Before a Men’s Soccer game against Marist, Siena students had the option of visiting the MAAC Choices Sober Tailgate event, held in the parking lot right outside of the turf field. Intended to be a safe and informative alternative to an alcohol-fueled tailgate, the MAAC brings this event once a year to all eleven schools in the MAAC before select sporting events. Due to the nature of the event to promote alcohol awareness and bystander intervention, students across the entire student body are encouraged to attend, not just student-athletes.
Beginning three years ago, the MAAC Choices Tailgate was proposed to tie in sporting events with a case for alcohol awareness. Given that the MAAC is a very athletics-heavy conference, and sporting tailgates are common areas for college students, as well as people of all ages, to potentially abuse alcohol before an outing and put themselves or others at risk, this seemed to be a perfect tie-in for a good event. After a largely successful first season covering only basketball games, the MAAC was awarded with the NCAA Choices grant, allowing them to expand the scope of the event to sporting events across all sports in all MAAC schools. Visiting colleges throughout the conference, the MAAC hopes to be able to alter the choices made by a much larger number of college students, as opposed to a singular campus campaign.
At Saturday’s event, students enjoyed things such as raffles for gift cards to a few local stores, backyard games such as cornhole and spikeball, food and drinks, and also a chance to learn about alcohol misuse. Even though students had a chance at enjoying themselves in a safe environment before a sporting event, the main goal is for the students to be able to walk away with more knowledge and intuition about being in an environment where alcohol is used, and learn about being an active bystander. In addition to this was a stand for the Siena Student Athlete Mentors (SAM), whose purpose is to serve as a support system for students and prevent substance abuse. Also helping freshman transition into the hectic life of being a college athlete, the Siena’s SAM program provides leadership to student-athletes.
Although college campuses throughout the MAAC and across the country hold their own alternatives to drinking programs and informational sessions, event organizer Tamara Perea stresses that there is more to this tailgate than that. By combining sports and tailgating, she hopes this event can not only educate students on how alcohol consumption affects your body but also, “how it affects you as an athlete, and then how it affects your social norms on campus.” Additionally, Perea hopes that when students stop by the sponsored tailgate, they’ll, “hopefully just take something out of it, and walk away with one fact, one tip on how to increase bystander intervention, or take away safety habits.”
In addition to all of their current efforts, the MAAC Choices campaign chose to increase their social media presence heavily this year, posting pictures of all of the tailgate events, as well as promoting other initiatives by schools across the MAAC. For those interested, you can follow them, @MAAC_SAAC, on Twitter.