Sydney McKinney doesn’t want to only be known as a softball player.
She’s an artist. A dog-mom. A creator. A future law school student.
And now, thanks to NIL, the Wichita State softball star can explore all her passions and make money while doing so.
“The money is great for me because, maybe it pays for some of my groceries and gas and rent, but I knew coming in I wasn’t going to make millions of dollars,” McKinney said. “And that’s not what I wanted to do; I wanted to make an impact, meet people that maybe will help me get a job in the future, make friends and connect with nonprofits. That kind of stuff is what really drives me with NIL.”
McKinney is passionate about art and is a prime example to other student-athletes of how to turn their interests into NIL deals. Her social media is filled with original works of art, drawings and paintings of things she cares about.
She recently did a painting for HomeGrown, a daytime eatery in Wichita, Kan., for a new store opening.
“People have really grasped on to the fact that I really like art and have thought of me that way instead of just thinking of me as a softball player,” she said.
McKinney, the Shockers’ single-season runs and hits record holder, also landed NIL deals with Snapchat and Meta.
“I’ve been able to connect with so many people that know so much, not only about NIL but about Instagram, Facebook, nonprofits, transitioning to life after sports,” she said. “It’s been cool to have those resources.”
Wichita State Director of Athletics Kevin Saal has made a point to student-athletes about their commitment to investing in NIL resources. Saal has been forthcoming with the Shocker fanbase about NIL opportunities and ways to get involved. Between the Wichita State Marketplace, powered by Opendorse, which launched in August, and one of the first women’s sports-focused NIL Collectives, the Lady Shocks Squad, Saal has no shortage of examples to point to.
“Wichita State, a smaller Division I, the community here is so focused and tight-knit on sports, so it’s cool that the department has allowed our fans to pursue those opportunities with us and to give us opportunities to connect with them,” McKinney said.
She’s completed several fan deals, including a meet and greet with a few young softball players at an ice cream shop, birthday shout outs, and custom paintings.
McKinney, a fifth-year senior, knew that her time pursuing NIL opportunities in college would be limited, so she wanted to take advantage as best she could.
“I don’t have my whole career to learn about NIL and get involved,” she said. “I think it’s been cool, and my motivating factor is just the fact that I’ve gotten to meet so many cool people through the experiences.”