Leveling the playing field: Dvlp Basketball Elevates Access for Athletes

Leveraging experience as a college basketball player, coach and the power of social media networks, Dvlp Basketball is metaphorically running circles around the basketball training and mentoring space.

Since its launch at the height of the pandemic in May 2020, Dvlp (pronounced “Develop”) has grown from serving around four student-athletes to serving more than 100 student-athletes each month.

“We have received some amazing feedback from parents and directly from student-athletes, letting us know how much we’re impacting them — on and off of the court,” said Chevelle “Coach Chevy” Saunsoci, Dvlp Basketball founder and CEO. “That is, no question, the most fulfilling thing about what we do.”

Of course, as a provider of varied training and coaching opportunities, the Omaha-born Dvlp is naturally helping its student-athletes become better basketball players.

“But our real goal is to impact student-athletes in a way that shifts their mindsets [positively], builds their confidence as young people, and to give them tools that will apply to more aspects of their life than just basketball,” Saunsoci said. “So, when we receive those messages, it reassures us that we are on the right track.”

And feedback from other coaches and programs has resoundingly focused on the team’s collaborative prowess.

“Coaching teams is very time-consuming,” she said. “Many coaches not only have full-time jobs, but also have families. So, running their program and trying to support their athletes individually with skill development, for many, isn’t realistic.”

Many readers may be familiar with Coach Chevy. Before she embarked on Dvlp, Saunsoci played and coached at the D1 level. Three or four years into her coaching career at Creighton University (around 2016 or 2017), she was inspired to embark on what would become a thriving mentoring and advisory concept.

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“My favorite part of being a college coach was the relationships that I was able to build with our players,” she recalled. “It was important to me to have an impact on players outside of just basketball … I realized that a lot of the athletes who reach the college level had great corners [or] support systems at home — whether it was their family, their youth coaches, or other supporters who set them on a path to be successful.”

Saunsoci reflected on her personal experience, realizing how lucky she was to have a support system as a player growing up in the area.

“Both of my parents instilled discipline, they understood the value of showing up and consistency,” she said. “When we were stationed in Nebraska, I lucked out with a coach who really understood what I needed to do to make it to the college level, and I always had somewhere to go to play whenever I wanted.”

Saunsoci kept seeing players on the recruiting trails with high potential – but no opportunities.

“I wanted to give back what was given to me, which were support systems and resources that gave me the best chance to be successful,” she said.

Dvlp Basketball Creating Opportunities

The aforementioned reference to being “stationed” in Nebraska harkens back to Saunsoci’s roots in a military family, as well as her entrepreneurial spirit and foundation.

“When I was younger, I lived in Japan on the Air Force base and I’d always look for ways to earn money,” she said. “One was a lawn mowing business where I would go around our cul-de-sac with my ‘briefcase’ (a backgammon case) and ask if we could cut their grass. I dabbled in lemonade stands back then, too.”

She got more serious about entrepreneurship following her college career.

“I tried to start a company called Bookbag where I wanted to make it simpler for teachers to communicate to parents,” she said. “After struggling with the tech aspect of it, I let it go and got a regular job. But I’m thankful for that failed experience because it has prepared me a lot for where I am now.”

And she intimately appreciates the opportunities in seemingly the bleakest of situations, the ability to make lemonade from lemons.

“It’s been a steady growth for us,” Saunsoci said. “Starting in the pandemic seems to be more of a blessing in disguise, because it allowed us to refine who we are and how we are different in small group settings.

“Now we are able to provide high-level training for larger groups, which I don’t know if it would have gone as well had we been able to take on more athletes right away.”
More to this evolution, Saunsoci said as Dvlp continues to grow, there will be a better understanding of the most effective training processes for athletes at different development stages.

“We are working on a few pilot programs that I think are going very well,” she said. “I’m excited to continue testing and learning things to help more student-athletes as we go.”
Saunsoci, who is surrounded by a team of collegiate coaching and player standouts, summed up that people appreciate their expertise and honesty.

“That experience also gives us a unique lens to where we are not only able to tell the athletes we work with the truth, but we are also able to set them on a track to get them where they want to go,” she said, adding that, “We tell student-athletes and parents the truth, even if it means losing them as clients. It’s what helps athletes improve the most. I know that us staying true to that has resulted in a lot of referrals through parents and student-athletes.”

Using Facebook and Instagram has also contributed to Dvlp’s growth, as a means to consistently showcase work through videos and pictures.

“It allows people to get a look into the cool things we are doing,” she said.

Going forward, the organization’s priority is to bridge the “access gap” to elite resources.

“We want to build something that will allow all student-athletes to have access to elite facilities, people and resources, regardless of their socioeconomic backgrounds,” Saunsoci said.

In fact, she characterizes Dvlp as a for-profit business with a nonprofit arm – the latter of which is designed solely to support athletes who would normally not be able to afford its services.

“In order to achieve that, it is going to require us to continue building partnerships with organizations and facilities in the communities that we want to impact the most, which are North and South Omaha,” she said.

Partnering organizations such as Abide, Milford Real Estate and Nissan of Omaha have all responded to the call for community support.

“This is about more than just basketball. Sports gives us a different way to influence and mentor young future leaders,” she said. “While we feel we will have a major impact on the court, we’re even more confident about our impact off of it.”

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