By Amy Martin
Special to GoHolyCross.com
When almost a quarter of the student population is made up of athletes, it’s important for this demographic to have a voice on the hill. And for members of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), that is exactly what they provide to their fellow Crusaders. With two representatives from each team, the group is able to help make decisions for the athletic department, raise money for the community and work towards helping the athletic department being the best it can be.
Student-Athlete Advisory Committees can be found on every college campus where an NCAA sanctioned sport is played, as they are required by legislation of the NCAA. Started in 1989 the national committee of SAAC began meeting to improve the welfare and enhance the experience of the student-athlete. Today the mission statement of the national SAAC implores its members to improve their fellow student-athlete experiences by promoting opportunities, being aware of student-athlete welfare and projecting a positive image of the student-athlete onto the community. For the members of the Holy Cross SAAC, this statement rings true.
After their monthly meetings the members of SAAC report back to their teammates about the goings on of the athletic department providing a bridge between the athletes and athletic administration. For Associate Athletic Director and SAAC Co-Advisor Ann Zelesky, SAAC has also provided a place for athletes to find out how they can best help their fellow Crusaders. “SAAC has had a nice role, highlighting games and providing information about how seasons are going,” said Zelesky. “There has been a huge improvement in teams supporting one another, which is exciting. It’s nice to see other students supporting you, as they relate to what you are doing. They respect and understand what you’re going through.”
In addition to the 60-person committee, there are seven students that make up the Executive Board. These seven students serve as the leaders of the group and put in a little extra time to make sure everything runs smoothly. Jen Kagno, Manager of Home Events and SAAC Co-Advisor, sees firsthand how important the E-Board is. “It’s a great commitment,” said Kagno. “They are certainly a group of people that just do, do, do.”
The 2010-2011 E-Board members include field hockey senior captain Breezy Rush, women’s lacrosse senior captain Annie Boylan, senior cheerleader Elizabeth Parker, junior Madison Horl of the women’s golf team, senior Greg Liguori of the men’s track team, senior captain Matt Wierzel of the men’s tennis team and senior captain of the volleyball team Angela Chisholm. Parker explained the role and relationship between the members of the E-Board as, “different connections that have become one of the simple pleasures of being a Crusader. The E-Board works hard every year to see that these relationships are consistently made and that the committee has sustainable leadership and goals.”
Not only are the Crusader student athletes supporting each other and working within the Holy Cross community, but they are supporting the greater community. Over the course of the past two years, SAAC has been involved in fundraisers and various collections for Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Worcester, Wings and Hooves, Pink Revolution, Toys for Tots, White Ribbon Campaign, Catholic Charities of Worcester and most recently the Fallon McKee Education Fund.
The student-athlete date auction, which has grown exponentially over the past three years, is the committee’s featured event. The event allows fellow students to bid on a donated dinner and date with a Crusader athlete. This year’s charity was one very close to the heart of many Crusaders as it impacts two former Holy Cross athletes. The Fallon McKee Educational Fund, which benefits two-year-old Fallon McKee who tragically lost her mother Elizabeth, ’05 graduate and member of the track team, this past January to a brain aneurism. Fallon fortunately is survived by her father Mikey McKee, ’05 alum of Holy Cross and the men’s lacrosse program. This fund was set up to with the intention of helping lower the expenses for Fallon’s future endeavors.
Senior men’s tennis player and E-Board member Wierzel stated of the auction, “Our main project each year has been the date auction. It has been extremely successful since its inception and this year we raised $2,800 from students. It has grown each year since it started three years ago and I hope to continue to see it grow since it is for a good cause.”
Fellow E-Board member Liguori also hopes to see growth for the committee over the next few years as the experience he has had working on SAAC has been a positive one. “Going forward, I would love to see SAAC build on the successes we have had this year,” said Liguori. “I feel so honored and proud to have been part of this organization, and my hope is that when I return to campus in the years ahead that its current members can say the same.”
Much of this year’s success can be attributed to the visibility and popularity of SAAC on campus. By promoting activities through flyers, e-mails and events on Facebook, the participation in events has steadily increased over the years, with this year showing some high numbers in SAAC event participation. During the meetings members also have the opportunity to share with their fellow Crusaders about upcoming games and events that each team is planning. “Whatever is discussed is brought to teammates,” said Zelesky. “We talk about legislation, things to improve, suggestions and they have a voice when they come back to SAAC. And if we’re having an event or function, like date auction, than they are all part of it. The reps invite their team and tell them what’s going on. Because of SAAC, teams are supporting other teams.”
This support has been evidenced and was especially noticeable at the women’s lacrosse game against Navy earlier in the spring. The support of the football and hockey teams, and several other athletes was noticeable and enhanced the environment.
SAAC has also helped bridge the gap between administration and athletes, giving the staff the opportunity to hear firsthand how the students feel about certain aspects of the department in addition to learning what issues are urgent and addressing. “The students give us input, constructive ways and suggestions for improvement. When we are able, we are more than willing to help out if a financial situation occurs. We do hear them and we hear their voices,” said Zelesky.
The meetings also allow for coaches to get involved in the process and provide further insight into the lives of their athletes. “Some of the coaches are involved which is another good venue for them to see what we’re doing,” said Zelesky “To have them at the meetings and whatever functions that we have is a wonderful way of communicating.”
Parker agreed and summed up the overall experience of working on SAAC has allowed her to improve her relations with fellow athletes, administrators and the community. “Being a part of SAAC and the E-Board has allowed me the opportunity to connect with various other student-athletes with whom I had never spoken, creating new kinship and friendships with them along the way. Staring down the barrel of becoming a Holy Cross alumna, I hope that SAAC will continue to do good things throughout the Worcester community, and most importantly that it will continue to promote Sader spirit.”
Undoubtedly the solid foundation that this committee has sustained will only continue to grow in the future as SAAC looks to become even larger and more active in the future, enhancing the lives and serving as a voice for those both in and around the Crusader community.