SAAC Attends Apple Training Institute

25 Nov 2021 | 06:55 | Hockey

Written by Seth Miller, Augustana baseball student-athlete and SAAC member

This past weekend, three students, two faculty members, and I were able to attend the 2021 NCAA DII Apple Training Institute in Orlando, Florida. The three-day conference is put on by the University of Virginia’s Gordie Center and funded by the NCAA.

Katherine Asklund, Senior, Women’s Golf
Amanda Dickmeyer, Senior, Softball
Jacob Lee, Senior, Men’s Golf
Seth Miller (Me), Senior, Baseball
Dr. Kimberly Miller, Associate Athletic Director for Compliance/SWA
Checka Leinwall, Violence Prevention Coordinator

The conference is meant to help student-athletes and administrators create an institution-specific action plan to prevent student-athlete substance misuse and promote health and wellness.

“I think there’s always a need for education, most importantly, educating our students on the dangers of alcoholism, substance misuse, and mental health,” Kimberly Miller, the Augustana SAAC advisor in addition to being an Associate Athletics Director, said. “I think it’s a great thing and a great tool that we’ll be able to use moving forward as we continue adding the necessary training and programming for our student-athletes.”

After a late pilot, a 45-minute delay, running through Charlotte Douglas International Airport to make our connection flight, and sitting on the runway for an hour before takeoff, we finally made it to the state Pitbull calls home.

As the unofficial tour guide and DJ of the group, I was tasked with finding the directions to Kimberly’s lunch request, Bahama Breeze, for some food before we headed to the conference.

SAAC Apple Conference
The conference’s host was the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress, a luxury resort on a 21-acre lot with three pools, a golf course, beach, lake, ballrooms, and 18 stories of rooms and suites.

It only took half an hour before Augustana made an impact at the conference. Yours truly took third place out of 120 people in “Kahoot!”.

SAAC Apple Conference
Our first session taught us about substance misuse in our bodies as athletes. This session left an impact, and we are planning on using a lot of the information we learned in our action plan.

“There are so many ways that alcohol and drugs can affect your performance,” Lee said. “I think that’s something that’s important to bring back to Augie. At least for us, we’re always trying to compete for a championship, and if we are competing, we always want to be our best.”

After dinner, Linda Hancock stole the show with her presentation of “Tools to make a difference!”. Linda keeps things very real, and she understands that she is talking to college students and doesn’t have to hold back like when she brings out her mold of the female reproductive system.

Linda spoke very intently on substance misuse in college athletics as well. She showed that we perceive the use of drugs and alcohol a lot more than there actually is on campuses.

Linda also gave us a question to ask our student-athletes. What is the real gateway drug?

“My work is around sexual assault and violence prevention,” Leinwall said. “There is a definite link between substance misuse and sexual misconduct, so anytime I can learn more about one subject, it helps enhance what I get to do with the other subjects.”

After our conferences for the day were over, we found our way to what appeared to be the pool from “High School Musical 2”. It was at this moment that we spotted what would be our No. 2 mission on our trip, besides creating a great action plan, of course, the pool slide.

SAAC Apple Conference
Despite the signs on the pool, we ran over to the stairs to get up to this three-story masterpiece. When we got to the staircase, however, is when all of our shoulders fell, the slide was closed. It was like walking down to your living room on Christmas Day only to find that all of your presents were socks.

Our first conference on Saturday was eye-opening for our group of students. We learned that Augustana can enhance on aspects of the Apple Model. The seven categories are Recruitment, Expectations and Attitudes, Policies, Education, Drug Testing, Accountability, Referral and Counseling.

At this conference we were able to openly talk to our administrators about how they conduct their business. We were also able to offer our suggestions based on what we hear and talk about with others student-athletes. After some talking, we learned that Augustana isn’t entirely lacking in these categories. A stronger connection in communication between the administrators and student-athletes regarding student-athlete specific programming for mental health and substance abuse prevention can be made.

Using the Apple Model, we believe that we have a better understanding of how the administration and athletes both can improve certain aspects of their communication.

We also believe that as a group of student-athletes, we were able to make a great start on possible plans for changing the way substance misuse, mental health, and communication look on campus.

“We’re going to meet as a group and come up with a solid plan for our campus,” Asklund said. “We’re going to send out some surveys to see the results from our student-athletes, then get some things in the works. Hopefully, we will be able to have some training sessions for our student-athletes and coaches to see what our actual needs on campus are as well.”

After lunch, we had about a two-hour break from meetings, and this is where we were able to get Kimberly’s second lunch request done, Krispy Kreme.

SAAC Apple Conference
After we purchased a dozen donuts, the group headed back for our last conferences of the day. Linda Hancock returned with a “Popcorn, Pot, and Porn” presentation. She talked about habit loops and how our brain works when dealing with stress.

We were then split into breakout rooms. Jacob and I watched something that we are bringing to campus next fall for welcome week. The movie “Haze” is a documentary about a freshman at the University of Colorado. He died in fall 2004 due to complications with alcohol poisoning while attempting to rush a frat.

Jacob and I agreed that the movie would show our freshmen how to look out for one another. The documentary will open up some eyes, and we think it will be a great addition to our welcome week.

After breakout sessions, we were on our own for the rest of the night. Kimberly told us that she had a “magical” surprise waiting for us, and after a 15-minute drive we were parked outside of a castle.

SAAC Apple Conference
I entered the castle as Seth Miller, but I left the castle as Sir Seth Miller. Knight of Nirvaya and titleholder of the name King Slayer.

We experienced a long night of chivalry, jousting, falconry, and horsemanship while feasting on chicken, potatoes, corn, and soup. The 3-hour long dinner and show put us all right to bed when we got back to the resort.

Our final day at the training institute started with a presentation on how to promote equity in athletics. Paul Harris, from Penn State University, talked about understanding how to make difficult discussions normal. He taught us how to listen and ask questions, and then opened the floor to have some of our own difficult conversations.

This discussion will also be playing a role in the action plan we are bringing back to Augustana. Especially today, it is hard for people to have conversations about their mental health. It’s even harder to be on the receiving end of that discussion. Our goal is to make it easier for our student-athletes when trying to have that discussion on campus. Coaches, administrators, and other athletes should be able to have these conversations. Learning how to listen, ask questions, and open a community to people who are in need will be crucial to helping build the academic and athletic experience at Augustana.

“I want to tell our student-athletes that this stuff is so important, beyond what they even think,” Dickmeyer said. “These resources are really going to help a lot of people. I really want them to buy in, and I hope that we can get them all on board and want to be a part of something like this.”