Sunday, May 19, 2024

Athletes host special olympics



By Michael Purtell

SUNY Plattsburgh’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) is a steady presence throughout the lives of campus’ student athletes. 

The student-run committee hosts events in support of the community, teaches athletes important organizational and leadership skills, pushes for new initiatives to improve the lives of student athletes and brings Plattsburgh Athletics to new demographics.

Most recently SAAC paired with Special Olympics North America and hosted two events on campus in celebration of Unified Championship Week. SAAC invited special olympics athletes to participate in sports activities for the Unified Field Day April 6. The second Unified Championship Week event was a friendly basketball game between two teams made up of SAAC members and members of Peru High School’s unified basketball team April 11.

The field day consisted of activities ranging from team sports such as basketball and soccer to backyard games such as cornhole, all hosted in the Plattsburgh State Field House.

Burghy made an appearance as well, hosting an impromptu penalty kick shootout with special olympics athletes.

“The environment was just so positive,” SAAC Co-President Michaela Schaffer said.

The goal of the event was to include all athletes in the sports which SAAC members participated in on campus, SAAC Co-President Lily White said. The day was free of a schedule or rigid structure, and was focused on simply hanging out and having fun.

“The greatest success was seeing all of our athletes intermingling with the special olympics athletes and seeing how much fun everyone had,” White said.

The basketball game the following Thursday continued the “good vibes,” White said. No matter which team scored, the competing athletes had bright faces and the crowd erupted into cheers.

The game took place in Memorial Hall, and the spectators — composed of Cardinal athletes and unified athlete family members — filled the entire half of the gym’s bleachers end-to-end.

“It was awesome and really, really cool to see,” SAAC Adviser Kelci Henn said. “6 o’clock at night on a Thursday and our athletes showed up in numbers.”

The events were brought to campus by White and SUNYAC NCAA Division III National SAAC Representative Amanda Cohen. The inspiration came when the duo had attended the NCAA SAAC convention and the SUNYAC SAAC retreat, both of which stressed the importance of celebrating the Special Olympics.

“We knew that it was achievable on our campus,” White said.

The success of the event led White and Henn to hope the celebration of Unified Championship Week will become an annual event for SAAC, who hosts several other annual events for the sake of building community through Plattsburgh State Athletics.

Other community-focused events that SAAC holds annually include Trunk-or-Treat for Halloween, an egg hunt for Easter and a leaf-raking day for Plattsburgh residents in need of a helping hand in the fall.

These events help articulate to the community what SAAC — and the student-athletes of Plattsburgh State as a whole — are all about, Henn said. Since her time as a student SAAC member, “It has always been about the service aspects.” 

“(SAAC) shows the community that they’re more than just athletes that go to practice or play in games. They do a lot for their communities and are active on their playing fields and outside of their playing fields,” Henn said.

SAAC has had a busy year. In addition to hosting community events, the committee has made strides in improving the lives of present and future Cardinal athletes through the Athletes Supporting Athletes initiative and a push to get SUNY Plattsburgh to adopt priority registration for student athletes.

The Athletes Supporting Athletes initiative has been a response to the smaller crowds from the COVID-19 pandemic. The initiative asks a percentage of each sports team on campus to attend as many of their peers’ games as possible for points.

The result of the initiative was a deeper appreciation among athletes and team culture building, Schaffer said.

Adopting priority registration at Plattsburgh was another result of the SUNYAC SAAC retreat. When Cohen and White saw other SUNYAC schools allowing priority registration, they knew it was something they wanted to push for at Plattsburgh State, White said.

Talks are still ongoing, but SAAC has worked hard to bring the proposal in front of the school president and get it considered, Henn said.

SAAC’s role in encouraging student athletes to better their communities is made evident through Cohen and White’s push to plan the Unified Field Day and the priority registration initiative, Henn said.  

“It is really awesome to see your students be passionate about things and take the initiative to set it up,” Henn said.


1 Comment

  1. Great Article written about two super events ,we enjoyed reading it and being informed ,,thank you .

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