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Students, staff revive student-athlete committee after years of inactivity

During the Rollins-Tampa Men’s Soccer game, the Barker Family Stadium was busier than usual. Everyone was wearing blue—even Nairobi, a beautiful pitbull sitting in the front row. 

The theme and the turnout were courtesy of the newest initiative from the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) called “One Big Game.”

Each varsity team on campus provided one home game, and members of SAAC, along with Rollins Sports, will promote it to the whole campus. The themes will be only one aspect of these fixtures.

“We had a great turnout at the first one for Men’s Soccer against Tampa, and we hope fans will continue to support our teams. Be on the lookout about these games, and come support. It will be fun,” said SAAC President and Volleyball Team Captain Marlee Johnson (‘22).

SAAC is composed of two to three representatives from each varsity team. The organization acts as the liaison between Rollins student athletes, the Sunshine State Conference, and ultimately, the NCAA.

“But how we do that is up to us and what the student athletes need from us,” said Johnson. “This year, coming out of the pandemic, we are focusing on the theme of ‘Connection.’”

SAAC has adopted three dimensions of connection to support student-athletes. 

Connection to self centers around student athlete mental health. SAAC aims to partner with Hidden Opponent and provide support for their initiatives on campus. 

Another dimension is connection to athletes, which has to do with creating opportunities for student-athletes to connect with and support one another. SAAC recently implemented “buddy teams,” where fall and spring sports are paired together and support each other in competition. 

“We have gotten a pretty good response about this so far, and we are excited to see how teams show up for each other,” said Johnson. 

Finally, SAAC is looking to expand the student athletes’ connection to others. To do so, they would focus on partnering with their philanthropy partner, the Make-a-Wish Foundation, as well as organizations on campus outside of athletics.

SAAC conducts monthly meetings and their tasks include voting on NCAA legislation pertaining to Rollins and supporting student athletes in any capacity. 

The organization used to be a proactive entity on campus up until 2017, but after the graduation of that cohort, SAAC went into a period of inactivity until early last year.

“We are in the rebuilding phase, so there is definitely a lot we can do better. Our Exec Board is great, ready to work, and so open to ideas and feedback. We are approaching this year knowing that we have a lot to learn, so we are just jumping in and doing our best, improving as we go,” said Johnson.

SAAC is advised by Volleyball Assistant Coach Sarah Steffan and AD for Athletic Communications & Operations Phil Chinnery. Johnson expressed gratitude for their efforts and input, as well as the support of Director of Athletics Pennie Parker and all the varsity coaches. 

Johnson said, “I hope that SAAC will be something that fosters connection for Rollins student athletes for years to come. The organization has the potential to create excitement around athletics and to bridge the gap between athletes and the general student body.”

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