The Pac-12 Student-Athlete Advisory Council is a noble endeavor in which athletes from each conference school convene twice a year to discuss issues and decide on philanthropic efforts.
But the SAAC has started looking at issues beyond the ones they face to help solve ones others face.
That mission was furthered earlier this month when the 24-member council convened for its bi-annual meetings at the Pac-12 Networks headquarters in San Francisco and took a bus ride down the peninsula to help plant a lawn and irrigation system at Redwood Family Home, a homeless shelter in Redwood City.
The Pac-12 SAAC is made up of two student-athletes from each conference. This semester’s Cal representatives were Taylor James of the lacrosse team and Jeffrey Langenstein of men’s gymnastics.
“It really put things in perspective for me,” Langenstein said. “To see kids in this situation and have so much taken from them made me realize how fortunate I am. To be able to teach them how to do a handstand or kick the soccer ball around – I just couldn’t stop smiling the whole time.”
The 24 student-athletes from around the conference spent an entire Saturday digging ditches, laying pipe and planting seeds. Families, who have been displaced for a variety of circumstances, looked on and interacted with the athletes as well. During a lunch break and when there was free time, the athletes played sports with the kids and mingled with the families.
“It was great to meet the other (student-athletes) and realize as a conference that we have a sense of camaraderie and we can work together,” said James, who was voted as the chairperson of next fall’s council meetings. “We compete against each other but it was great to see everyone who loves to help out in the community. It’s what makes the Pac-12 a great all-around conference.”
The Pac-12 SAAC meetings were a Friday-Sunday affair. When the council wasn’t working in Redwood City, it was exchanging ideas and discussing important issues in San Francisco.
“Everyone does different things,” James said. “That was one of the coolest parts, being able to see what the different schools do. It was an amazing experience.”
Langenstein said one of the highlights was meeting peers from other schools who live similar lives as NCAA student-athletes and are committed to doing work outside the athletic arena.
“Getting to know all of the other student-athletes who share the same vision of bringing all sports together at a school and really getting the most out of the student-athlete experience – that was probably my favorite part of the weekend,” Langenstein said. “Each school has so much to offer. It was just really refreshing to be able to share your experiences with 23 other student-athletes.”