SAAC promotes community between students, athletes

Student-athletes now voice their opinions and vote on NCAA regulations for the sports programs as part of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) unlike previous years.

Twenty-one student-athletes make up the committee with two voluntary representatives from each team. The committee, going on its fourth year, meets once a month at various locations on campus. Alyssa Orito, the committee’s president this year, said the committee acts as an “ASB for collegiate athletics” and her role is to maintain those relationships between athletes, coaches and their athletic program.

“We go over minutes from our last meeting, updates from committees and any other new information that comes up,” said Orito, a third year SAAC member.

Voting aside, each representative has a role within the NCAA Division II required committee.

mcKensey Wise, senior ASB president and women’s volleyball representative, said her role within the SAAC is to promote diversity.

“What we wanted to do was have athletes who speak different languages in serving the community through the diversity chapel,” said Wise. “Because that’s just something that the NCAA requires – some kind of diversity event – and so that didn’t end up working out but we’re trying to do that again next semester; or just having the athletes represented at clubs like BSU [Black Student Union] or any of the Mosaic clubs.”

Additionally, the members decided to involve a new program-founded and managed by Wally Haas, former Oakland Athletics owner-called Coaching Corps where student-athletes are given the opportunity to coach youth sports programs in the San Diego area.

“SAAC is also now partnering with a new group called Coaching Corps,” said Brian Thornton, associate athletic director. “They’re an organization that partners with inner-city boys and girls clubs to go out and find coaches for teams in high schools and even middle schools.”

Thornton also said the main goal of the SAAC is to promote involvement between student-athletes and other students.

“They as a group have stated – which I totally agree [with] and support – that their objective is to really bring the athletes into the greater school community a little bit better,” said Thornton. “Not that there is a big issue, although there is a divide because athletes are practicing and they’re busy. They’re down here all the time [Golden Gymnasium] and not up on campus as much as other students.”

Interaction between teams on campus is also another important issue for the committee, said Alyssa Orito, third year SAAC member and this year’s SAAC president. The group is planning an event for student-athletes exclusively.

“We are hosting an all-athletic event at the beginning of December to encourage our over 200 student-athletes to socialize together in one setting and enjoy each other’s company in a healthy, Christ-centered environment,” said Orito via email.

Charity events such as Operation Christmas Child, the Make a Wish Foundation fundraiser and Superfest-an event where kids of all ages receive advice from PLNU coaches and players as well as past professional athletes-highlight the biggest events led by the SAAC according to Orito.

Nathan Miramontes, a sophomore representative from the men’s tennis team, said he has a personal connection with the Make A Wish Foundation.

“I actually had a friend whose wish had come true by the Make a Wish Foundation,” said Miramontes. “This summer, he got to play for the Seattle Sounders [professional major league soccer team]. It was on [ESPN’s] Sports Center and all of that stuff. I like the Make a Wish Foundation a lot because I’ve seen what it did for him. They paid for all travel expenses to Seattle for the week, he got to train with the team, meet the team and he got to play against Tottenham, which is a professional team in England.”

The committee also serves to give the athletics a personable element for the students, said Thornton.

“It’s a good group, and I enjoy doing it because it keeps me engaged with the athletes on a more granular, personal level,” said Thornton. “Rather than just seeing them as a sport we’re trying to promote, it takes me down to the human level with them, which is awesome.”