The regular season for Georgia State Athletics will get under way on Sunday when the women’s soccer team travels to Mercer, but you could say the fall season is already rolling after Friday’s Student-Athlete Welcome Back dinner. More than 340 athletes along with their coaching staffs and the senior administration came together for two hours in the student center to welcome newcomers and review goals for the upcoming year.
Following introductions, Director of Athletics Cheryl Levick led the program, highlighting the student-athletes as they prepare for GSU’s return as a full-time member of the Sun Belt Conference. More than anything else, her message was simple: find out how far you think you can go, and then push yourself a little farther. Like each team, she has hopes that wins increase across the board and conference titles continue rolling in, but she also challenged the teams to set a goal of a top-four finish in the Bubas Cup. Considering GSU only had half its teams in the league last year and still finished ahead of two fulltime members, that seems to be a goal within reach.
Another important part of the program came as President Mark Becker walked the student-athletes through new rules, both athletically and academically oriented, that are implemented by the Sun Belt Conference. As Becker said, the competition on the field is not the only step up as the new league has a serious push toward academics, including something I think is quite unique in an academic conference championship for each sport. I haven’t heard of anything like that elsewhere but think it’s a great way to celebrate the accomplishments of the top academic-performing teams. I’m sure GSU will be in the hunt for a few of these titles as well.
Following Levick and Becker, Andrea Ezell provided the student-athletes with some insight into the plans for the Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) this year. According to Ezell, the SAAC president this year, its purpose is to encourage more student-athlete involvement in campus and community projects, as well as leadership and development; serve as a liaison between student-athletes and the Athletic Department and administration; promote better communication and interaction between the members of the GSU athletic teams; and emphasize communication to improve the overall athletic program.
To do this, Ezell and her board of directors look to get more student-athletes involved with the general student population in 2013-14. Her goals include helping athletic teams become more involved with Homecoming, which will likely include an athletic department float by the athletes, and pairing fall teams with winter or spring teams to encourage participation as fans at the others’ events. Once she was finished, Ezell and Levick led all the student-athletes in reciting the Panther Creed, the pillars they work by both on and off the competition field.
The speeches were informative and gave the student-athletes a clear picture of the expectations – on and off the field – for the upcoming academic year. As the new Sun Belt Conference motto says, ‘Together we rise’, and after Friday, the Panthers are ready to rise up to the occasion in their best Atlanta fashion.
— Jerry Trickie