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Washington Spirit and Shenandoah University Announce New Partnership to Benefit Spirit Players, Shenandoah Students and Faculty and the Community

February 25, 2021 - National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) - Washington Spirit News Release


Leesburg, VA - The Washington Spirit is pleased to announce a transformational partnership with Shenandoah University that provides Spirit players with tuition-free courses and programs. In exchange, Shenandoah University will receive services including marketing, hospitality, student internships, program collaborations and on-campus events.

"One of the responsibilities we have to our players is to help prepare them for life when their playing careers are completed," said Spirit Managing Partner Steve Baldwin. "We have developed a breadth of services to support our players and this new partnership is the crown jewel of our program. Spirit players will be able to pursue graduate and undergraduate degrees across all programs offered by a great university. Additionally, as the NWSL evolves and more players join our club out of high school, we have a program in place that doesn't require a player to forego their education to pursue their dreams."

The first two Spirit players to enroll in the Shenandoah graduate school and certificate programs are Aubrey Bledsoe and Paige Nielsen. Bledsoe is enrolled in the MBA program and Nielsen is working to receive a Graduate Certificate in Cybersecurity Management.

"The longer we play professionally, the longer we are out of the traditional workforce," said Bledsoe. "It's hard to acquire other skills because of how strenuous our jobs are. Shenandoah has been great because they offer a hybrid model. I can go take classes in person or online. I'm learning business skills that I can apply to my life now as a professional athlete and that I can use as I transition to life after soccer."

"The partnership between the Spirit and Shenandoah is incredible," said Nielsen. "This gives us a lot more opportunities for the future and I couldn't be more thankful. We can't play soccer forever, so this is really important for many of us players."

Under the partnership agreement, Shenandoah University will receive a marketing campaign supporting university programs, internships with the Spirit and Spirit events will be held on-campus. Additionally, the Spirit and Shenandoah will collaborate on eSports and sports management programs offered by the school.

"The opportunity to partner with the Spirit is a true honor," said Assistant Vice President of Opportunity Development Fritz Polite, Ph.D. "We stress the constructs of merging theory with practice and this symbiotic relationship will create opportunities for internships/practicums and mentoring opportunities. This will also allow us to share our network of multiple sport/entertainment industry partners with the Spirit. This is a perfect match."

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