Maddie Brandon is a distance runner on the UNH XC and Track and Field teams who strives to succeed on and off the track. As the 2019-20 co-President of Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), she is an advocate for mental health and student-athletes.
​​​​​​​Q: What does inclusion of NCAA student-athletes mean to you?
​​​​​​​MB:  "I think a lot of us grew up learning that if you get in a disagreement or don’t understand someone else, you are supposed to put your differences aside and move on. But I don’t necessarily believe that that’s the best way to go about things. I think what we need to start teaching future generations is instead of setting differences aside, we should embrace them. Differences shouldn’t be looked at as problems, they should be looked at as the means to create solutions.
"As student athletes we all have different backgrounds, identities, opinions, values, and experiences, but we all share the same love for the sport. No one’s differences should be put aside or dismissed, they should be welcomed, and I think that’s really what NCAA Inclusion means to me. We don’t all play the same position on the field or compete in the same event on the track for a reason; we have differences in abilities and specialities. But it’s because of these differences we are able to come together as a complete team.​​​​​​​"
​​​​​​​Q: Why did you choose this word to represent another part of you?​​​​​​​
​​​​​​​MB: "I picked the word leader to describe another part of me because of my involvement in [SAAC]. I’ve been a member for four years now and have served as a Vice President, and now Co-president. Being a president of SAAC takes a lot of time and work to run meetings, plan events, and advocate for student athletes here at UNH, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I take a tremendous amount of pride being able to be a leader of SAAC and speak up for student athlete wellness."
​​​​​​​Q: What stereotypes do you experience and want broken down, as a student-athlete?​​​​​​​
​​​​​​​MB: "One stereotype I have experienced is that as student athletes, we are tough and don’t admit weakness, and that can be a very dangerous stereotype when it comes to mental health. I’ve struggled with mental health for years and this stereotype definitely made it hard for me to share with others what I was going through. While you can’t see mental illness like you can see a broken leg, it’s there. And encouraging the idea that student athletes need to 'suck it up' when they experience anxiety or depression, or that admitting they need help is admitting weakness, is unhealthy and wrong, and needs to broken.​​​​​​​"
​​​​​​​Q: Outside of the goals in your sport, what do you hope to achieve during your time at UNH?​​​​​​​
MB: "During my final year at UNH I hope to leave SAAC with all the tools and support it needs to thrive and be successful for years to come. [I also want to] continue to learn and grow as a leader in hopes of assuming a hospitality management position post-grad."
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