Stepping up to the plate for others

SAAC’s 2023 executive board. Photo by Molly Burke / The Jambar.

By Molly Burke
Jambar Contributor

For some student-athletes at Youngstown State University, competing in a sport is only half of what it means to represent YSU Athletics.

Made up of about 40 members, the Student Athlete Advisory Committee is dedicated to community service and social justice initiatives while connecting students with YSU administrators.

SAAC is a national organization with branches at colleges around the U.S. Both the Horizon League’s and YSU’s committees are led by President Mady Aulbach, a graduate student in the professional communications program and former guard on the women’s basketball team.

Aulbach said this semester, YSU’s SAAC is volunteering for Special Olympics and Team IMPACT.

“[For Special Olympics] we help out with sports — whether it’s coaching or participating, things like that,” Aulbach said. “[For Team IMPACT], basically when there’s a kid in the community with an illness, or basically they can never play a sport, they’re like an honorary member of the team. They have a signing day. They get to come to different events and games.”

Jordan Truelsch, a sophomore civil and construction engineering technology major and a captain on the swimming and diving team, is a co-community outreach coordinator for SAAC. Truelsch said SAAC will also work with the Ursuline Sisters Mission, a Catholic social service organization.

“Some of our opportunities through [the Ursuline Sisters Mission] are social media help for the elderly people that live there who might need help with that. They’re looking for swim instructors for kids on Sundays to go help out,” Trueslch said. “They have Easter basket filling and helping get funds for that.”

SAAC’s executive team has seven members. According to Aulbach, the organization also serves as a liaison between students and the Athletic Department.

“[SAAC] is comprised of leaders from every sports team. So, there’s a representative — at least one — for each team. We meet once a month. We are basically the liaison between administrators, advisors, coaches and all other student-athletes,” Aulbach said.

For Aulbach, SAAC is important for uplifting the voices of student-athletes at YSU.

“It kind of gives us a voice. It’s very cliche to say, but I think you don’t realize when the administrators are making a decision, they want to hear from us first,” Aulbach said. “We get to help decide in a way, and it gives us a better understanding of why the Athletic Department does what they do.”

Aulbach said SAAC not only connects students with the community and administrators, but with each other.

“We started an initiative called the Guin Cup, which is basically whichever team goes to other team’s sporting events the most and is most supportive gets a prize at the end of the year,” Aulbach said.

SAAC is responsible for planning and hosting the Athletic Department’s annual YSU Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly Awards. This year’s YESPYs will take place in mid-April.

Taylor Berry, a sophomore business marketing and professional selling major and center forward on the women’s soccer team, is also a co-community outreach coordinator for SAAC. Berry said it takes a lot of work to host the YESPYs, but the experience is rewarding.

“We all show up, we set up, we decorate. We have awards that captains or representatives decide to give out to their team members,” Berry said. “We go up and present them and give them full plaques with their names on the awards.”

Berry said she enjoys being a part of SAAC because it helps student-athletes grow outside of their sports.

“We have a lot of guest speakers that come in every meeting, so those are cool. I love taking different things away from that,” Berry said. “You learn a lot on the soccer field, but you learn a lot more when you can sit down and really work on yourself in that aspect, and I think SAAC does a really good job at bringing that out.”

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