October 10, 2013
Although the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, or SAAC, has existed since 1998, many Hamilton students have never heard of it. Jackie Winter ’14, this year’s SAAC president, admitted that she did not know the board existed until after her freshman year. Forty-six athletes currently represent the 29 varsity sports teams on campus, working to give student-athletes the opportunity to voice their concerns and brainstorm local outreach efforts.
The increase in participants on the Committee, which was made up of about ten sports captains just two years ago, speaks to the growing interest student-athletes have in compiling their ideas and developing communication between themselves and the Hamilton College Athletic Department. Following the efforts of Gabe Klein ’13, SAAC’s president from last year, the organization is looking to further solidify its presence on campus.
“SAAC serves as the collective voice of Hamilton’s varsity athletes,” Winter said. “We aim to give student athletes the opportunity to improve the athletic community, organize community service activities, hold charity drives and address issues that they see on campus,” she added.
This year, SAAC is hoping to work on several initiatives on campus and in the local community. One of the largest goals of the group is to increase attendance at Hamilton athletic events. SAAC members are aware that there is a lack of school spirit embodied in the sporadic attendance of sporting events. Ironically, although athletes are now playing at a higher level than in high school, Winter said, “In many cases, Hamilton athletes had a greater fan base supporting their high school games than they do now at their college games.”
In order to combat this trend, SAAC is trying to encourage students to come out to more sporting events through “games of the week” and raffles. Each week, SAAC will advertise a specific game to persuade students to attend at least one game a week. SAAC members will hand out food and Hamilton memorabilia at home games, as well. This “game of the week” program is designed to bring not only the general Hamilton community out to the games, but also to increase fellow student-athletes’ attendance.
The raffle program is centered upon the hope of making sporting events more exciting and appealing. At each home game, a SAAC member will give out raffle tickets to students, who will then write their names on the tickets and enter a monthly pool. At the end of each month, a drawing will result in a student winning free gear from the college bookstore. There are also plans in the works to hold a bigger raffle at the end of each semester, which would include a larger prize, such as tickets to a Syracuse University basketball game.
Another objective of SAAC is to participate in more community service activities and to run local charity drives.
Last spring, about 40 Hamilton athletes volunteered with Special Olympics in Rome, NY. Additionally, the men’s and women’s swimming and diving team has worked with the local Special Olympics swim teams. After spending the spring of 2012 travelling to Utica to coach the athletes, the team hosted practices on last spring.
SAAC hopes to encourage further involvement with this program again this year. Student-athletes on the Committee are also interested in reaching out to local schools and sports teams in Clinton. This kind of outreach could include participating in Clinton sports teams’ practices, or hosting clinics here on campus and inviting Clinton teams to games up on the Hill. As Winter stated, “We think it’s important to engage with the town and give back to them however we can.” As an additional form of community involvement, during the holiday season, SAAC plans to hold used equipment and toy drives on campus.
The Student-Athlete Advisory Committee is also committed to addressing concerns that already exist in the campus community.
One of the most recent and exciting initiatives is the “You Can Play” project, spearheaded by SAAC Treasurer Ben Fields ’15. Begun in March 2012, this grassroots project works to remove homophobia from sports. Following schools like Brown University and Bowdoin College, Hamilton’s SAAC also plans to create a video with coaches and athletes of any sexual orientation to promote the idea that “no matter who you are, who you like or what you do, you have a place in sports on our fields, in our pool and field house, or on our track,” as Fields put it. All who participate in the video will go through “sensitivity training” this fall, meaning that their involvement will also mark them as LGTBQ allies. SAAC hopes to have this video completed and shown by the end of the semester.
Fields and Will Tifft ’14 are also planning to create an LGBTQ and Ally group for Hamilton athletes who are interested in discussing issues related to the LGBTQ community in athletics and anyone who may be looking for support. Fields voiced his conviction in making this effort work: stating that “It’s time that Hamilton and Hamilton Athletics especially put the word out that if you think homophobia is okay in sports then you need to change your attitude.” He also noted that SAAC has been “incredibly lucky to have such supportive people... like Jon Hind and Kerri Fagan who have been behind this one hundred percent since day one.” Fagan, Hamilton’s Assistant Athletic Director, currently serves as director of SAAC.
The wide range of initiatives and plans that SAAC has already proposed and begun to carry out for this coming school year exemplify the increased presence it has established for itself on campus. Everyone involved in its efforts are committed to creating positive change in Hamilton athletics and to increasing the role of student-athletes in the community. This dedication is sure to project positive results far into the future.