Monday, January 23, 2012

Reflecting on the A-10 SAAC Meeting

The following blog is written by Shannon Murphy ('14), Duquesne University Women’s Lacrosse, about her experience at the Annual A-10 SAAC in-person meeting in Indianapolis, IN during the NCAA National Convention.

Two weeks ago I was fortunate enough to go to Indianapolis where I met fellow athletes within the A-10 and learned an incredible amount. I had the most difficult time getting to Indy but all the headaches and many swipes of my credit card were totally and completely worth it. I went into this conference not knowing what to expect. I didn’t know anyone, I didn’t know what we were going to be doing, and I didn’t know how I would handle things.

The A-10 SAAC pictured outside of the NCAA National Office
with NCAA mascot JJ Jumper
After being extremely flustered from a long day of traveling, I made it to the Honors Celebration in time (this was a miracle). I had recently heard some things about the Honors Celebration, how awesome it was, how incredible it was and how you walk away from it inspired. While all these things were true, they did not begin to cover what I really took away from the Celebration. The current and former athletes that were honored that evening taught me so much. They proved to me that although I may say that I don’t have time to do anything else except go to school and play my sport, I really do. These athletes not only have devoted themselves to their sport and their academics, but helping the community in more ways then most can dream. I really took away from the Celebration with the notion that I should and most definitely could be doing more. The Honors Celebration also gave me a chance to get acquainted with my fellow A-10 members. It was a great way to kick off the weekend as we spent the night hearing inspirational stories and getting to know some of my new closest friends. 

Saturday was one jam packed day. We were up bright and early from breakfast and then were in meetings for seven hours, SEVEN hours. But these seven hours flew by. The people that we spent all this time talking to, were truly amazing people. We began our day with a meeting with the A-10 commissioner Bernadette V. McGlade. Commissioner McGlade spoke to us about accountability and how by being on the SAAC (Student Athlete Advisory Committee) we really do have a voice, and people higher up in position with us really do care about what we say. She spoke to us how important it is to not be afraid to take chances.

After our meeting with commissioner McGlade, we took the short, very cold, walk out to the NCAA National Offices where we were blessed with the opportunity to meet with some pretty incredible people. First we met with Curtis Hollomon, Director of Leadership Development, who spoke to us about leadership and our core values. He focused on our core values and how they define the person we are. He spoke about how important our core values are and how they can help us when we are struggling with something or making a tough decision about something and how by going back to our cores will make things seem a little easier. Then he shifted focuses to leadership and said that “leadership is a 24/7 job and it's important to step back and get to know your teammates, their strengths and weaknesses, what they like, what they don’t like.” He informed us that once this has been done, working together will become a lot easier. 

Next up we had a meeting with Dana Thomas, who works in the NCAA social media offices. She spoke to us about how communication across the years has changed. Where as before one would have to write a statement, send it out to new papers and wait for a response, today someone can tweet something and have a response in thirty seconds. She also talked to us about how we need to be careful about what we say and post. Everything we say and do can be seen and used by other people, and often taken out of its original context. Lastly she left us with some words of wisdom saying “use Facebook to engage and twitter to inform.” If anyone is interested in keeping up with NCAA news, like their pages on Facebook or follow them on twitter, @NCAADana, @InsidetheNCAA and @Division1SAAC.

After speaking with Dana, we were blessed with the opportunity to speak to Paula who spoke to us about how much it took to put on an NCAA championship. Her and her co-workers work as one team to put on 89 Championships a year across all 3 Divisions of NCAA Sports. It was eye opening to see how much effort went into planning for one championship game to occur.

Next up was a delicious lunch at the NCAA offices. Before I went on this trip, my dad told me how much people get fed while they are at these meetings. It seemed like every time we turned around there was another type of snack or delicious meal at our disposal. The food was incredible. We never went hungry. Our next speaker was Katie Willett who handles student affairs. She spoke to us about many scholarships that are available and how working with other groups of campus, such as the greek life, can really enhance our image and show that we are not the stereotypical athletes who only care about themselves and their sports.

And finally our day concluded at the NCAA offices with a meeting with Renee Gomila. Renee is the Associate Director of Enforcement for Secondary Infractions. She spoke to us about how she tries to fix things up when a team breaks an NCAA rule. The main point that we discussed was the amount of hours that are allowed for practice time and what to do if we suspect our coach is about to go over or is going over the allowed time. She stressed being able to talk to our coaches about it, and if not being able to go to our compliance director and not just ignoring it. There is a fine line between voluntary and required and it is okay to ask someone if you think something wrong is going on. She told us it is better to speak up if you have the slightest doubt, because you never know, you many be saving your institution from dealing with heavy fines.

Sunday was a short, but jammed packed day. Once again we were up bright and early. Our meetings with the NCAA concluded with a meeting with Jackie Campbell. She spoke to us about all the upcoming rule changes and what the NCAA had in mind to try and make things better for student athletes. It was great hearing from a senior person in the NCAA offices who is really looking out for student athletes as a whole and helping us in whatever way she can.

