Worcester State University’s team took first place at a recent national conference with a fun, educational video they produced aimed at curbing drunk driving among student-athletes.
The challenge the team faced at the NCAA-sponsored APPLE Conference was to create a short spot using the words “It’s A Slam Dunk, Don’t Drive Drunk”—and it could not contain music.
“We had been in extensive sessions all day and only had an hour and a half for team downtime in the afternoon, but we wanted to enter the contest when we found out the first prize was an IPad mini,” said Taylor Tomasetti, a junior on the women’s tennis team. “So we came up with ideas, narrowed things down, and it spiraled into a rap.”
The video had every member of the team bust out in rhyme while doing a specific activity around the conference hotel. The Worcester State contingent’s YouTube video beat out other schools that had entered, including UCLA, UTEP and Stony Brook.
Joining Tomasetti on the team, and at the Newport Beach, Calif., conference, were sophomore track and field member Mike Piantedos, and four staff members—Kelly Downs, assistant to the athletic director for academic support; Josh Katz, judicial coordinator; Jennifer Quinn, health and wellness educator; and Carrie Stevens, resident director of Chandler Village.
On campus, Tomasetti is also a residence assistant at Chandler Villiage and Piantedosi is one of the organizers for new student and transfer orientation during the summer.
The APPLE Conference is run through the Gordie Center for Substance Abuse Prevention at the University of Virginia. It is dedicated to preventing substance abuse and to promoting wellness for student-athletes and athletics department administrators.
In attendance at the seminar were 23 Division I schools, four Division II institutions and five represented Division III. The only other university from the New England region was fellow MASCAC school Bridgewater State University.
The goal of the APPLE Conference is to assist colleges in empowering teams of student-athletes and administrators while helping them create an institution-specific action plan. The Worcester State University team proposal included organizing an orientation for student-athletes based on what they had learned at the conference, especially in relation to alcohol abuse.
“We’re really excited about the action plan we came up with to help provide a better education for our student-athletes,” said Quinn. “It was great to hear input from our student-athletes on hand, with Taylor and Mike. They told us what we might need, what works and what student-athletes respond to.”
Quinn noted that there was a great deal of collaboration that occurred between the residential life offices, her office and athletics, along with the student-athletes.
“For both Josh and Carrie, it was extremely beneficial for them to see a different perspective about athletics from an educational point of view,” said Quinn.
Piantedosi, who kept a blog during the weekend, was most impressed with one of the guest speakers on the first night, Tiana Tozer.
“Her story was amazing,” said Piantedosi. “Tiana played college basketball in Oregon before she was hit by a drunk driver while driving her friend’s car. She has had 34 reconstructive surgeries on her legs and it took her four years to learn to walk again. She told us how she won silver and bronze in the women’s basketball Paralympics in Barcelona and Atlanta.”
The conference also discussed constructive ways to motivate your peers and their friends, who might be older or younger than you. Tomasetti mentioned that this particular session was extremely beneficial to her, as a resident assistant.
“Each individual is different and they are motivated in different ways,” said Tomasetti. “But when you dig deeper, being compassionate is how you get people to open up. If you take the time to listen to people by being real and showing empathy, you can understand their point of view and you can motivate anyone.”
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