October 20, 2013
By Kelly McHugh
In order to provide a world-class student-athlete experience, first you've got to know what student-athletes want.
Through the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), the voices of K-State's 438 student-athletes never go unheard.
From organizing community service events to providing feedback on the various new experiences for Wildcat athletes, SAAC is made up of 27 student-athlete representatives from K-State's 16 different athletic teams. The opinions and ideas of each of these 27 SAAC representatives reflect the opinions and ideas of their respective teams.
"From a leadership perspective, it gives them the opportunity to practice their leadership skills," SAAC Advisor Cori Pinkett said. "You always hear, 'Student-athletes are leaders. They should be leaders on their team and leaders in their sport,' and it gives them the chance to actually put that in practice."
While SAAC meets once a month, the October meeting was unique. The SAAC representatives met at the West Stadium Center Performance Table and experienced one of the first meals in the room by Chef Michael Moyes.
Moyes discussed the advantages of student-athletes eating at the Performance Table, including healthier options and providing nutritional information, and SAAC members were given the opportunity to voice their opinions about the new experience while taste testing the new food options.
After eating, this year's SAAC president, men's basketball sophomore Brian Rohleder, opened the meeting with discussion about SAAC's upcoming event, Cats for Cans.
Cats for Cans will take place on Nov. 2, before K-State's football game against Iowa State. Helping fight hunger in Manhattan, Wildcat student-athletes will hit the parking lots of Bill Snyder Family Stadium about two hours before kickoff and collect cans and donations for the Flint Hills Breadbasket. Last year, SAAC's Cats for Cans event collected about 5,000 pounds of food and $11,000.
"This year I'm a part of the Cats for Cans committee," volleyball senior and SAAC representative Tristan McCarty said. "I've been a part of Cats for Cans three out of my four years - every year volleyball has been in town for it. Through SAAC, we kind of just help get all the groundbreaking rules for it, make sure everybody knows what we're doing and get as many student athletes as we can involved."
Not only does SAAC give student-athletes the opportunity to give back to the community, but it also gives representatives the chance to use life skills outside of their sport.
"It's a lot of organization and leadership skills, which is nice because you get to do a lot more with the community and the entire athletics department," McCarty continued. "As a student-athlete, they want you to contribute to society too, so it's been nice to kind of take your mind away from your sport and focus on something bigger and help out with the community around you."
All 10 schools in the Big 12 have a SAAC committee, and each year two K-State SAAC representatives, the Big 12 Chair and Co-Chair, represent K-State at a conference-wide meeting.
"SAAC is the student-athlete's voice. It's kind of the liaison between student-athletes and administrative support and for the Big 12. When I first went (to the meeting), it was kind of eye-opening to see every single institution was represented," men's golf senior and K-State SAAC Big 12 Chair David Klaudt said. "Last year I got to stand up with an Oklahoma State football player and and we talked about the student-athletes and what we felt about all of the decisions that have happened in time in college sports, and that was awesome."
Joining Klaudt as K-State's co-Big 12 representative is cross country junior Erika Schiller.
"I got to go to the Big 12 SAAC conference at TCU this year and it was really cool to just talk to the other school's reps and hear their ideas," Schiller said. "Having an executive position, you just feel really involved and I've gotten to know the other officers really well."
As the Director of Life Skills at K-State, Pinkett's involvement as SAAC Advisor has helped provide student-athletes make the most of their time as both students and athletes.
"You want them to have a voice, and we want this to be the best student-athlete experience for them. In order for that to happen, we have to know what they want," Pinkett explained. "We have to know how they feel and we have to know what's going on. So giving them that opportunity to voice those opinions, concerns and likes and dislikes is really what makes it such a powerful group."
The K-State SAAC representatives are looking forward to what the rest of this year holds for K-State student-athletes and are excited to get back out into the community this semester.
"The intercollegiate relations that you build between other team members and the feeling that you're a part of something bigger," Klaudt said, "that you really can make a difference by using the opportunity that you've been given as a student-athlete to do something productive and help others has been great."