Paula Pineda, Staff Photographer

The Student-Athlete Advisory Committee aims to improve all aspects of student-athlete life and helps provide student input on pressing issues to the Athletic Department. After launching several new programs for student-athletes last year, the committee is continuing old efforts and adopting new ones this year.

Made up of an executive board comprising four specialized subcommittees — Events, YUMatter, Bulldog Cup and Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging — along with student representatives from every varsity team, the committee works closely alongside Yale Athletics. According to SAAC President Chelsea Kung ’23, the SAAC is not independent from Yale Athletics and works alongside senior administrative staff to determine what the committee can feasibly achieve. 

Last year, the organization implemented a variety of initiatives that support student-athlete well-being. 

“Our biggest goal is to improve the lives of student athletes.” Kung told the News. “Last year, there was a huge focus on mental health. Student athletes basically lost part of their identity with no competition and no practices. I plan to continue the effort on mental health, as well as explore further what we can do for our athletes.”

During the pandemic, the SAAC spearheaded several initiatives for the athletic community. The committee launched its YUMatter video in the spring that promoted mental health advocacy through testimonials from student-athletes on their mental health experience. The SAAC also hosted the Bulldog Cup Challenge, a friendly competition between varsity sports teams to increase student-athlete participation and community service. The competition’s winning team received $500 from Under Armour for a locker room upgrade. Last fall, the committee held the inaugural Bulldog Ballot Challenge, which succeeded in getting 100 percent of eligible student-athletes and coaches registered to vote. 

This year, the SAAC plans to continue these efforts and also focus on re-establishing in-person meetings and social events, which typically include study breaks and SAAC-sponsored games. The committee also hopes to build its social media presence to increase student engagement and publicize home games. 

One of the SAAC’s first initiatives this year is “Let’s Talk,” a weekly program from 3-5 p.m. on Wednesdays where student athletes can book a 20 minute session to talk with Dr. Karen Hoffman from Yale Mental Health and Counseling. The group also plans on continuing a series of wellness workshops in collaboration with the Good Life Center, which focus on promoting dialogue surrounding the mental health of student-athletes.

“Student athletes on campus are facing a lot of different [issues] in different ways.” SAAC YUMatter Chair Izzi Henig ’23 told the News. “I would love to combat that culture of silence around athletics because I think that sometimes those things are very hard to talk about, especially in the context of a place where you’re supposed to be super strong. We student athletes are stronger together — asking for help doesn’t make you vulnerable, it makes you stronger.”

For student-athletes who want to get involved with the committee, SAAC Vice President Anisha Arcot ’23 suggests they attend monthly All-SAAC meetings and SAAC-sponsored events. Information on these meetings and events can be found in the weekly student-athlete newsletter, which is sent out every Monday. 

All eight Ivy League schools have SAACs.