By Erica Fugger
An article in last week’s Concordiensis “Idea Issue” detailed the importance of enhancing support for Union’s athletic teams and considered some of the current measures that are in place for such an occurrence.
Among those initiatives include the work of the Athletic Department and the efforts of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC). Often unbeknownst to the college community, these groups substantially enhance interactions between athletes and within the greater college community.
Athletic Director and member of the Class of 1993, Jim McLaughlin spoke of the importance of a committed Athletic Department in terms of athlete recognition and competition publicity, “Our department has a very talented sports information staff that does a great job using technology to their advantage. We have a great staff that really care about the students and take a great deal of pride in celebrating their achievements.” Such means of publicizing competition occurrences and the successes of the sports teams can most often be found on the athletic website at www.unionathletics.com.
Assistant Athletic and Sports Information Director, Eric McDowell, specifically attributes implementation of live statistics, the posting of pictures and videos, text messaging of live results, broadcasts by cell phone, and the redesign of the athlete website as means of bringing Union Athletic support into the twenty-first century. He stated that it encouraged school spirit, in addition to off-site family and alumni support.
In terms of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee’s involvement in athletic support, SAAC President Patrick Petty ’11 proclaimed the intention of the NCAA-mandated organization as to “build a better relationship between the athletes and the school, as well as serve as a ‘sounding board’ and a place for athletes to discuss various issues and improvements that can be made not only to their teams and athletics, but [also] to the school.”
McLaughlin similarly stated, “In terms of SAAC, the simple fact of bringing one or two members of each athletic team to discuss the successes and challenges of their athletic involvement, in addition to creating a means of offering suggestions, has greatly improved the overall athletic experience. There has been the creation of point challenges [to encourage game attendance and community service], the mentality of ‘adopting other teams’ to support, and a natural increase of support just in the development of friendships between the athlete teams.”
Petty spoke further of the athletic teams’ ability to raise money for charities and become involved in initiative’s like yesterday’s “Run, Ribs, and Reggae.” Associate Athletic Director, Beth Taimi, cited Men’s Hockey, in addition to Men’s Soccer, Football, and Men’s Lacrosse as having hosted games in which either the team or fans wore black or white. Additionally, Taimi stated that: “Several of our teams (men’s and women’s) have hosted pink themed events (in support of cancer research and awareness), such as Pink at the Rink, Dig for a Cure, Pink Zone, [and] Think Pink.” The sports teams also participate in interathletic competitions outside their sports arenas, the most recent being “Family Feud.”
In addition to SAAC initiatives to raise recognition and support, McGlaughlin cited local public news as the next means of highlighting the accomplishments of Union athletes outside of the field of competition. Additionally, he spoke of the possibility of implementing a faculty liaison program in order to “bridge the gap” between academics and athletics.
In terms of improvement of support for Union Athletics, SAAC Secretary and Women’s Track and Field Team member, Clarissa Odence ’11, spoke of the great successes of SAAC, but also the importance of “getting the Union Campus Community more involved in athletics and the many events that athletics puts on.” Odence also mentioned the appreciation she has when friends, classmates, athletic staff, professors, and other members of the campus community attend athletic events, “It makes me feel like my efforts are being recognized and that my team is important to the school.”
SAAC representative and upcoming captain of the Swimming and Diving Team, Lia D’Ambrosio ’12 stated that, “As a member of the swimming and diving team I can say that we see very little support from other athletic teams in our community. . .Our fanbase is generally our parents who drive up every weekend, but we would love for members of the Union community to come and see what swimming and diving is all about. The few who have come have expressed that they didn’t expect a meet to be as fun as it was, so if we can spread that around, hopefully we can get more attendance at our meets.”
Similar means of support are needed for all sports teams and for all levels of competition. By encouraging the efforts of Union students in their athletic pursuits, their ability to contribute to the school in other aspects is greatly increased..”
As McGlaughlin stated, “The great thing about the enhancement of Union Athletics is that we can have the best of both worlds. Students can compete at the highest levels, even the NCAAs, athletically, but still be top students. At Union, academics are not compromised, but instead, complemented by athletic involvement. Our athletes have great successes on the playing field, but even greater ones in the classroom and community.”
So, as was mentioned previously: Every person in the stands counts. As is now shown in even greater depth, there are so many initiatives to increase support and recognition for Union’s athletic successes. But the greater campus community must take advantage of these opportunities in order to fuel the creation of a tighter knit support system that encourages collegiate varsity athletes both academically and competitively. Since student-athletes “Represent U,” it is important to bring that school spirit to each game in order to encourage their best performances and allow for the end means of achieving success on all levels.