Thursday, May 28, 2009

2009 National Student-Athlete Development Conference

The 2009 National Student-Athlete Development Conference convened in Orlando, Florida at the Coronado Springs Resort in Walt Disney World from May 24-27. Despite some uncharacteristic weather in Orlando, close to 600 of the nation’s top student-athlete leaders gathered without letting the rain damper their spirits. These leaders came together to shed light on numerous important issues facing student-athletes today. The conference was also an opportunity for student-athletes to enhance their leadership skills and network with administrators as well as with one another through a variety of activities. The student-athletes in attendance started a journey of self discovery that will continue well beyond the days, weeks, months and years after this conference.

I was joined at the conference by 11 of my fellow National Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) members from all divisions (I, II, and III). The responsibilities of being among the 12 National SAAC members were numerous; including helping the NCAA staff set up the different rooms of the conference, organizing different items necessary for the activities, being airport ambassadors for the arriving student-athletes at the conference, and more. I credit the NCAA staff on doing a phenomenal job of preparing for and running the conference. Without their tireless efforts and hard work, events such as these are nothing more than an idea without feasibility.

Perhaps most notably, however, each divisional National SAAC was charged with the task of organizing a 1 hour 45 minute SAAC session (one for each division). This session was the highlight of our time spent at the development conference. Having the chance to meet and interact with student-athletes from all around the county on a level such as this is certainly a rarity for us as a National SAAC. Numerous conference calls and months of practice went into preparing the material for this session, along with some incredible assistance from NCAA staff members Beth DeBauche and Kelly Groddy. Because the 600 student-athletes in attendance were selected for their exceptional leadership qualities and uniqueness, we wanted to be sure to provide knowledge that those in attendance could take back with them to their respective campuses and use to enhance their student-athlete experiences.

The National SAAC Education and Feedback session was a great dialogue, which was highly anticipated due to the credentials for which they were chosen. After the session, the National SAAC members felt that we thoroughly and effectively communicated the most important and pertinent information to the attendees including a background on what the National SAAC is and our role in the NCAA governance structure, why the student-athlete voice and opinion matters, an explanation of various issues affecting student-athletes, initiatives spearheaded by the National SAAC, and the opportunity for the student-athletes to directly voice their opinions and concerns to us and the NCAA membership. More importantly, I think we all walked away having learned as much as we taught. It is truly refreshing to have the opportunity to realign our goals and make sure that we are connecting with all 160,000 Division I student-athletes.

This was my first opportunity to attend one of these conferences (either regional or national) and I had heard that witnessing the student-athletes at these conferences is pretty spectacular. Now that I have had the pleasure of interacting with these student-athletes, it gives me confidence that the future leaders of tomorrow are well on their way to achieving great things and accomplishing great feats. Often times, as student-athletes, we are viewed from the narrow perspective of only our athletic feats. But, we all know that there are over 400,000 student-athletes and almost all will go pro in something other than sports. After attending this conference, there is no doubt that NCAA student-athletes are more than prepared for what is to come in our bright futures.

To those student-athletes who were in attendance at this conference, I want to say thank you for showing me what intercollegiate athletics is all about. You all came to this conference without an inkling as to what you were getting yourselves into, but left as a group who embraced challenges and seized the opportunity to acquire the skills and tools to go out and make a difference in the lives of others. That, in the end, is what the intended purpose of this conference was, and you certainly did not disappoint! And for that I thank and congratulate you.

Scott Krapf
Illinois State University Track and Field

Missouri Valley Conference

*If you were a participant at the 2009 National Student-Athlete Development Conference, we want to see pictures from your experience! Email your favorites to to see them on SAAC Speaks!

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Inaugural National SAAC Award of Excellence

On March 24th, the NCAA Division I Leadership Council approved the creation of the Division I National Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) Award of Excellence. This award is intended to showcase campus SAACs that have made great contributions to their respective communities.

The mission of the NCAA Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee is to enhance the total student-athlete experience by promoting opportunity, protecting student-athlete well being, and fostering a positive student-athlete image. Our hope was that this award would not only showcase the many positive accomplishments of SAACs all over the country, but also that it will spread awareness of the National SAAC and our position in the NCAA governance structure. The selection for the award was based on the following criteria:

a. Progress and growth of campus SAAC;
b. Community Service/Outreach;
c. Sportsmanship Initiatives;
d. Teamwork;
e. Originality; and
f. Leadership.

Selection could be based on any single category, or a combination of multiple categories. The selection committee is comprised entirely of NCAA Division I National SAAC members. When we opened the door for applications on the 20th of April, we were immediately overwhelmed with a tremendous response by SAACs all over the country. We knew that choosing a winner would be difficult, but we never could have imagined how complicated – and inspiring - the process would truly be. There are amazing things happening every day on all of our campuses, and it is our hope that every SAAC gets the recognition they deserve for their commitment to their institutions and communities.

