On July 19th, 16 student-athletes landed in Carmel, Indiana for their first Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee meeting. They each represented one DI athletic conference, as well as varying institutions and sports.
I was one of them. My name is Kate Williams. I am a field hockey student athlete from Towson University, and I represent the student athletes from the Colonial Athletic Association conference.
That first day, I flew in from Pennsylvania, nervous and excited for the next four days. Once the majority of the new members arrived, we met in Eugene Daniels’ room, our chair, where we mingled until our orientation. The orientation was full of background information and basic rules for us all to know. It was led by Daniels and Maddie Salamone, our vice chair, as well as all our NCAA liaisons. The orientation was probably the quietest moment of the weekend because once we all got to know each other, the talking never stopped. That night the newbies went out to dinner with some older members and took a scenic tour of Carmel, meeting some of the locals and posing with statues.
Friday, July 20 was the beginning of meetings with all 31 members of the committee. We were privileged with a trip to the NCAA headquarters where we met many employees who updated, not only the new members, but everyone about the on goings of the NCAA. We were even treated to a surprise visit from President Mark Emmert! It was a great deal of information to take in, but it was helpful for all the new members to get us all up to speed.
That afternoon was great fun with some media training. While learning some insightful tips on how to handle the media, a few members were interviewed on camera as NCAA communications managing director Amy Dunham gave them counsel. Many laughs were shared as we saw people try to handle the pressure. That evening’s dinner was shared with Division II & III SAACs at the Stacked Pickle in Carmel. Meals were the second quietest moments of the weekend. Athletes like to focus on eating, so when the food came, the room went dead!
The next day was started again with meetings and a fun “ice” breaker. Some legislation was discussed and it was exciting to see all the new and old members talk about issues involving all student athletes. The new members weren’t afraid to speak up and the atmosphere in the room was alive and thriving. The afternoon was a trip to the bowling alley to raise awareness for Samaritan’s Feet, an organization that gives shoes to those in need. I don’t know what was more fun, the barefoot bowling or the van ride there. DI SAAC has many good singers! Athletic competition ran high at the bowling alley, but everyone had a good time. The overall winners and the winners of the losers game all got to ride back to the hotel in style, while everyone else was packed into a smaller van. That night we had dinner at the hotel and then hung out and got to know everyone. It was true what the older members said: we would all get to know each other very well over the weekend, and we did!
The last day let everyone have time to break into groups to discuss DI SAAC’s initiatives and wrap up the fun, busy weekend. Then the group broke up and everyone headed home. It was clear that while everyone looked like they needed sleep, no one wanted to leave. The group was an awesome thing to be a part of and I know every new member is counting down the days until the next one in November.