Courtnie Williamson became North Carolina’s first Black field hockey captain during the 2020 season. Although Williamson was honored, she also felt disappointed that it took UNC so long to have its first Black field hockey captain.
Williamson, motivated by her frustration, a sense of responsibility and racial equality issues, decided to reach out to Duke field hockey player Darcy Bourne — an ardent advocate for social and racial justice — about starting an organization to help empower minority athletes.
“I wanted somebody to help me also use their position of power to create some change,” Williamson said. “I thought, 'What better way than to show if we can bridge the gap between Duke and UNC?' That just shows even more how important this cause is.”
Numerous meetings, phone calls and Zoom sessions later, Williamson and Bourne launched Beyond Our Game — a nonprofit organization currently serving hundreds of Division I athletes — in February 2021.
While developing Beyond Our Game, Williamson and Bourne created a "two-tier business model" that gave the organization a clear direction. Their goals include preparing athletes for careers after college and creating a community of support and service.
Beyond Our Game’s recent work continues to move the organization and its members closer to achieving these goals.
In February, Duke sophomore football player DeWayne Carter shared his story of experiencing racial stereotyping and inequality in sports on Beyond Our Game’s website. Williamson and Bourne have high hopes that his story, along with others', will help build a supportive community among Beyond Our Game athletes.
“It’s not often that a man, or specifically a Black man, has a moment of vulnerability where they just get to say, ‘This is something that I’ve struggled with and that I’d like to be supported in,’” Williamson said. “I think his story served as a catalyst for other people in his sport and in his community to think and to feel comfortable saying ‘I’m struggling with this too.'”
Carter said he hopes his story brings awareness to racial equality issues and lets other athletes know they are not alone in experiencing racial inequality. He also shared his excitement about Beyond Our Game’s career services and employer database, which connects employers to vetted and qualified Beyond Our Game athletes looking to enter the workforce.
Through this database, he hopes to achieve his goals of playing in the NFL and working in education after college.
“Being a student-athlete at a Power 5 school takes up a lot of time," Carter said. "So it’s important to have — I don’t want to say a shortcut, but it really is a shortcut — to companies where they can reach out to you without you having to go above and beyond to get what you’re looking for."
Williamson and Bourne worked on expanding Beyond Our Game’s database by coordinating with new companies over the summer and will continue to work on it throughout the fall.
They are also working on transitioning from a nonprofit organization to a for-profit one. This change would enable them to hire more employees and interns, taking some of the workload off their shoulders, while helping them drastically increase the volume of athletes they could serve and the amount of resources and services they could offer to their members.
One of the services Williamson and Bourne plan to add to Beyond Our Game’s offerings is a workshop about the new name, image and likeness rules. Williamson and Bourne are working with Aspire USA — a company that offers admissions and sport scholarship services to athletes — in hopes of offering workshops that teach their members how to best benefit and make money from those changes.
Williamson and Bourne are largely banking on their current ambassadors at different universities and the development of their ambassador route to help them grow and expand Beyond Our Game’s membership.
“We want to have a community among our ambassadors and a group chat where people feel like they can talk and discuss, and give us feedback on how we can help them,” Bourne said. “Right now, our network is pretty good, we’ve got a few hundred athletes in it, but we want it to be a few thousand.”