Last week was Student Athlete Week, a time to celebrate Vassar’s athletes and encourage support among the wider community. There has always been an unfortunate gap between athletes and non-athletes at Vassar. However, this year, the Student Athletes Advisory Committee (SAAC) has been working tirelessly to significantly decrease this gap. Their goals have been to further involve and inform the community about athletic events and to unite Vassar in school spirit. SAAC has implemented several new policies just this year in an attempt to accomplish this. Each sports team has chosen a FAST member, which is essentially a Vassar faculty member that is associated with each sports team. Each sports team is also working on creating a specific “Brew Crew Event” during one of their home matches or games this year that will allow fans and attendees to participate in a fun event and possibly win a prize.
According to women’s field hockey player, junior Haley Merritt, the turn out for the field hockey clinic was pretty good. “It was pretty successful this year. The clinics weren’t huge but we all still enjoyed them.” Fellow field hockey teammate sophomore Sophie Arnold spoke further on the turnout: “I think a lot of people have never played field hockey so we were hoping to just show people the sport we love. It was a lot of fun! Some of the women’s basketball team stopped by and scrimmaged with us, which we really appreciated. Two girls who play field hockey at Arlington high school actually came too because their parents work here, so it’s always fun to play with younger girls who may be interested in playing in college too.”
SAAC President and women’s basketball captain junior Colleen O’Connell was instrumental in the planning of Vassar’s Student Athlete Week. “I oversaw the SAAC Committee planning the events for student-athlete week. Trey Cimorelli (Men’s Volleyball) organized our efforts, and without him, we would not have had as many ideas and events to plan. Additionally, members from the field hockey, women’s volleyball, and men’s and women’s soccer teams helped plan the week, and I am very grateful for all of their hard work.” On top of coordinating much of the week, she assisted in hosting the Women’s Basketball clinic last week. She commented on the success of the clinic, “The women’s basketball team put on a fantastic clinic on Wednesday night, where we played a bunch of games with students, children, and even the Dean of the College, Chris Roellke. We had a great time sharing our love of the game by playing fun games, like knockout and dinosaur basketball, with everyone!”
Additionally, five members of the SAAC committee very recently attended a conference at Williams College to hear panelists and speakers address the holistic experience of a student-athlete at a Division III level. At the conference, there were over 50 delegates from Liberty League and New England Small College Athletic Conference. According to O’Connell, “Hearing what other student-athletes were doing at their schools was extremely helpful for ideas of what we wish to accomplish in the future.” O’ Connell furthered, “Attending the conference was a lot of fun because hearing what our student-athletes at other Division III schools had to say proved to be very eye-opening. We received a lot of useful information from a sports psychologist, our keynote speaker about leadership, and sexual assault bystander intervention strategies, among others. We are planning to utilize this information in our efforts for future events and programs on campus, some of which are already underway in terms of coordinating.”
On April 22, there will be a screening of “The Hunting Ground,” a documentary that addresses and exposes issues of sexual assault and the rape culture on college campuses that will be co-sponsored by SAAC and Sexual Assault and Violence Prevention. This screening is of particular importance to student-athletes, especially considering the Title IX federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in schools that receive federal funding—including their athletic programs. In recent years, Title IX has become even more focused on issues such as violence and sexual assault. The members of SAAC feel that they are lucky to have gotten their hands on the film so early, and that it is important to make students feel safe and be aware of their options on campus regarding these issues.
O’Connell was pleased with the week, “The feedback I received from clinic attendees was that it was extremely fun and a great way to take a break from work for the week.” However, like everything, there is always room for improvement. SAAC hopes to continue to improve this week each year by increasing turnout and even adding a speaker.
Overall, through SAAC, the student athletes on Vassar’s campus have been gaining much deserved recognition for the positive contributions that they bring to the school, and SAAC is hoping to further decrease the gap between student athletes and non-athletes on Vassar’s campus. They hope also to strengthen the relationship of the college with Poughkeepsie and Arlington communities through events like Student Athlete week that celebrate athletes but encourage the entire community’s participation. With such great leadership and passion for their sports and for their school, it is looking likely that they will succeed and accomplish their goals in future years.