Celebrating Student Success from the Court to the Press

For the past 15 years, the Handball Club at Minnesota State University, Mankato has been finding remarkable success under the leadership of Coach Mike Wells. Within the team’s first three years, it rose to compete at the highest level, Division I, where it has achieved remarkable success since.

This year the team dominated at Nationals, finishing as champions in Men’s, Women’s, and Combined, with a total of 26 athletes competing at the National Championship competition. The women’s team made history by clinching its first national team title, breaking a streak of runner-up finishes in four previous seasons. The men secured their third consecutive team championship and their fourth overall. In addition, the Maverick Handball team won the combined team title for the third straight season.

Coach Wells is proud of the team’s accomplishments stating, "I think we have the best handball school in probably the world." The team draws handball athletes from all over the world, offering opportunities for international students—including several from Ireland—to compete at the highest levels, including professionally.

Despite the pressure that comes with developing talented athletes, Coach Wells emphasizes the inclusive nature of the team. "It doesn’t matter if you’re ranked on the pro tour or if you’ve been playing just a few weeks… there’s a division for you and you’re going to be competitive," he explains. The culture of this team has consistently been strong with good leaders. Generally, there is less of a focus on individual roles and titles and more emphasis on overall team success.

Academic excellence remains a top priority for Coach Wells and the team. Wells emphasized his passion for seeing the growth and development of college-aged students both on and off the court. The team only has one scheduled team practice a week, allowing students the flexibility to balance their academic commitments while practicing their skills on the court when it is most convenient for their individual needs and schedules. Additionally, the athletes are provided more one-on-one attention with coaches throughout the week.

Recruiting more female players remains a key challenge for the team, but the team recognizes that and is focused on addressing it to create a more diverse team. Wells highlights that the best recruiters are the student-athletes, who help build the team through word-of-mouth on campus. The coaches recruit international students by attending Junior Handball Nationals and the world championship every three years when they are held in the United States.

The team would like to continue to expand. One barrier, however, is the amount of scholarship dollars available as well as travel expenses. The team has corporate sponsors that help with travel expenses, but as a club sport the majority of financial help comes from private donors and sponsorships. Despite these challenges, the Handball Club at Minnesota State University, Mankato remains successful with a positive team culture and strong leadership from the coaching staff.

The other group that has won accolades and deserves recognition recently is the student-led news platform on campus. Last month the student newspaper, The Reporter, left the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Better Newspaper Contest awards ceremony with 15 awards, including three first-place individual finishes, a second-place finish in General Excellence, and third in Best Website. Students are eligible to submit their own stories, providing ownership on what they deem their best work.

Emma Johnson ’25, Editor in Chief, shares that “the entirety of The Reporter is fully student run, so our editors, writers, photographers and ad sales representatives, they are all students here, which makes it so unique.” They generally have between 15 and 20 student writers in different categories; currently, there are four writing in variety, four in sports, and seven in news.

The staff is made up of students from a large array of majors including Mass Communication, Film Studies, Sociology, Aviation, and Sport Management. Johnson believes having a diverse staff helps because “it brings different perspectives and stories.” Adding diversity has been a focus amongst the students at The Reporter for the past few years, and they can proudly say that the current staff comprises a diverse group of students.

 Luke Jackson ’25, a current staff member, says the best part of working at The Reporter is “the people... it’s kind of like a family here.” They are serious about their work, but also know how to have fun. This balance is key to success.

The Reporter takes pride in offering extensive onboarding and training to ensure all staff members are acting professional and following the Associated Press guidelines. A challenge for the operation of The Reporter is high turnover rate, with students graduating or having to step back due to academic commitments. The job is demanding with strict deadlines and long hours sometimes, which can be difficult to balance while in challenging academic programs.

The Reporter is considered a “hands-on learning laboratory” that provides the experience students need to stand out while applying for future jobs. The Reporter provides students the opportunity to create a portfolio of their stories which can be beneficial in the job search to show all the applied experience they gained while still in school. Recent graduates have received notable job placements, which is in part from the experiences and knowledge they gained through The Reporter.

Their social media presence has continued to grow the past few years, and plans to continue expanding in the multimedia realm of reporting are in the works. Currently, they are working on a sports podcast—so maybe there will be a future episode talking about the Handball team winning yet another national championship! In addition, they are adding the Reporter Radio, which is essentially audio storytelling. The Reporter is funded in large part by advertisements and support from the University through Student Government, but support and donations could help further their expansion and student success.

Both of these groups are shining examples of the incredible work our students are engaged with both inside and outside of the classroom. The hard work and dedication to their craft is something that cannot go unnoticed. Balancing rigorous academics while also meeting strict deadlines or training for a national competition, these students embody the characteristics of well-rounded, multi-faceted students. The longevity of their success is positively impacted by the support and continued funding from the greater Maverick community.


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