RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Felician University student-athletes Isabella Bradian (Clarksboro, N.J./Kingsway Regional) and John-Paul Codelia (Brooklyn, N.Y./Xaverian) represented the Felician Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) at the 2015 Fall Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC)/East Coast Conference (ECC) Leadership Weekend, hosted by the ECC on Oct. 30-31 at its offices on the campus of New York Institute of Technology in Central Islip, N.Y.
Tagged "Experience in Community in Character," the two-day series of events marked the second year that the two NCAA Division II conferences came together to sponsor a SAAC Leadership Weekend. Representatives from member schools were made privy to several presentations about aspects of NCAA Division II, interspersed with advice about life after athletics.
"For me, the entire weekend was a wake-up call," said Codelia, a redshirt sophomore pitcher on the baseball team. "Community engagement was a big theme. As student-athletes, we can have a big influence in our schools and our communities, and can make changes for the better. Most of the speakers got away from sports and talked about a mental approach to life."
The signature event of the weekend was a Halloween carnival/dance that the CACC and ECC athletes hosted for local member of the Special Oympics.
"The Special Olympians were in costume, and were so anxious to show off their costumes," said Bradian, a freshman softball outfielder. "I couldn't help but smile after seeing how happy simple music and dancing made them."
"It reminded me that we are so lucky as student-athletes to be able to do what we do," Codelia added. "The dance made the whole conference."
The presenters had several messages, in several formats for the Division-II athletes. There were seminars from NCAA staff, skits and games, and even a comedian. Both Felican student-athletes came away with several lasting impressions.
"We always hear about the negatives of social media," Bradian said, "but the NCAA reps stressed that it can be a positive if you use it properly. We heard about Division II's new tagline, 'Make It Yours,' and how that applies to more than sports – that Division II gives you a well-rounded experience."
"As student-athletes, we were reminded that we are natural leaders," Codelia said. "But what happens outside your sport, or when your career is over? The presentations made us think about what kind of leaders we were, and to mold ourselves into leaders in life. It was also interesting to forge friendships with players from other schools, even ones that we have rivalries with."