This year, the Bowdoin Student Athlete Advisory Committee (BSAAC) is implementing new initiatives to continue providing a voice for student athletes while growing as a central part of the Bowdoin athletic culture. Through hosting mental health panels and partnering with wellness groups on campus, BSAAC aims to build community, decrease the divide between student-athlete and non-athletes and better support its peers.
On November 27, BSAAC will host its second annual mental health panel with coaches and support staff at Jack Magee’s Pub. As it does most years, BSAAC is also participating in NESCAC Cares Week, an annual NESCAC-wide mental health initiative, from December 5-7.
Julia Arsenault ’24, chair of the mental health subcommittee and former BSAAC president, expressed that prior to establishing the mental health subcommittee, there wasn’t enough dialogue about the pressures student-athletes face.
“I think having a group that constantly keeps the conversation of mental health at the forefront within the athletic department is important so that we can advocate for the needs of what student athletes are asking for,” Arsenault said.
Also in December, BSAAC will host a conversation about body image and athletics with Bowdoin’s registered dietician Briana Bruinooge. Additionally, it is working with the Wellness Center, Active Minds and advocacy group for student-athlete mental health The Hidden Opponent to host a tabling event in Smith Union about self-care during finals.
This new programming supports the agenda BSAAC established after the pandemic.
Since 2021, BSAAC has been steadily increasing its presence on campus by developing several subcommittees, including diversity, equity and inclusion, mental health, community service, underclassmen assimilation and social media. BSAAC also works with several other organizations on campus, including the Athletes of Color Coalition, SWAG and the Rachel Lord Center for Spiritual Life, in order to increase outreach and better serve the needs of student athletes.
BSAAC President Anna Kelly ’24 is prioritizing subcommittees working as a cohesive unit.
“People last year thought [BSAAC] was pretty segregated, like all the different [committees] were doing their own thing,” Kelly said. “So this year, I’m trying to promote more cohesion.”
Over the past few years, BSAAC has worked to promote themselves and gain recognition among student-athletes. After the pandemic, many student-athletes were unaware of BSAAC’s purpose at Bowdoin, and Kelly felt that some members did not take the organization seriously.
“I feel like over the years, as we become more adamant about attendance, people have seen how much more important it is to the community, especially giving a voice to your student athletes,” Kelly said.
Additionally, BSAAC hopes to address the student-athlete and non-athlete divide through events that are open to all Bowdoin students. It recently hosted a Q&A session with former NBA star Jalen Rose and will host former DI lacrosse player, Paralympian and “Survivor” contestant Noelle Lambert on November 29 as part of a collaboration with the accessibility office and athletic department.
BSAAC also intends to strengthen its involvement with the surrounding towns, including through an equipment drive for youth in underserved communities. For BSAAC Community Service Chair and Vice President Eric Degodny ’24, the Brunswick community’s love of attending Bowdoin athletic events is a key part of the relationship between athletics and the town.
“I think the biggest way BSAAC can promote community is by promoting the games,” Degodny said.
One of the other ways BSAAC is hoping to increase community engagement in athletics is through the “Stack the Stands” initiative where each team selects and promotes one home game where other student-athletes can sign in with a QR code, and the team with the highest attendance at select games at the end of the year wins a prize.
“We’re a group of student athletes on campus advocating for each other. We should promote supporting each other on the field, court, wherever you play,” Kelly said.
As BSAAC continues to establish itself as a presence on campus, it maintains a relationship with the administration. The executive team meets regularly with Assistant Liaison to BSAAC and women’s basketball Head Coach Megan Phelps and Ashmead White Director of Athletics Tim Ryan.
“We straddle the student-athlete experience as well as the administration. [We] tell them our concerns and what’s happening from our side, [and] they tell us what’s coming down from the more administrative side,” Degodny said.
Going forward, BSAAC hopes to continue empowering student-athletes and amplifying their voices, especially when it comes to NESCAC policy changes and other significant issues.
“It’s important that people continue to hear what athletes are saying about their experience so that they can make sure it’s the best experience possible,” Arsenault said.