By Jonathan Okanes
Cal Bear Blog
BERKELEY – When a Cal student-athlete walks into his or her locker room these days, he or she is immediately reminded of his or her health. The Golden Bear Advisory Committee – the student-athlete leadership council on campus – is busy devising posters that are posted in locker rooms as well as around Cal’s assorted athletic facilities. Each month, the posters have a different message about wellness.
This “Stay Golden” campaign is a direct result of the Apple Conference, an annual symposium dedicated to the promotion of wellness among student-athletes across the country as well as substance abuse prevention. This year’s conference took place in Newport Beach in January, and was attended by football player Jack Austin, soccer player Emi Lawson and lacrosse player Megan Gray as well as Cal director of student-athlete affairs Paul Savage, associate athletic director Ryan Cobb and assistant director of compliance Meagan Eshilian.
“There is collaboration with their peer student-athletes across the country on best practices and what works well with other schools,” Savage said. “I saw a real willingness to dig into the root cause and find practical ways to communicate information that will help people stay safer. They were really into that.”
Schools from across the nation and from all divisions of competition converged on Orange County to listen to keynote speakers and hold breakout session on a variety of topics. Student-athletes shared policies and practices from their campuses and learned about different ways to impact their peers both in and out of athletics.
Each school is required to leave the conference with an action plan that is presented to the others by the school’s administrators in attendance.
“It’s important for us to be part of a conference like this to show leadership in care for our student-athletes,” Savage said. “It’s an opportunity to be educated on how to make better lifestyle choices. It provides insight into current ways to communicate and innovative, fresh ways to get important messages to their peers.”
As a result of the conference, Cal’s delegation came up with its “Stay Golden,” campaign, providing education through a series of posters placed in athletic facilities that raises awareness of health and wellness issues. The February posters had messages about safe sex. The March posters focus on suicide prevention, in conjunction with Sunday’s UC Berkeley Suicide Prevention Walk.
“Athletes are arguably the most influential people on campus,” Austin said. “Putting on events for other athletes or the student body has a huge impact. It gets other people involved.”
This marked the fourth year Cal has sent a group to the Apple Conference. Savage says it’s important for the athletic department to get involved in such events to honor and respect NCAA policies and to serve as leaders on the issues facing student-athletes.
And the Bears made a few friends in the process.
“I met people from across the country,” Austin said. “Our team was really good friends with Ohio State’s team, Arkansas’ team and USC’s team. We actually went bowling with the Arkansas team and OSU team and went to In-N-Out with USC’s team. What struck me was how different everybody was. We got to learn from each other, what’s going on at each school and what we need to work on.”