Atheles and non-athletes meet for town hall
Published: Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 24, 2012 18:10
Team representatives from the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) joined College Government (CG) on Monday, Oct. 22, in the Academic Council Room for a town hall meeting about how to make athletes feel supported at Wellesley.
CG President Marjorie Cantine ’13 approached SAAC’s leadership earlier this year about a town hall meeting that would focus on building more of a community around athletics. Monday’s gathering was part of a series of town halls that will be held this year in order to increase communication among students, faculty and staff about important issues on campus.
“This was very opportune because this e-board has been committed this entire term to building community within athletics and within the larger Wellesley community,” SAAC co-Vice President Mara Blesoff ’13 said. “Really what it comes down to is good people, good goals and good timing,”
Cantine opened the town hall by asking senators and athletes to share common stereotypes of Wellesley athletes. One student noted that athletes are sometimes perceived as entitled, especially when it comes to housing and registering for classes. Others mentioned that students on athletic teams are thought to not associate with people who aren’t on their teams. Some students made lighthearted comments about the perception that athletes eat a lot or are rambunctious.
“We wear a lot of sweatpants,” one student athlete stated.
Cantine then split the senators and athletes into 10 small groups to discuss similarities between CG and the athletic community and ways to better integrate athletics into the Wellesley community at large.
Many student athletes pointed to extremely low turnout at sporting events and minimal awareness on campus about sports teams in general.
“Volleyball is almost certainly going to NCAAs this season. We have one of the best volleyball teams in the country but nobody knows it,” one athlete said.
The students discussed ways that CG could work with the Physical Education, Recreation and Athletics (PERA) department to make the general campus community more aware of upcoming games and matches.
Currently, sports teams create their own spam to publicize upcoming games. A few times per year, SAAC sponsors barbecues and t-shirt giveaways to entice people to attend athletic events. Due to finances, however, teams simply cannot offer prizes for fans at every game.
One senator encouraged athletes to get more involved in their House Councils. She pointed to Severance Hall, a dorm which has become very supportive of the lacrosse team because a representative from the lacrosse team regularly attends House Council meetings. The groups suggested that athletes could bolster support for their team by making themselves more visible in House Council meetings, talking about upcoming matches and encouraging their neighbors to support their team.
“Run as a PERA rep,” the senator said.
Some senators concluded that low publicity, not low interest, was responsible for the lack of Wellesley fans at games, and both senators and athletes expressed a desire to unite the Wellesley community behind its sports teams.
“Both groups of people [senators and athletes] are working for the larger community,” Cantine said.
“We just want sports to be part of what brings the community together,” one athlete stated.
In addition talking about support at games, the small groups discussed problems that athletes often run into in their social and academic life as a result of their commitment to their team. Two student athletes attested to missing out on the majority of first-year orientation to attend team practices. One student was regretful that she missed the chance to participate in first-year mentor activities and meet new people from outside her team during her first few weeks on campus. Although some senators raised the question of limited ability to take seminar classes in the evening, many student athletes in the small groups said that their coaches were flexible when it came to classes.
Cantine concluded the meeting by asking attendees to stand if they wanted to hold a follow-up town hall next semester.
“For some of us, this is the only workout we’ll have all day,” she said.
Those in attendance were nearly unanimous in their decision to hold another town hall.
“I thought it was really fantastic,” Ashleigh Sargent ’13, SAAC co-vice president, stated. “I felt really supported.”
Blesoff believes that the meeting is the beginning of increased communication between CG and the athletic community. She thought that the meeting highlighted the importance of non-student athletes for Blue sports.
“I’m excited that this event happened and even more excited about how well it went. Discussion is always the first step in change. If tonight is any indication, I think we can expect some change,” Blesoff said.