The numbers 2018-93 probably doesn’t mean anything to most people, but for Virginia Tech volleyball’s Jaila Tolbert, it means quite a bit.
Tolbert, one of the voices for student-athletes nationwide, has put in a lot of work to see that big number passed in Indianapolis this April. Indy is the headquarters of the NCAA and its Board of Directors will have the decision to implement 2018-93.
What’s 2018-93? It’s a proposal that would impact early recruiting legislation, hoping to make recruits commit later in their high school careers. So, a pretty important deal to give the green light to.
The proposal states, “In sports other than baseball, basketball, football and men’s ice hockey, to revise legislation related to contacts; telephone calls; recruiting materials; official and unofficial visits; financial aid agreements; and camps and clinics, as specified.”
“There are a lot of details in legislation, but it would make it that you take your visits and start the recruiting process in your junior year, rather than having 14-year-old kids committing to college,” Tolbert explained. “It’s something that we are super passionate about.”
‘We,’ as in the Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC). Tolbert is one of only 32 student-athletes, representing the 32 DI conferences across America, who have a voice in taking a stand on future legislation and coming up with new ideas that will improve the student-athlete experience for those to come.
It’s a huge honor and it’s something that Tolbert doesn’t take lightly. The Minnesota native has been on DI SAAC for a little under two years and has enjoyed every second of it. A key reason on why she got involved in the first place, after already being heavily involved with Natalie Forbes, Reyna Gilbert-Lowry and Shelby Miller of Virginia Tech’s SAAC, comes back to Shamaree Brown, director of student-athlete programs & compliance at the ACC office.
“I love Shamaree, he’s amazing,” Tolbert said. “He is the one who got me into this role when he reached out originally a couple years back. He has been so open to all of the student-athletes’ ideas and he makes a lot of things hands-on.
“Everything that we have brought to him, he has made it come to life in some form or fashion. So, he is great and is our main liaison. He was the one that came with me to convention and supported me there.”
Brown, Tolbert and many others who work in athletics made it to Orlando this past January, taking in the 2019 NCAA Convention. Tolbert was there for five days, Monday through Friday, and worked heavily with the Student-Athlete Experience Committee (SAEC).
The committee is filled with athletic directors (ADs), faculty athletic reps (FARs) and senior woman administrators (SWA), as well as Tolbert and Old Dominion’s Sam Perelman, who plays men’s tennis.
The proposal falls in line to some degree of how Tolbert’s decision to commit to the Hokies came to be. A ‘late bloomer,’ the right-side hitter got letters her sophomore year but didn’t get any serious looks and offers until her junior year, which is how the proposal would work out.
She thinks that prospective student-athletes (PSAs) will be able to enjoy high school more and not be as stressed about deciding on where to play in college, especially when they just got to high school – as some of her teammates on her club team, Minnesota Select VBC, did with verbally committing in ninth grade.
Tolbert is confident it will pass, but if not, she has learned so much sitting in on meetings at the league office in Greensboro, North Carolina, to conventions across the US. When asked on if she had to sum up the experience of representing the ACC on the national level and all that has come with it, she answered, ‘A blessing.’
Then she followed up with ‘unparalleled,’ because not many people get to do it.
With the job comes pressure and finding what to say in the room. The room, filled with well-educated people who know a thing or two about legislation in athletics, saw Tolbert find her own as she became more and more confident when she spoke in those high-level meetings.
“At first, I thought it was kind of a lot of pressure,” Tolbert stated. “It felt like if you say the wrong thing in the room, you’re going to look bad – on your coaches, school and conference. But when you get past that, you understand everyone genuinely wants to hear what you have to say. Then eventually I had to study up and I had to actually know my stuff and the more confidence that I got in the role, it just became easier to just say what was on my mind.”
Study up she did, as the senior would skim 100-page agendas, getting the lingo down and comprehending the legislative language. Polished up and ready to go, she would start her day with breakfast around 7 a.m. and then sit in meetings and issue forums all day.
She did get a chance to get a way for a bit and hit the strip, checking out Disney Springs. Tolbert got to walk around and explore with some of her friends she has made through SAAC, including her roommate on the trip, who represents the Pac-12, Oregon hurdler Khadejah Jackson.
With a mix of hard work and fun, Tolbert enjoyed her second NCAA Convention. From speaking in the Big Apple (click here for more) to her first NCAA Convention last January (click here), she has been on the biggest of stages and has brought forth positive solutions to the student-athlete experience.
Being exemplary of Virginia Tech’s Ut Prosim, we’ll have to wait and see what she has up her sleeves next.