Julie Rubenstein gives a voice to student-athletes
By Megan Huard
College sports fans get the fun part. They celebrate winning seasons, cheer on underdogs, and break losing streaks through will power alone, while rarely glimpsing what happens off the court.
Today these little-known issues are reshaping the purview of collegiate athletes, for whom “play well and study hard” used to cover it all. Throughout the United States student-athletes grapple with commercialism, sportsmanship, finances, administrative diversity, and governance structure, all of which impact the players’ daily lives.
To better address these topics, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) leads a Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) aimed at amplifying the voice of student-athletes across the country. Among only 31 members is Waves volleyball player Julie Rubenstein (‘09), the first representative from Pepperdine to earn a spot on this committee. As the sole representative from the West Coast Conference (WCC), she speaks for all student-athletes competing in 12 sports across the conference’s eight schools.
“I’m responsible for taking the voice of student-athletes to the national level, and bringing the national perspective back to our conference,” Rubenstein explains. During her two-year term, she’s spent countless hours speaking with fellow players, learning the ins and outs of sports other than her own, while engaging new issues as they emerge. In recent months the committee successfully lobbied against legislation permitting unfettered text-messaging from coaches to athletes. “We look out for student-athlete well-being, and have the opportunity to speak out against anything that impedes that,” Rubenstein says of the intrusive messaging. “This was a victory for us all.”
As vice chair of Pepperdine’s own SAAC, Rubenstein also joins her peers in tackling pressing issues for Waves athletes: building a sense of community among student-athletes, increasing school spirit by engaging fans, and involving players in community service projects. “It’s important for us to get involved outside of school, to take the time to give back,” she notes.
Rubenstein is expected to graduate cum laude from Seaver College this spring, and the 2008-09 All-American plans to pursue volleyball professionally. Though a decorated Waves athlete, Rubenstein lists her designation as Pepperdine’s 2007-08 Student-Athlete of the Year among her proudest achievements. “It shows that I’ve worked hard in the classroom and on the court. To be recognized for that,” she says, “is an honor.”