It was a cold Saturday morning in April when two student-athletes from each Pac-12 institution converged on the College of San Mateo to assist with the Special Olympics Northern California aquatics competition.
Well, at least it was cold to the Pac-12 student-athletes. The Special Olympians couldn’t have possibly cared less.
The participants were thrilled about the event, no matter what the climate. And that was an attitude that wasn’t lost on golfer Robert Röller, who along with former football player Nick Forbes were the two representatives from Cal to attend the competition.
“It was freezing cold that day,” Röller said. “We were all so cold, and they were not complaining. They were getting in the water and ready to compete. They loved to compete and didn’t complain about anything.”
The Special Olympics event was part of the bi-annual meetings for the Pac-12 Student-Athlete Advisory Council, a 24-member panel that meets in the Bay Area in the fall and spring to discuss issues and partake in some sort of community service.
Röller and Forbes arrived at the College of San Mateo pool along with the rest of the council at about 8 a.m. Each student-athlete was assigned a Special Olympian to partner with, and they made posters to acknowledge their arrival for the competition.
After getting a chance to meet their Olympian, the student-athletes helped with the logistics of the meet while cheering on their new heroes.
“I thought it was cool how enthusiastic they were,” Röller said. “It was great to see how much fun they had.”
Röller said she was partnered with a young man named Nick, who was in his early 20s. She helped prepare him for his races and checked in with him whenever she could during the morning.
“We’re privileged,” Röller said. “That’s why I like helping with these kinds of events. They always smile at you and they’re always really friendly. After we got organized, we got a feel for how it’s going and we were really into cheering them on.”
After the Special Olympics, the council members visited Baker Beach near the Golden Gate Bridge and dined together in San Francisco. There was also free time for shopping in the city.
Student-athletes were given roommates from rival schools. Röller roomed with Stanford swimmer Katie Olsen.
Sunday was spent discussing issues facing student-athletes and exchanging ideas from each school’s leadership council. Forbes served as the chair of the meetings.
“Compared to some of the other schools, we have a lot of members (in GBAC, Cal’s student-athlete advisory council),” Röller said. “We have a lot of events for athletes and also have a lot of different community service events. Other schools had good ideas of making their meetings more fun.”