The A-10 SAAC Competing in the CRONS pushup contest
Our day concluded with a great presentation from the company Crons. Crons is a company based out of Pittsburgh, PA. Sotiris Aggelou and Anthony Griggs represented Crons. Crons is a motivational apparel company. Not only do they produce and make clothes that resemble the materials of the Nike’s and Under Amour’s of the world, but also include motivational quotes and an extremely motivational foundation. They brought us together and discussed how we look at things. Do we see the things we face everyday--a practice, a day of conditioning, a hard weight workout--as a problem or a challenge? Crons, which stands for Come Ready or Never Start, is preaching that you should approach it as a challenge to student-athletes all over the country. In our meeting they challenged us to do 1,000 push ups among eighteen people. Did we see this as a problem or a challenge? Our group stepped up to the challenge, and when we fell only a couple short, everyone stepped up again and did fifteen more. Hearing their "Achievers Program" presentation was truly inspiring. It spoke about setting and achieving your goals, and how and what you are willing to do to make yourself stand out. Crons not only inspired me to do more athletically, but I will carry their method as I head into the real business world. Please like Crons on Facebook and help spread their amazing motivation

Our day concluded with some final messages from Jill and the rest of the team. Jill asked us to speak about what we were really going to take away from this weekend. At the time I couldn’t really think of anything to say. After having a couple days to reflect the one main thing I really took away from this conference was knowing that I can do more, not only athletically, but in the community and academically. I also met a number of incredible people, some great new friends and am so happy that I was able to attend this conference. Through all the speakers and talking with my peers, I learned that student-athletes do have a voice and we are here to change the typical sterotype of student-athletes and let them know that we are here to help and make a positive impact. 

On behalf of myself and the rest of the student athletes that attended this weekend; Alexandra Zinn (Charlotte), Matt Buse (Dayton), Alex Dadds (George Washington), Jessica Crowley (Fordham), Adam Kammler (La Salle), Callie Sweigart (Massachusetts), Tristany Liekem (Rhode Island), Catherine Ostoich (Richmond), Lindsey King (Saint Joseph's), Carly Schumacher (Saint Louis), Danielle Frye (St. Bonaventure), Jenni Abercrumbie (Temple), and Aaron Siekmann (Xavier), I can say that is was one of the greatest opportunities we could ever have.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

#OURvoice: 2012 Atlantic 10 In-Person SAAC Meeting

The following blog post is written by Alex Dadds ‘13, George Washington University, Men’s Cross Country, recounting his experience of attending the 2012 A-10 In-Person SAAC meeting in Indianapolis, IN.

Student-Athletes are a unique breed.  Balancing what we as athletes do on a day-to-day basis is not easy, and the NCAA knows that.  As a member of George Washington’s Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), one of the many things we do is to represent all our athletes with a singular voice about different issues.  I also have the privilege to represent George Washington as the Atlantic 10 Conference SAAC representative, which means I report to the conference about our institution’s position on issues and different initiatives we are involved with at the campus SAAC level.  This past weekend, I got the opportunity to attend the 2012 Atlantic 10 In-Person SAAC meeting in Indianapolis, IN which was held in conjunction with the 2012 NCAA Convention.  I just wanted to share my experience and some of the things we covered.

This was my second time attending the in-person meeting on behalf of GW so I know the benefits of this unique opportunity (the last one was in May 2011 in Philadelphia, PA).  One representative from each school attends the meeting and it is facilitated by Jill Redmond, the Assistant Commissioner of the Atlantic 10.  Jill does an absolutely incredible job organizing the meeting and without her it wouldn’t be the same.       

I arrived in Indianapolis Friday afternoon, driving from my hometown in Louisville, KY.  By arriving early, I got the opportunity to sit in on the National Division I SAAC meeting which was an incredible experience.  The DI SAAC is made up of one representative from each of the 31 member conferences.  The group is very diverse which makes it even better.  The representatives are from all over the country and compete in a wide range of sports from football to lacrosse.  One of the many things they discussed was the impact the student-athlete voice has on decisions made by the NCAA Board of Directors.  An example of the student-athlete impact can be seen with the proposed legislation that was to be voted on by the NCAA regarding the elimination of foreign tours (international training trips, competitions, etc.).  This was a cause most student-athletes were passionate about not eliminating because of the benefits such experiences bring to teams.  As a result of this unified student-athlete voice, the Board chose not to pass the legislation and athletes still have the opportunity to take part in foreign tours.  Being able to meet all the great people on the DI SAAC and sitting in on their meeting was a great way to start the weekend. 

Friday evening, after everyone with the A-10 arrived, we attended the NCAA Honors Celebration.  Prior to the celebration, we knew a little about what to expect and that it was a pretty big deal to get an opportunity to attend.  It turned out to be an unbelievable experience and the Honors Celebration was easily the highlight of the weekend.  Awarded at the Honors Celebration were the six Silver Anniversary award winners, eight Top VIII award winners, two Inspiration award winners, and the one Theodore Roosevelt Award winner.  The stories about each award winner is honestly so much to talk about and they are all great stories, so here is the NCAA press release about the event.  

