By Colin Lawless, Staff Writer
The Student-Athlete Impact Leader (SAIL) program at Gettysburg continues to reinvent the way athletes adapt and respond to mental health in its third year. SAIL is a part of the Student Athlete Well-Being Program on campus, with the mission to bringing together “a group of student-athletes who are invested in the well-being of themselves, their teammates, and peers at Gettysburg College.”
The group is made up of two to three members from each sports team on campus, along with their respective coaches. They come together monthly to discuss new ideas of how to grow physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially on and off the field. They have divided their attention to four dimensions of well-being: physical, social and emotional, professional, and community.
The physical dimension of SAIL pertains to how student-athletes can stay physically fit whether in season or out. Sully Williams ’23 is a member of SAIL’s physical dimension.
“[SAIL] brings together all of the programs on campus to form another amazing support system made up of both students and faculty to help us develop important leadership qualities while also being there when we need someone to listen,” Williams said.
Williams is a big proponent of physical well-being and is excited to get more involved in SAIL this year. Each individual sport demands a different aspect of physical ability; for example, athletes might need to do more cardio in a sport like soccer, but work on weight-lifting and strengthening for a sport like football. Those involved in the physical dimension, along with help from the many strength and conditioning coaches on campus, work hard to make sure that all of the teams are getting the right work done on the field, in the weight room, and when recovering to ensure athlete success.
Along with strength and conditioning comes the nutritional aspect of physical well-being. Coaches encourage nutrition by offering meal plans and supplemental ideas of what to eat before and after games, during recovery, and in the off-season. In addition to nutrition, the physical dimension emphasizes the importance of sleep for student-athletes.
The next dimension within SAIL is the social and emotional dimension. Its mission this year is to help manage the stresses and pressure that athletics puts on a student-athlete’s mental health, especially as students come back fully in-person. They have developed the acronym B.R.E.A.T.H.E., which stands for break, relax, express, act, teach, habits, and edit, to help all students manage their stress.
The third dimension is professional. Jenna Vadinsky ’23 plays for the field hockey team, and serves as a member of the SAIL Executive Leadership Team in the professional dimension. She understands the importance of professional development.
“Preparing for your futures in the professional world is extremely important,” she said. “It’s never too early to start reaching out to people to ask about their careers and to pick their brains about what might suit you in the future. Building a network of connections is a huge part of what we are trying to do here with SAIL.”
The professional dimension helps student-athletes grow their professional network, polish their resumes and LinkedIn accounts, develop financial literacy, and set themselves up for success. The College has alumni networks of former athletes and non-athletes alike to help students take steps toward the professional world. The dimension aims to make career development and professional conversations less daunting.
The fourth and final dimension of SAIL is the community dimension. The goal of this dimension is to ensure that all of SAIL’s members are comfortable within the SAIL community and any other communities on campus. Once they become a member of a community, the goal is to establish some sort of influence within the group, whether that be with your peers or superiors. Once this is achieved, students move to become fully integrated within the group. SAIL strives to foster this sense of community by welcoming people, and setting them up to go out and foster that same acceptance toward others.
SAIL is a growing group made up of people committed to self-improvement. It serves as a safe space for student-athletes to speak their minds while also coming up with new ideas of how to better develop themselves so they can help the people around them.
This article originally appeared on pages 18–19 of the September 24, 2021 edition of The Gettysburgian’s magazine.