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BBQ-ing and Building Bonds Across Teams

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Laura Thomas (@NDSportsBlogger)

8.24.2015

Some sure signs that summer is over in South Bend? Longer lines at Chipotle and fewer parking spots available on campus.

Yes, students are back in town and on Monday, student-athletes were officially welcomed back to campus with a BBQ hosted by Student Welfare and Development (SWD).

The inaugural Welcome Back BBQ gave student-athletes the opportunity to mingle with athletes from other teams, play some ladder toss and cornhole, and enjoy pulled pork and corn on the cob before classes start up on Tuesday.

"[The idea] came from conversations with the student-athletes about what things we can do that are just fun," said Mike Harrity, Senior Associate Athletics Director for Student-Athlete Services. "It's just a chance to get together and hang out, play some games, have some good food and kick off the whole semester."

The Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) also helped to organize the Welcome Back BBQ. In her first year as the president of the group, senior women's lacrosse player Katherine McManus was pleased with the turnout.

"I'm happy to see everyone, meet the freshmen and welcome the teams back," said McManus. "We have such a good turnout so I'm excited for this year."

Women's lacrosse player Katherine McManus is the president of SAAC and football player Corey Robinson is the vice president

The SAAC is a group of student-athlete leaders who, with SWD, work to improve communication with the administration and the student-athletes, encourage the involvement of student-athletes in campus and community service projects, and improve relationships between and among teams and individual student-athletes.

The BBQ is just one of several SAAC/SWD organized events that are meant to strengthen the relationships across teams and athletes.

"We try to create intentional opportunities for them to get together without a strict format or structure so they can really socialize and connect with groups outside their immediate sport," said Harrity.

Through a branch of SAAC called SAAC Forums, athletes are given the opportunity to build a community with other student-athletes. So far, these forums have been pretty successful.

"[SAAC Forums] are really fun events that are basically a way for athletes to kind of let off steam," said McManus. "Last year, we did a fencing forum. The fencing team really helped us out; they taught everyone about fencing and how to fence. Then, we did a bracket of teams versus teams, single fencing. We got to dress up in all the fencing gear and a lot of teams showed up."

The Welcome Back BBQ was also a chance to promote the Irish on 3 campaign, a movement created by student-athletes about three years ago to encourage and reward student-athletes for supporting other student-athletes by attending their games.

When student-athletes attend a sporting event, they can take a selfie and post it on twitter with the hashtag Irishon3. An established point system based on the sizes of different teams is used throughout the year. At the end of the school year, teams and individuals with the most points are rewarded.

"The athletes have really expressed an interest in building a cross-team camaraderie, community among the athletes, and connecting with the rest of campus, as well," said Harrity. "The Irish on 3 campaign has been strong."

A few soccer games are in the books and the points are already racking up.




"I think it's so important because each athlete is specific to their own sport and they train really, really hard," said McManus. "Whether we play the same sport or not, we understand how much time goes into something. So, it's really important to show up and support your fellow classmates and teammates. Plus, it's also really fun to watch such a high caliber athletic program."

In addition to the community service that all student-athletes already have the opportunity to engage in, the SAAC also spearheads a larger community service project. Last year, they partnered with Habitat for Humanity to build a new home for a local family.

With the stress of school and sports lingering in the near future, a little corn hole and barbecue is not a bad way to relax and kick off the semester.

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