May 14, 2018
By Brad Muller | More Features
Simone Wark wants to help South Carolina build on its historic 2017 season, but she is also dedicated to improving the student-athlete experience and the lives of others as well. Wark is a member of South Carolina’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (S.A.A.C.) and was recently selected as a finalist to represent the SEC on the NCAA Division I S.A.A.C.
“I really enjoy being the voice of student-athletes who don’t know who to go to in order to get their problems resolved,” Wark said. “I love being able to advocate for how to make the student-athlete experience better, and how to make the entire process as enjoyable as it can be. I like being able to join administration and student-athletes together so they can collaborate and see how legislation may only benefit one side, and not the other. I want to make the best possible experience for all parties involved.”
S.A.A.C. at South Carolina is composed of two or more student-athletes from each varsity sport. Each representative serves as a liaison between the committee and his/her respective team. The purpose of the committee is to provide a voice for student-athletes within the athletics department, university, the SEC and the NCAA. Wark noted that S.A.A.C. is not an organization that simply offers lip-service when it comes to presenting issues to athletics and university administration.
“I definitely know that our voices are being heard,” Wark said. “When we meet with (Athletics Director) Coach (Ray) Tanner, University President (Harris) Pastides, or SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey, you can tell that the best interests of the student-athletes are at their hearts. They may not be able to address every issue that we come to them with, but they always come back to us with an answer on what they’re working on and what can be done.”
Leaving a legacy on legislation that would have an effect on other student-athletes would be amazing.
A foot injury forced Wark to sit for the season last fall when South Carolina won its second straight Southeastern Conference Championship and reached the College Cup for the first time in program history. The injury hasn’t slowed her down, however. In addition to soccer, classes, and S.A.A.C., she has been heavily involved in community service efforts, which included teaching soccer to youths and adults with special needs this spring through the Irmo/Chapin Recreation Center.
Wark was inspired to join S.A.A.C. in the spring of her freshman year by former teammate Chelsea Drennan (2013-2016), who later served as South Carolina’s S.A.A.C. treasurer as a senior.
“She encouraged me to try it out, and now here I am entering my senior year, and I’m about to be one of the rotational S.A.A.C. presidents,” Wark said. “We rotate the president and vice president duties.”
Although she was not chosen this time to be on the NCAA Division I S.A.A.C., Wark was honored to be a finalist and is still excited about the prospect of making a bigger difference for student-athletes here at South Carolina and nationally as well.
“It’s a really cool opportunity because making changes on our campus isn’t something I will always be able to experience first-hand,” Wark said. “It takes time to put things in place, but leaving a legacy on legislation that would have an effect on other student-athletes would be amazing.”
Wark noted that some of the issues for which she has advocated while a member of South Carolina’s S.A.A.C. focus from within and getting fellow student-athletes more engaged.
“Teams feeling more support from Gamecock Nation are important, especially some of the Olympic sports like beach volleyball, cross country, track and field, equestrian and some others,” Wark said. “We still have a lot of work to do, but we’ve been working on trying to figure out ways to get more student-athletes to attend their peers’ games and try to get more of Gamecock Nation to be supportive of those sports in addition to football and basketball.”
Wark is interested in hearing from student-athletes at other schools about the conditions at their respective schools as well.
“We’re so blessed and fortunate to have all the resources that we have here with places such as the Dodie (Academic Enrichment Center), where we have nutritious food as well as tutors, mentors and all of that additional support,” Wark said. “If you’re competing at this level, I feel like all student-athletes should have access to those resources.”
Wark is studying Sport and Entertainment Management with a minor in public relations and advertising. Whenever her playing days are done, she has already outlined three possible dream jobs.
“My dream job would be one of three things,” Wark said. “I’d like to run a non-profit organization that allows sports to be more accessible and enjoyable for kids because it’s had such a large impact on my life. I’d also like to be one of what is currently only a few female presidents of a professional sports team, or I’d like to be a college athletics director. If I’m able to do one of those three options, I’ll be happy.”
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