Founded in 1999, the Varsity Student Athlete Advisory Committee (VSAAC) consists of two representatives from all 21 varsity sports teams. Since then, the group has dedicated itself to connecting varsity athletics to the rest of the University and taking an active role in doing community service.
Every few weeks, VSAAC meets to discuss upcoming service events and concerns in the varsity athletics collective.
This past Monday, VSAAC’s meeting focused on the upcoming varsity athletics blood drive on Dec. 1, as well as ideas the other representatives had for upcoming philanthropic opportunities and events.
One proposed initiative was brought up by freshman Jessica Conforti, a softball player.
In high school, she was involved in a campaign called “Mid-Winternight’s Dream,” which was created to raise money for ALS research after a beloved teacher was diagnosed with the condition. The campaign provides apparel and other merchandise to be sold at events, typically at lacrosse games. All the proceeds raised from sales would benefit ALS research.
Many members praised the concept and proposed holding fundraisers for Mid-Winternight’s Dream at a variety of sporting events.
Junior linebacker and VSAAC President Joseph Cappotelli of the University’s football team additionally proposed a varsity team partnership initiative.
“It’s just a great way for the athletic teams on campus to find out about what the other teams are doing and report back,” he said. “It takes some of the pressure off the coaches too, for athletes to communicate with each other.”
This initiative would pair the various University varsity teams, and each team would attend the other’s sporting events and competitions to promote cohesion and support among teams.
“It’s just a great way for the athletic teams on campus to find out about what the other teams are doing and report back,” Cappotelli said. “It takes some of the pressure off the coaches too, for athletes to communicate with each other.”
One way VSAAC connects to the University community is through dining. For many years, athletes had expressed concerns about conflicts between athletic events or practices and meal times set by University Dining Services.
“Many sports on campus had practices that maybe started at 5:30 p.m. and athletes wouldn’t get out of practice until 8:30 or 9 p.m.,” Women’s Lacrosse midfielder and junior Madeline Levy said. “By that time […] most dining hall options were either closed or the workers had started putting food away. This forced freshmen to have to eat dinner with declining instead of meal swipes, causing them to run out of declining.”
Last year, VSAAC worked with Director of Campus Dining Services and Auxiliary Operations Cam Schauf to try out a new option for late-night dining, which was adopted and became the late-night meal swipe program at the Pit and Rocky’s.
VSAAC has also organized fundraisers like an exhibition wheelchair basketball game against Rochester Wheels and fall gift basket raffles to raise money for the Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester.Additional events have included bringing in speakers to talk to varsity athletes on topics ranging from nutrition to “life after varsity.”
VSAAC annually sponsors Rochester Athletics Week and has done outreach events by going to elementary schools to read to students, even partnering with the Nathaniel Rochester Community School No. 3 to help run its after-school athletic program.
VSAAC sends two representatives to meetings of both the Liberty League (LL) and the University Athletic Association (UAA), the two athletic conferences with which the University is affiliated, in order to vote on proposals affecting varsity athletics and make the UR varsity athletics community heard.
VSAAC plans to continue making its voice heard on campus and to intercollegiate athletics.
“I’ve been very impressed with our leadership,” VSAAC staff advisor and Women’s Basketball Coach Jim Scheible said. “They have started several initiatives of spread the voice of VSAAC into the campus community and Rochester as a whole.”