In reading through the submissions, however, there were two schools that stood out among the rest. It is the honor and privilege of the NCAA Division I National Student-Athlete Advisory Committee to recognize the outstanding achievements of the SAACs at both North Dakota State University, and the University of Oregon.

North Dakota State University

The three defining pillars of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee at North Dakota State are Teamwork, Leadership, and Community Service/Outreach. When Fargo-Moorhead’s Red River started flooding in late March, the NDSU SAAC quickly stepped in to mobilize their teams in an effort to fight the flood threatening their community.

Over the five-day span, the student-athletes, cheer team, and student-athlete trainers spent over 7,200 hours sandbagging in and around the Fargo-Moorhead area – many working over 20 hours each. This number does not take into account the additional sandbagging done in anticipation of the second crest, or the sandbag removal efforts that are still taking place. The football student-athletes even traveled to Valley City State University to assist in their flood fight as well.

“This is a great way for us to give back to the community. The people of this area have done so much for us through the years,” said Lucas Moormann, a senior on the Men’s Basketball team. “As we saw down at the NCAA tournament, we have a ton of fans. This is one way to give back to them and help the community.”

The leadership shown by the North Dakota State University SAAC is a true testament to the very idea of community service. Both collectively and individually, all of the student-athletes – whether they were in state or out of state - articulated the need to give back to their “community.” The physical presence and emotional stability of NDSU team members was immeasurable as young and old were energized by the enthusiasm and encouragement provided by these young men and women to endure the ravages of the flood.

The accomplishment of the SAAC members, student-athletes, cheer team members and student-athletic trainers has not gone unnoticed, as several emails and notes of personal thanks were sent by homeowners who felt the efforts of these teams literally saved their homes. It is with a great amount of respect and humility that we, the NCAA Division I National SAAC, are proud to present the student-athletes of North Dakota State University with the National SAAC Award of Excellence. Your actions and demonstrated dedication to your community is simply outstanding. Congratulations.

The University of Oregon

On September 28, 2008 the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee at the University of Oregon launched a non-profit community organization program called Oregon Heroes. The goal of O Heroes was to create a single identity for all community service initiatives and to seek involvement from all student-athletes, staff, and faculty. O Heroes is focused in three areas which student-athletes feel they are able to excel in: health, education and service.

The Student-Athlete Advisory Committee decided to launch O Heroes as a department recognized non-profit organization. This allows O Heroes to collect donations on campus grounds including athletic facilities. O Heroes is also able to donate money raised to service projects such as the Duckling, which provides financial support to a local child battling an illness.

“The SAAC has a long history of giving back in our community. But now we are able to extend our reach even further,” explained Matt Jacobson, a golf student-athlete at Oregon. “This program is unique in that it is run primarily by student-athletes. Now, we can incorporate all the service that student-athletes do under one initiative.”

SAAC executive members serve as the Board of Directors for O Heroes. At meetings, the student-athletes decide what service projects align with the goals of O Heroes and then plan and coordinate those projects, with support and guidance given by the Student-Athlete Development Office within the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics.

One of the highlights from the O Heroes initiative is called “Quackin’ Action”, a fun and educational event that provides over 300 local children the opportunity to meet and greet student-athletes as well as participate in a series of stations focused on health, education, nutrition, and fitness. The event is entirely organized and coordinated by SAAC.

Through O Heroes, Oregon’s student-athlete advisory committee has also taken initiative and formulated new relationships with campus groups including Greek Life. One example of this involves partnering with Delta Tau Delta, to participate in the Bleed Purple Volleyball Tournament, a philanthropic event to raise money for college students battling cancer.

Since the launching of O Heroes, community service has skyrocketed throughout the athletic department. The University of Oregon SAAC has demonstrated outstanding leadership and commitment to the O Heroes program and continues to make huge strides to create, implement, and share new ideas.

Because of their originality and ingenuity, the SAAC at the University of Oregon has made a remarkable difference in their community, and student-athletes are being recognized as something more than just stars on the playing field – they have become heroes. The NCAA Division I National SAAC is truly inspired by the effort and leadership of student-athletes at the University of Oregon, and your actions epitomize the positive values SAAC’s everywhere. Congratulations on all of your accomplishments.

The NCAA Division I National SAAC is honored to present both the University of Oregon and North Dakota State University with the Spring 2009 National SAAC Award of Excellence. We are encouraged and inspired by your efforts, and your example now sets the standard for excellence in promoting growth, community Service, outreach, sportsmanship, teamwork, originality, and leadership. Congratulations again on your outstanding achievement.

One Division, One Voice; The NCAA Division I National SAAC.