Now more than ever, fans of professional sports look to their favorite athletes to see how they utilize their platform in order to bring attention to issues that matter most to them. Leadership demonstrated by professional athletes sets a great example for young adults who admire them. As well as college athletes, who in a way, are leaders and representatives of their respective universities.
At The University of Tampa, the Student-Athlete Advisory Committees (SAAC) is a student-run leadership group that aims to enhance the total student-athlete experience, protecting the welfare of student-athletes and fostering a positive image.
Taylor George, vice president of external affairs for the SAAC, expresses her appreciation for SAAC stating, “[I] love that we have a strong emphasis on the fact that we are more than just athletes and we emphasize giving back to our community and being all-around good citizens.”
Since athletic events are limited this semester due to COVID-19 regulations, the committee is using this newly found free time to give back and to bring attention to issues important to student-athletes and the community.
“I do believe this pandemic provides SAAC with an opportunity to get more involved in the community”, said Julia Ingram, president of SAAC at UT and senior on the women’s basketball team. “We are emphasizing the importance of voting and becoming politically active…we are using our virtual and social media platforms in fundraising efforts to make money for our D2 charity, the Make-A-Wish Foundation.”
SAAC’s main fundraiser this year is a virtual “$5 for a 5k” to benefit The Make-A-Wish Foundation. The event is open to the entire UT community as well as friends and family. A virtual 5k is an event where you sign up online to either walk, run, jog, swim, bike, or complete a distance of 5k in any way you’d like. Record how long it takes to complete the distance and upload it to the website.
“We are currently still finalizing our event and will have the link ready soon,” states Jennifer Alger, assistant athletic director of academics and student services.
SAAC is also participating in the NCAA’s Diversity and Inclusion Social Media Campaign, a three-day online effort to educate and promote an inclusive environment in college sports. The dates includeTuesday, Oct. 27 through Thursdays, Oct. 29 and each days’ themes are: Tuesday “My Story Matters”, Wednesday “I’ve Got Your Back” and Thursday “Together We Rise”. More information about each days’ theme will be on the committee’s Instagram, @tampa_saac, and available on the NCAA’s website.
The postponement of Fall sport competition has had quite an impact on student-athletes, specifically seniors who never could imagine their college athletic career ending in such a manner. Student-athletes already face an increased amount of responsibility and stress and now the global pandemic has eliminated the source of relief many athletes find in competing.
“Student-athletes are constantly overwhelmed by the stress and anxiety of maintaining a full-course load while attending long practices and other training sessions required by their teams. This tends to take a toll on the mental health and well-being of student-athletes”, said Ingram.
SAAC has previously been concerned with mental health, but are now placing an emphasis on it. When asked about how student-athletes can cope with the cancellation of fall sports, UT athletic health psychologist, Kevin Mcdowell stated, “Most athletes cope with stress in their lives by being physically active, training, and spending time with their teammates. This means that physical distancing and isolation can be particularly hard on them…It’s important to know that it’s okay to ask for help. Talk to your teammates and coaches about how you’re holding up, [and] prioritize self-care.”
The Student Athletic Advisory Committee has had a positive impact on student-athlete life at The University of Tampa and their efforts off the field are proof of their leadership capabilities. If you are looking to support any of the causes promoted by the SAAC, visit their Instagram page @tampa_saac.