle said. “I take those opportunities that come and then tend to figure it out after the fact.”

All the work La Belle has put in so far is paying off. With one year of remaining eligibility, he plans to return for his fifth year and get more into the recruiting side of the game as he wants to coach after graduation. The digital resume he’s built will never go away and he plans to continue working in social media.

“The beauty about social media is that it fits in your life,” he said. “You can work around it with so many other things, and it also works together.”

He has grown an engaged audience and plans to continue pursuing NIL opportunities after his playing days are over. He has used his experience as an NIL pioneer to set himself up for the future.

“NIL has been my training ground for the greater world of sports and endorsements. I am nowhere near to being finished.”

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