SAA: Columbia’s most valuable players

By Molly Walsh, Campus Reporter

Student Athletic Association aka the Renegades is up to the challenge of scoring more recognition on campus.

Launching four new teams and collaborating with student-run television station Frequency TV to highlight Columbia’s sports, the Student Athletic Association has been working hard to raise Renegades spirit all across the college’s campus.

The SAA board spoke with The Chronicle about the benefits of playing sports, managing an athletic organization on campus and the aspirations for the Renegades.

SAA President and senior audio arts and acoustics major Matt Coyle said he joined the Quidditch team as a freshman to help cope with depression. After playing Quidditch, Coyle wanted to become a driving force in strengthening Columbia’s athletics teams.

THE CHRONICLE: How do you manage being in charge of an athletic organization on an urban, artistic  campus like Columbia’s?

MATT COYLE: Persistence is the best way I can describe it. We run into a lot of attrition and a reluctance to change. The thing with Columbia is that our school’s motto [was] “create change.” We want to give students an outlet for their physical and spiritual needs, and that’s what we are here to provide.

You said SAA helped you cope with your depression. How else can athletics benefit students?

I can’t say for sure if I would be here today without athletics. Quidditch gave me a family. All of my friends derived from Quidditch. Going out and networking like that is integral for you to stay mentally healthy and physically fit. All of our teams and clubs offer practices every week just to help you turn off your brain, hang out and do what you want to do. I came to Columbia, giving up wanting to play football, but I found Quidditch where I still get to tackle people. Just because your journey ended in high school with  sports doesn’t mean it has to end in art school.

What are your aspirations for the future of SAA?

The 7-Eleven attached to the [University Center] has a Renegades banner up, and I didn’t even ask for that. That’s what I want. I want our branding to be accepted. We want to be on a campus where we are not a joke. We don’t take ourselves as a joke, and if you sit down with us in a meeting, we take ourselves very seriously. The end goal for my presidency is to get us to be a part of the Columbia marketing team, so when they go to prospective students, they have the Renegades emblem on the pamphlet saying we do have sports here.

Sophomore music major Jacob Schmidt joined SAA after starting the basketball team his freshman year. He realized he enjoyed being a leader on campus and successfully ran for election and started this school year as the organization’s community representative. 

How do you think being a part of SAA benefits your future? 

JACOB SCHMIDT:  I learned how to practically run a business when I started basketball. It’s a lot of paperwork, busy work and hard work. It’s stuff you do not learn in a classroom. It’s hard to explain it, but I’ve learned so much from SAA, especially in a leadership standpoint.

What are some of the strengths of being in a sports organization at Columbia compared to other schools? 

We have a lot more to it that makes it creative. We make sure to branch out of just practices. We have our own bonding events that are fun. When everyone is also an artist, it’s extremely creative. We can work together on stuff outside of athletics. I found people on the basketball team that can help me get my homework done. It’s not just athletics.

As finance director for SAA, junior theatre major Sareh Maani manages the budget for the 12 Renegade teams and assists with fundraisers. Maani has played field hockey for 12 years and decided to continue to play sports in college for fun and to interact with other students.

Why do you think Columbia students should join SAA?

SAREH MAANI: It adds a lot to the college experience, not because of playing a sport specifically, but because of the whole putting yourself out there, meeting new people, constantly competing against other people and teams and of course staying active and healthy.

What’s your advice for students who are not athletes?

We have athletic-heavy sports like basketball and soccer, but we also have dance teams for people who are dancers and we have the Quidditch team for more nerdy people. Now we have E-sports, which is competitive gaming. We have Marching Band and now Outdoor [Collective]. You don’t have to be a stereotypical athlete to participate in it.