Bridging the gap between athletes and administrators
September 20, 2019
Although Bowdoin athletics is most visible on game day, the department stretches well beyond the courts and fields. With a student-athlete advisory committee and a faculty representative to the NCAA, the department is incorporating voices outside the administration.
One way that the voices of student-athletes are represented in athletics is through the Bowdoin Student Athlete Advisory Committee (BSAAC), comprised of students from every varsity and club sports team. Four from this group are elected leaders each spring. Though women’s basketball Head Coach Arienne Shibles is the official advisor, the group is largely student-run.
Shibles says that the work BSAAC does is three-pronged, centering on service, school spirit and student advocacy. BSAAC runs clinics associated with the Special Olympics Maine, organizes events like this Sunday’s Robbie Run and energizes students for the Dempsey Foundation Dempsey Challenge among other charitable and community events.
Student advocacy means acknowledging the unique experiences—and occasional challenges—of being a student-athlete. Due to class schedule changes that pushed back practice times, BSAAC collaborated with Bowdoin Dining Services and the athletics department to extend dining hall hours to 8 p.m. to give athletes time to get dinner.
Even with such a broad output of programs, BSAAC remains under the radar.
“The work we do is generally either within sports teams (particularly with leaders of those teams) or out in the Brunswick community, so it’s likely that those who aren’t on teams haven’t interacted with us that much,” said Allison Rutz ’20, a member of the varsity softball team and one of the four leaders of BSAAC this year, wrote in an email to the Orient.
BSAAC is one of many Student Athlete Advisory Committees (SAAC) that can be found across the nation. There is an NCAA Division III-wide SAAC, as well as a NESCAC SAAC; both are mandated by the NCAA. Two student athletes from Bowdoin represent the College at the annual NESCAC SAAC meeting.
BSAAC’s includes representatives from club sports teams, which is not required by the NCAA, but both Shibles and Rutz agreed that these teams are important parts of the campus athletic community.
“Club teams work extremely hard and have needs and ideas to contribute, so our perspective [on] sports on campus just wouldn’t be as comprehensive or inclusive without their participation,” said Rutz.
Faculty members also have a stake in athletics at the College, with Bowdoin appointing a faculty representative to the NCAA each year. Filling that role this year is Associate Professor of Classics and Chair of the Classics Department Robert Sobak.
Sobak’s role requires him to travel to NCAA Division III-wide meetings with faculty representatives from other schools. On campus, however, his role is less defined. He hopes to serve as a point of reference, specifically for his faculty colleagues.
“Coaches and faculty are basically doing the same thing: educating. The best coaches are themselves teachers, and the best faculty members act like coaches do, supporting their students and trying to figure out what works best for them in the classroom,” Sobak said. “Ultimately, we have all the same goals. We just have different tools. I’d like to get coaches and faculty talking to each other and seeing where we can cooperate and help each other with the ultimate goal of helping student-athletes achieve success.”
Sobak also works closely with BSAAC, and he eats lunch with Director of Athletics Tim Ryan once every couple of weeks to stay up to date on the department discussions.
Beyond athletic competition lies a dense web of committees and administration that define the student athlete experience and, indirectly, the campus community at large.
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