DURHAM, N.C. - When Maddie Salamone attended the 2013 NCAA Convention in Grapevine, Texas last month, her voice represented not only that of student-athletes at Duke and in the Atlantic Coast Conference, but hundreds of thousands of Division I student-athletes across the country. A redshirt junior on the Duke women's lacrosse team, Salamone has recently been elected chair of the Division I National Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), putting her at the forefront of legislative and governance decisions made by the NCAA.
Salamone's involvement with SAAC began on Duke's campus, where as a sophomore she stepped in as one of the liaisons for the women's lacrosse program. After being elevated to the position of co-chair of Duke's SAAC, Duke Assistant Director of Athletics/Student-Athlete Welfare Leslie Barnes then encouraged her to apply for an opening at the ACC level. Soon after, a position became available on the national committee, and Salamone was selected from the pool of applicants, marking the first time Duke has had an ACC representative on the national committee.
"That's huge representation for Duke," Barnes says. "She's sitting in legislative council meetings at the highest level on the NCAA. And you couldn't ask for a more positive representation. I think it's great for Duke and it's great for the NCAA - they have a fantastic young lady who's very committed and follows through."
Since being selected to the Division I National SAAC, Salamone has traveled across the country to meet with fellow committee members, as well as with members of NCAA councils and cabinets. She and her colleagues act as voices for all Division I student-athletes on the rules and regulations that impact the student-athlete experience and convey information and feedback on behalf of their conferences and institutions. In her new position of chair, Salamone is also responsible for serving on the Division I Leadership and Legislative Councils, where she provides input on proposed legislation and governance issues.
Attending committee meetings and conventions and staying informed about the latest NCAA legislation proposals requires a lot of time and dedication, but Salamone says the experience has been entirely worth it.
"It's like a full-time job in a way, especially being chair now," she says. "I'm responsible for an entire committee, and we're all busy student-athletes. But we got involved with this because we have a passion for other student-athletes and for making sure that their experience is the best that it can be."
In addition to her duties with the National and ACC SAAC, Salamone also chairs the committee on Duke's campus. She and her fellow Duke student-athletes discuss how institutional policies and decisions affect their athletic programs and act as voices for their teammates. They also participate in activities and projects on campus and in the community, such as the week-long Samaritan's Feet event planned for later this month. While the National SAAC this year partnered with Samaritan's Feet to help bring thousands of pairs of shoes to underprivileged children, Salamone has spearheaded the effort at Duke, planning a series of events in conjunction with home athletic events that will raise money for the organization.
It is opportunities such as that one, Salamone says, that helped her develop personally and professionally throughout her involvement with SAAC at the institutional, conference and national levels.
"It's completely changed me as a person," she says. "I've developed so much through it and learned so much and met so many people. It has given me a unique perspective because when you get to college, it's sort of the end of the road, the last time you'll play organized sports competitively again ... This has helped me to be able to move on to the next step in my life."
Duke women's lacrosse head coach Kerstin Kimel says that Salamone's representation on SAAC at Duke, with the ACC and at the national level has been an important source of communication and representation for her Blue Devil teammates as well as other student-athletes at Duke and around the NCAA.
"She has a fantastic handle on the challenges within intercollegiate athletics, both from a student-athlete and coaching perspective, because she takes the time to talk to the constituents about the issues they grapple with on a day to day basis," Kimel says. "We are very fortunate to have her working on behalf of our student-athletes at the highest level where big decisions are being made. While Maddie is the consummate diplomat, she will always fight for what is in the best interest of student-athletes here at Duke and across the country."
With the Duke women's lacrosse team just days away from its season opener, Salamone will be working even harder to balance her academic, athletic and SAAC commitments. However, she says her involvement with SAAC has been beneficial both on and off the field, and may even lead her to professional opportunities after graduation.
"Being on SAAC, you get to interact on a different level where you're looking at issues," she says. "When we get in these meetings, we discuss 'How is the legislation really affecting us?' Those are conversations you don't really have otherwise, so it's a different way to interact ... It's so great, and it's been such a rewarding experience. I'm just really appreciative to be able to do it."
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