Block P, a student-athlete leadership council at Cal Poly, had their first meeting in September when Cal Poly athletic director Don Oberhelman introduced a goal to get all student-athletes on campus 100% registered to vote.
“It was important to the athletics department that their athletes were student leaders on campus,” junior beach volleyball player Macy Gordon said. “It was important that we are leading by doing and … registering to vote so that all our voices are heard.”
The leadership council, which is made up of two representatives from each sports team, said they made it a priority to reach out to each of their individual teams about the importance of registering. The appointed leaders of each team made it a goal for all of their teammates to become registered to vote for the upcoming presidential election. The campaign to get all Cal Poly student-athletes 100% registered to vote was well-received by all 21 athletic programs as the teams treated it as a competition.
“It started with the swim team. The swim team [said], ‘We are 100% registered to vote. Now we challenge men’s soccer to vote.’ It kept snowballing like that. I felt that we got a lot of positive responses by doing it that way,” redshirt junior football player Aaron Cooper said.
“Our team was super interested [in the voter registration initiative],” senior women’s basketball player Kirsty Brown said. “Our team has been really active with all the protests and everything going on socially and politically this year, so they were all super excited to be able to vote.”
Even though each team had a different path toward getting the whole squad registered to vote, every team was able to achieve that goal. Specifically, the 110-man football team took a divide-and-conquer strategy by splitting players up into their position groups so that the Block P representatives could focus on a smaller number of their teammates.
Cooper is a safety and primarily focused on the safeties and linebackers. Meanwhile, redshirt junior defensive lineman Kain Su’a and redshirt senior defensive end Ryan Boehm focused on the defensive line, and redshirt freshman offensive lineman Payton Campisano focused on the offensive line. All four representatives reached out to other position groups who needed help, leadership and guidance with the process of getting registered, according to Cooper.
“I was so proud of my teammates and thankful for all of them for participating and being a part of change,” Cooper said. “As a big team with 110 guys, being 100% registered to vote is a huge statement within the community.”
However, it was not just the student-athletes who got involved in this initiative. The coaches of the teams helped the players by keeping track of their progress and double-checking if they needed help on how to register to vote. Beach volleyball head coach Todd Rogers gave his team extra motivation by giving the players a surf day if the whole team was registered to vote.
“It definitely meant a lot to us just knowing that [our] coaches support student athletes trying to make change,” Cooper said.
Despite being unable to meet in-person as a team, the members of Block P found other ways to communicate and spread the message to their teams. Brown used her team’s Zoom meetings to spread the message. The Women’s Basketball team were also able to learn about the intricacies of voting by participating in a Zoom presentation put on by the organization Athletes Vote, according to Brown.
“We have such a voice in our community. People are always looking to the athletes here,” Brown said. “We’re kind of the spokespeople for the University and to be able to set that example … to get every single [athlete] registered that is eligible to vote, that’s pretty cool to be able to say that we were able to do that.”
Since their September meeting, Block P leaders said they saw incredible strides in the registration initiative as teams were able to accomplish the goal of having 100% of their athletes registered to vote. Boehm said he feels the campaign had a big impact on his teammates.
“It’s been very impactful within the football team. We have a lot of first-time voters and that makes me very excited to see,” Boehm said. “I was very proud that with such a big team, we were able to achieve 100% [registration]. It shows how we can truly make a difference.”
“We all realized that this movement and campaign is bigger than sports, but athletics held us together,” Cooper said.