Alex Dadds, GW '13, pictured with the winner of
the 2012 Theodore Roosevelt Award, Will Allen

Following the Celebration, there was a dessert reception where we got to meet all the award winners. Being able to talk to Doris Burke about college basketball and David Robinson about the benefits of going to school in Washington, DC was something I would have never imagined I’d ever be doing in my lifetime. The winner of the Theodore Roosevelt Award, Will Allen, was someone I spent a lot of my time talking to. Mr. Allen was a former basketball star at Miami (Florida) and he is the current CEO of the nonprofit Growing Power which has spread sustainable practices like “urban agriculture” to less privileged communities around the world. He’s initiating programs in Kenya and I spoke with him for a while about a foundation a good friend of mine has started in that country called The Kenyan Kids Foundation. We ended up trading contact information and I plan on meeting with him further in the spring when he comes to DC for the Clinton Global Initiative. Again, something I would have never expected having the opportunity to do.

Curtis Holloman, Director of Leadership Development
at the NCAA,speaks to A-10 SAAC representatives
Saturday began at 7am with breakfast and a meeting with Atlantic 10 Commissioner Bernadette McGlade.  Commissioner McGlade was a women’s basketball student-athlete at the University of North Carolina.  She spoke to us for a while about her position, how she got to where she is today, issues she’s dealing with as commissioner and several other topics.  Listening to her from a student-athlete’s perspective, you can just tell how passionate she is about her job and the overall well-being of student-athletes everywhere.  Following our discussion with Commissioner McGlade, our group took a short walk to the NCAA National Offices in downtown Indianapolis.  We spent the rest of the afternoon at the NCAA, which is an extraordinary building.  There were terrific presentations from a selected group of NCAA staffers which included Paula Buckhaulter, Assistant Director of Championships Marketing; Katie Willet, Associate Director of Educational Programs; Dana Thomas, Assistant Director of Social Media Strategies; Curtis Holloman, Director of Leadership Development and Renee Gomila, Associate Director of Enforcement.  All of their presentations were very unique and specific, and they shed some light on the everyday functions of the NCAA which gives us athletes the opportunities to compete.  Without their work, student-athletes wouldn’t be in the positions we are today.    

Although Sunday was our final day, we got back to work at 8am.  We began the morning meeting with Jackie Campbell, NCAA Director of Division I.  It was a privilege to have Ms. Campbell come and speak to us further about the structure of the NCAA.  She also emphasized the importance of the student-athlete voice and how our positions are always brought up in the NCAA Board discussions.  We then had the opportunity to hear from Sotiris Aggelou and Anthony Griggs from the motivational apparel company CRONS.  Most student-athletes in the A-10 are familiar with CRONS because they make all our championship apparel.  To be honest, I never knew the whole back story about the company; I just knew we always received cool products from them for competing in a conference championship.  CRONS is actually an acronym that stands for Come Ready Or Never Start, and all their products have some motivational message on them.  Although the company’s competitors are the sport apparel giants Nike, Under Armor, and Adidas, they see themselves separate from these companies because CRONS is marketed as motivational apparel with a unique connection to student-athletes.  Despite the fact that CRONS is a fairly small company compared to others in the industry, Mr. Griggs and Mr. Aggelou emphasized that they’re doing a lot to build the brand by expanding into retail and nutrition.  Mr. Griggs also gave a presentation about the CRONS Achievers Program that is working to build student-athlete leaders on campuses across the country.  One unique aspect of the company is their focus on push-ups.  Yes, the simple exercise of doing pushups.  They told us how they do pushups at the office all the time, and every employee is involved.  Mr. Aggelou said that he has promised 50,000 recorded pushups this calendar year (equates to 34 pushups four times a day!).  Naturally, part of their presentation involved us all doing pushups to see who could do the most in a row.  I have to brag about myself a little now and mention that I did the most in the group by doing 103, shocking coming from a cross country runner.  I know our strength coach Ms. Brandi Walker would be proud!  But in all seriousness, the CRONS presentation was great.  They’re a unique company with a fantastic message.  I wish them the best of luck expanding the CRONS brand around the world.

 The meeting concluded with that, and I think I can speak for everyone when saying what an amazing experience it was.  One point I tried to portray to those who were attending their first in-person SAAC meeting was how unique and special this opportunity is.  By creating these inner-conference friendships is a huge advantage to everyone.  Building our student-athlete network is something many of our peers don’t have the opportunity to do so it’s vital that we share what we learn from each other with student-athletes and administrators on our respective campuses.  I would just like to thank everyone who took part in it, and I look forward to continue our work of expanding the student-athlete voice.  The student-athletes in attendance were: Alexandra Zinn (Charlotte), Matt Buse (Dayton), Shannon Murphy (Duquesne), Jessica Crowley (Fordham), Adam Kammler (La Salle), Callie Sweigart (Massachusetts), Tristany Liekem (Rhode Island), Catherine Ostoich (Richmond), Lindsey King (Saint Joseph's), Carly Schumacher (Saint Louis), Danielle Frye (St. Bonaventure), Jenni Abercrumbie (Temple), and Aaron Siekmann (Xavier).