Soka Student-Athletes Take the Lead in Centering Values Across the California Pacific Conference
Something unusual happens at the start of most athletic events at SUA that instantly reminds athletes and spectators alike of what it really means to win. Before competitions in the California Pacific Conference, a 13-member collegiate athletic conference that SUA joined in 2012, student-athletes from both schools read a statement over the public address system that defines five key values to embody in sports and beyond.
The 30-second statement was created by members of Cal Pac’s Student-Athlete Council, led by Chase Buchert ’23, and highlights the values of integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship, and servant-leadership.
“It was something that we wanted to reiterate because we found that a lot of student-athletes didn’t really know about those values,” Buchert said. “We wanted to implement a reminder not only for students, but for spectators, referees, and everyone.”
Buchert, who has played soccer since his first year on campus, was elected chair of the council after a year serving with Cienna Irwin ’25 as the two SUA representatives to the group. A five-minute version of the statement was read before some games last year, but after the council received feedback that it was too long, they distilled the announcement to its essence.
“We really focused on making it concise, and making sure every student-athlete genuinely understands what’s being said and the impact behind it,” said Buchert. “At the end of the day, these are values that are bigger than athletics. They are community-based, service-based, and bigger than any individual.”
Buchert discussed the statement and other initiatives of the Student-Athlete Council at the conference’s President’s Council meeting at SUA in January, attended by Jim Carr, the president of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, SUA President Edward Feasel, and presidents and athletic directors from other conference schools.
“Chase has been a major contributor to the development of the Cal Pac value statement,” said SUA Athletic Director Mike Moore. “His efforts helped create a statement that all athletes in the conference should strive for—to be better people during their athletic careers and beyond.”
In addition to a presentation on the values statement, which Buchert hopes will be a model for conferences nationwide, he spoke to the President’s Council about the significance of having a student-athlete council on each campus to open direct lines of communication between administrations and athletes, as well as the passing of a mandatory day-off rule. Though the Cal Pac has a rule that allows for one day of rest a week, it isn’t enforced by the NAIA at this time.
Buchert, who has focused on humanities at SUA and will pursue an M.A. at Hope International University in Fullerton, where he will continue to play soccer, says the value statement has been an opportunity for him to consider his own behavior off the field as well. “It allowed me to kind of take a step back and reflect about the values that I genuinely want to embody,” he said. “Obviously, athletics has been a big part of my experience, but it won’t always be.”
Buchert, who would “100% choose SUA again,” said being part of the athletic community on campus and with the council has been rewarding personally and professionally. “Student-athletes here are intelligent, awesome individuals to be around and also perform well athletically, and I’ve been so happy with the environment and the team,” he said.
While meeting presidents and leaders from conference schools can be “nerve-wracking,” Buchert is grateful for the experience. “I’ve been able to push myself and work on my communicative abilities, which has made a world of a difference. I don’t see myself sitting back anymore,” he said. “I know that I’ve been able to kind of provide a voice for somebody who may not have the opportunity, so I just want to make sure that I can keep uplifting as many voices as I can.”