Busy balancing academics and athletics, sophomore lacrosse player Stelios Kroudis still manages to find time to maintain a YouTube channel for his 16,000+ devoted subscribers.
So, how does one develop such a strong following? For Kroudis, it’s all about building a distinct personal brand unique to a specific following-base. Though Kroudis began filming, editing and posting his Villanova lacrosse videos just one year ago, his familiarity within the niche lacrosse online community helped him reach success early on.
Kroudis began playing lacrosse in sixth grade, later than most, he noted. From then on, the sport has proved to be monumental throughout his life. “I fell in love with how the game worked and how fun it was,” Kroudis explained, adding that the aspect of customized gear adds to his affinity for the sport as a self-proclaimed “gearhead.”
But lacrosse isn’t his only passion. Kroudis has a strong artistic side as well, noting his love for art, drawing and music growing up. As he aged, his artistic abilities manifested themselves in video production. Rather than balancing two separate athlete and artist identities, Kroudis found a way to combine them early on.
Right as he picked up lacrosse, Kroudis and his friend from his Sparta, New Jersey home, Jesse West, began to explore filming different types of lacrosse videos. Once a shooting compilation video (their seventh ever made) blew up with over 78,000 views, the duo knew they found something with their joint lacrosse channel, “Spartan Strings.”
From then on, the two continued to produce creative lacrosse related content, from game highlight edits to subscriber Q&A videos. As they continued to gain popularity via the YouTube Channel and Instagram, they began to make connections within the lacrosse community and even had companies send them gear to review.
Kroudis notes that the timing was perfect. “We got our foot in the door early on when it started to grow and blow up,” he said. “No one else was making reviews, shooting videos or other unique lacrosse-related content.”
Though Kroudis was verbally committed to play at Villanova after his freshman year in high school, he and Jesse informally ended Spartan Strings after National Signing Day their senior year, which formally marks the end of the recruitment process, and the beginning of an athlete’s NCAA college career (which does not allow student-athletes to profit or receive endorsements from athletic endeavors).
This didn’t stop the two from pursuing their lacrosse/video production passion, but rather opened new doors for them. Kroudis notes that beginning his D1 lacrosse career was “the perfect opportunity for new content” which aims to provide viewers a “behind-the-scene” glimpse into the life of a student athlete.
Able to direct Spartan Strings followers to their independent accounts, Kroudis began his solo career with a strong following base, and an even stronger brand. He specifically wanted his channel to be a place for younger kids to gain insight about pursuing lacrosse careers. “I was always curious as a young kid,” he noted, “so I wanted to pass some knowledge on.” Informative videos regarding the recruiting process, gameday details, training routines and even college dorm reviews give younger viewers an idea of what playing D1 lacrosse is like. At the heart of his lacrosse videos are creativity and quality. “I found a niche,” he explained.
Though his outgoing personality, successful YouTube and Instagram pages and ceaseless flow of new content seem effortless in many ways, juggling athletics, academics, social obligations and video production has not always been easy. When Kroudis first began his freshman year at Villanova, he had to ease into building up his channel, posting just a few fall ball and preseason related videos. Like most, he recounts his beginnings as a “huge adjustment” both academically and athletically.
His new, more personal video style also presented a challenge at first. He humbly confessed that his first couple vlogs were “terrible” as “going from behind the camera to in front of the camera was a transition,” he explained. Kroudis also had to navigate pursuing his passion with new teammates.
He described shooting with his Villanova teammates at first as “awkward and uncomfortable” but expressed that the more he did it, the more comfortable and open people were to the concept, quickly becoming a team norm.
Going through hours of footage to emerge with a condensed, entertaining narrative is no easy feat to add to an already jam-packed schedule, yet Kroudis manages to produce new videos on a nearly weekly basis. Self-motivation is key, especially without the ability to gain monetary compensation. “It gets pretty hectic,” he notes, but his love for video production propels him. Kroudis also notes his fascination with social media as integral to his work, particularly “how things can grow so quickly and go viral.”
Lastly, Kroudis explained that being a part of such a supportive lacrosse community further motivates him to do more. He recounted a recent trip to Baltimore with his fellow lacrosse player/YouTuber friend Jesse, to attend PLL (Premier Lacrosse League) games. Though they went as spectators, they were unable to watch the first big game. Their fans came over throughout the entire game, taking pictures with, and getting autographs from the recognizable lacrosse YouTube stars. “Its crazy how a couple videos on YouTube can grow your brand and get your name out there,” Kroudis said.
Kroudis hopes to continue to grow his brand over his next three years playing lacrosse at Villanova. Throughout the process he looks forward to collaborating with as many creators as he can, which he’s already begun to do. He has met up with USC lacrosse vlogger Katie DeFeo. Additionally, Kroudis has met content creators at PLL and other professional athletes through the attention his videos have claimed, and he hopes to continue to build connections within the lacrosse industry over the years.
Ultimately, Kroudis hopes to make a living out of something he’s passionate about in the future. His confidence in his work allows him to continue doing what makes him happy, despite any negative reviews, an inherent aspect of any social media site. Ignoring negativity, surrounding himself with those who support him, and pursuing his passion are principles that guide more than his video production work. He introspectively adds that these attitudes go for anything in life.
Now that you know his story, see Kroudis’ passion for yourself!’ Find his YouTube Channel by simply searching “Stelios Kroudis” and be sure to give him a follow on Instagram (@stelioskroudis) to learn more about what it’s like to be a student-athlete here at Villanova.