The Student-Athlete Leadership Council: A voice for student-athletes

Oct. 18, 2023, 8:01 p.m. | By Sudhish Swain | 5 months, 4 weeks ago

SALC is the county’s latest initiative to empower student-athletes and give them a platform to advocate

At the heart of every school, there are students. At the heart of every sports team, there are athletes and coaches. At the heart of MCPS, there lies a student member of the board. At the heart of MCPS athletics, there lie…administrators?

A lack of student representation is an issue that the county has been working hard to address, through the Student Member of the Board (SMOB), the Montgomery County Regional Student Government Association (MCR-SGA), and now the Student-Athlete Leadership Council (SALC). SALC’s major goal is to establish a council in each of the 25 MCPS high schools based on the unique structures of each institution. 

According to the official MCPS SALC overview, “The Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Student-Athlete Leadership Council (SALC) maximizes the student-athlete education-based athletic experience in the classroom, community, and realm of competition by fostering leadership opportunities.” 

Student-Athlete Leadership Council 2023-2024 (Tjiputra, sixth from the left, bottom row, Wang, sixth from the left, middle row, Unger, 12th from the left, middle row) Photo courtesy of MCPS.

The council was created in 2018 to provide students a voice in administrative decisions. “SALC was formed because MCPS athletics did not have student voices in the administration of our program," Green says. Without student voices, the county cannot do justice to its students. A common question that sparked the creation of the council was how MCPS could serve students if they didn't have a voice in the administration of the program?

After applying for the position and being selected by their school’s athletic director, 50 SALC representatives meet every other month at the Carver Educational Services Center in Rockville to discuss new issues. Their main responsibilities are to hear student-athlete voices regarding the administration of the MCPS interscholastic athletics program, cultivate a countywide athletics community that promotes the R.A.I.S.E. core values, and involve student-athletes in leadership roles at MCPS countywide athletic events. 

Kathy Green, the coordinator of MCPS Department of Athletics, directly oversees SALC and works with the student representatives at the meetings. Behind the scenes, Dr. Jeffrey Sullivan, the director of MCPS athletics, and a committee of athletic specialists also provide input and planning for the council. 

Starting off strong

SALC has been combatting the lack of representation in the athletic community through public service announcements (PSAs) on MCPS-TV. SALC has already made 5 PSAs, such as a welcome for incoming freshmen joining high school teams, a reminder for all high schoolers to respect officials, and one in recognition of National Girls and Women in Sports Day. Senior softball captain and SALC representative Nikki Tjiputra was in a PSA called “Why I Play.” where she shared why she enjoys being a student athlete. “I made [a PSA] about why I play… [and] different reasons to play sports.”

Eight members of the MCPS Student-Athlete Leadership Council (SALC) attended the 2023 National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) National Student Leadership Summit in Indianapolis, Indiana. Among those eight members was Tjiputra (furthest left, second row). Photo courtesy of MCPS.

SALC has also been targeting disrespectful behavior by spectators through student section guideline posters to reinforce the R.A.I.S.E core values. Representatives from Richard Montgomery and Watkins Mill high schools wrote the pre-game sportsmanship message that plays before each game. 

Senior SALC representative and wrestling captain Silvan Unger was present at the statewide athletic director’s conference last year where he explained SALC to athletic directors from across the state. “I presented what SALC is to other athletic directors in the state, and the reason they like it so much and the reason why [MCPS Athletics] wanted me to present is because of all the good we’ve done in the county,” Silvan says. 

Getting involved as a student-athlete

Two to three SALC representatives are elected from each high school every year, by the school's athletic director. MCPS hopes to expand this initiative and form a SALC-like council specific to every high school in the county. “We're really hoping to have some kind of Student-Athlete Leadership Council in each of our 25 high schools,” Green says.

Blair is one of the first schools to begin one of these councils. Athletic Trainer Rita Boule recently held the first Blair Athletic Leadership Conference (BALC) meeting with 62 total representatives across all sports at Blair. Boule's main goal for the group is to determine how Blazer Athletics could improve. “What are issues we need to work on and solve and what are some things we do to increase program oneness, to be better, to give ownership to the kids…the student-athletes need to be part of the process,” Boule says.

Student-athletes can also take advantage of the "Student-Athlete Leadership Conference." “Every other year we’re going to host our Student-Athlete Leadership Conference. That would be four students from each of our 25 high schools and our SALC representatives running it,” Green explains.

If a student-athlete has suggestions or feedback, they should bring it to their school's SALC representatives, who can then bring it to the countywide SALC meetings during their “hot topic” session. At the last meeting, Unger brought up the issue revolving around the large number of freshmen who did not make the fall sports team they tried out for, leaving them without a sport to practice.

“We have what’s called a hot topic session, where we allow student-athletes to…say what's on their mind. One of the things we talked about...was we had a lot of ninth graders this year for the fall sports season, and a lot of them didn't make the teams, so how do you manage that?” Green says. 

Going forward

This year, the council is looking to increase equity in the county’s athletics community. “Another thing we’re hoping to do is really engage in equity work and align with the anti-racist audit. We're just beginning, but we're looking at what a culturally responsive athletic program looks like from a student athlete's perspective," Green says. 

The council's overarching objective is to foster a more united and respectful culture among athletic teams.SALC aims to amplify the voices and impact of student-athletes within the administration of Montgomery County Public Schools' athletics program.

Note: Silvan Unger is a member of Silver Chips Online.

Last updated: Nov. 29, 2023, 8:03 p.m.

Sudhish Swain. Hi! I'm Sudhish (he/him) and I'm one of the sports editors as well as a videographer. I often record videos at games, write beats, post recaps/galleries/videos on our social medias, and more! Besides SCO, I love running, listening to music, and learning new languages! More »

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