The North Carolina High School Athletic Association estimates there are over 200,000 student-athletes playing for high school teams across the state.
Every year, 16 students are chosen to represent their peers on the Student Athlete Advisory Council.
This elite group of sophomores and juniors represents every region of the state and serves as the voice for all the state’s athletes, reporting directly to the NCHSAA at both a regional and state level.
This year’s SAAC includes two students from Jack Britt High School, E.J. McArthur and Colin Baumgartner. McArthur plays basketball and is the son of Britt girls’ basketball coach Nattlie McArthur.
Baumgartner competes in indoor and outdoor track, cross country and swimming.
Both are looking forward to serving on the committee and are ready to come to the table with ideas to make things better for their fellow athletes.
McArthur has already had a taste of what the SAAC does. This summer the NCHSAA sent him and some other SAAC members to a national meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana, home of the headquarters of the National Federation of State High School Associations.
They learned about problem-solving, leadership and the Unified Sports program that is designed to increase interscholastic sports opportunities for special needs students.
“One of my main goals is to get Unified Sports in all schools, not just Cumberland County, but all of North Carolina,’’ McArthur said.
While in Indianapolis the SAAC members worked with special needs children. McArthur was moved by the looks on their faces when they got the opportunity to participate in sports.
Another concern for McArthur is sportsmanship. He and Baumgartner attended the recent Region 4 meeting of the NCHSAA held in Fayetteville. During the meeting they learned that no Cumberland County School managed to avoid having a player or coach ejected from an athletic contest during the 2018-19 school year.
“We want to form an initiative to get that (the number of ejections) down,’’ McArthur said. “Respect the refs, respect the rules. Do what you have to do as an athlete, but do it accordingly.’’
He thinks it’s important that the NCHSAA is open to getting input from student-athletes. “Adults don’t really understand what students want the way students understand what we want,’’ McArthur said. “Having this committee is better because they have a direct outlet to student-athletes.’’
Baumgartner agrees. “I feel like there’s a lot of situations where we might see things going on that might not be seen at a higher level,’’ he said.
Baumgartner wants more attention to sports not often in the spotlight. One where he has a personal interest is swimming.
He is concerned about access county swimmers have to indoor pools, noting they practice at times in outdoor pools covered by an inflatable dome that sometimes collapses and causes problems.
He also has a concern about alcohol abuse by his fellow students and thinks more needs to be done by students to curb the problem.
“We shouldn’t go to a party one day and a funeral the next,’’ he said. “Having a peer tell you something I think gives it a deeper meaning and a different perspective.’’
L-R: Jack Britt students and SAAC members E.J. McArthur and Colin Baumgartner