In years past, The University of Houston’ Student-Athlete Council might have been considered "a sleeping giant" – a group with enormous potential but not much activity. But thanks to new leadership, student-athletes have been moving forward full throttle in the 2009-2010 school year. Only six weeks into the fall 2009 term, the UH Student-athlete council has already met four times – every other week. In this short time, the SAAC has created and implemented a SAAC webpage and committed to 5 community service events for fall: the American Diabetes "Step Up" Walk in November, the Houston Marathon Kids Kick-Off on October 10th, the Harvard Elementary School Literacy Night on October 20th, the Star of Hope Holiday Party on the first Monday in December, and a Cookies and Milk Event with Star of Hope Homeless Shelter residents in November (which will be come a monthly event).
Through the newly founded "Coog for a Coog" program, a SAAC led initiative, the group ask those who are not practicing or competing to attend their fellow student-athletes competitions. Turn out by student-athletes has increased dramatically at Womens' Soccer and Volleyball games, and student-athletes were all seated together to provide additional support to our football team at a Sept. 26th, nationally televised game.
The SAAC has also increased its leadership goals by inviting a Head Coach and an Athletic Administrator to each meeting to share their insights from a leadership perspective and to increase communication between the athletic department and its student-athletes. One of the SAAC representatives is also a member of the Student Government Association and our SAAC is in discussion with the SGA President to determine whether Athletics can have its own seat in UH Student Government.
Further, the SAAC has composed a list of short-term and long-term goals that are aimed at improving the UH community and student-athlete welfare. Two of those goals are the installation of an indoor bike rack to reduce theft of student-athlete bikes and encourage a ‘greener; way of living, as well as a "healthy options" food/sandwich cart that would improve lunch/snack options for student-athletes and staff by providing better choices than the nearby fast food chains.
In addition, the SAAC Officers are now meeting once a month with the Director of Athletics to discuss implementing their goals and to express the concerns of UH student-athletes. Communication, visibility, accountability and the development of understanding and respect between teams has been the immediate result of the increased activity and expansion of UH SAAC.
The Houston SAAC President, Clark Mitzner, was also elected C-USA SAAC Chair and attended the NCAA Leadership Development Conference last summer to increase his knowledge of best practices and his leadership abilities.
Finally, the University of Houston recently celebrated homecoming last weekend. In an effort to narrow the gap between students and student-athletes, each team had the opportunity to participate in the Homecoming Parade with a decorated Golf Cart. Teams came up with a theme and decorated their carts. Themes included Track and Field’s “Beat it” by Michael Jackson (Beat the Mustangs), while the Swimming and Diving Team kept to the water (Drown the Mustangs!).
The HopeDay festival included sporting clinics from all 25 Gopher sports and student-athletes, including a dunk tank by the swim teams and obstacle course with the men's and women's track and field teams. Along with the student-athlete clinics, there are a variety of other activities for kids and families to attend, including pony rides, a petting zoo, a rock-climbing wall and face painting. The event drew over 500 student-athletes and over 1,400 members from the HopeKids organization.
HopeKids is an organization which gives hope to children with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses and their families by participating in ongoing, highly anticipated events with the message of hope. The idea is that hope, in and of itself, is a very powerful medicine.