Micaela Velasquez: UCSB student-athlete takes on leading role

Micaela Velasquez represented all student-athletes at UCSB at a recent Big West Conference meeting.

Micaela Velasquez represented all student-athletes from UCSB at a recent Big West Conference meeting.

 

Micaela Velasquez, a middle distance freestyler and team captain for the UCSB swim team, was a natural choice to represent all Gaucho student-athletes at a recent Big West Conference annual meeting in Los Angeles.

UCSB's Micaela Velasquez

UCSB’s Micaela Velasquez

“As an athlete, people recognize your accomplishments, yet what they always remember is the kind of person you are, your attitude, character, how you act after a bad race, how you shake your opponent’s hand, and how you cheer on your teammates,” Velasquez says.

On top of serving her fellow student-athletes, Velasquez also volunteers and coaches for several different organizations like Special Olympics and at local schools. She’s been named Presidio Sports’ local Sports Volunteer of the Month.

An all-star member of the Santa Clarita (her hometown) and now Santa Barbara communities, Velasquez just got back from the Big West Student Athlete Advisory Board (S.A.A.B.) Conference that takes place once a year during the summer. The S.A.A.B. group at UCSB is a committee comprised of two student-athletes chosen from each team that represent UCSB’s 20 NCAA sponsored sports.

Micaela, a leader of leaders, was then chosen from that already prestigious group to be one of  two UCSB student-athletes representing their school. The student-athlete representatives discuss a variety of topics and issues facing each different school or team, as well as voting on Big West Conference legislation.

As Micaela explains, they “brainstormed ideas to improve their campuses, athletic departments, and athlete experiences,” with the goal to bring back “ideas for present and future student-athletes and opportunities to bring in more fans to athletic events and ways to further excel academically.”

Not only was Micaela chosen as the UCSB S.A.A.B. representative this summer, she was voted team captain for the upcoming season.

Velasquez is a middle-distance free style swimmer for the Gauchos.

Velasquez is a middle-distance free style swimmer for the Gauchos. (UCSB Athletics Photo)

Velasquez’ journey began when she was just six years old, in her hometown of Santa Clarita, where she swam with her local summer recreational team and then she continued to swim and compete every summer. After joining her high school team at Valencia High School, it was there that her love of swimming, athletics, and team camaraderie began to develop and flourish.

“I started to enjoy the sport of swimming for more than just physical exercise,” Velasquez remembers. “I loved making friends, creating memories, and setting goals for myself.”

Micaela soon became captain of her high school team during her senior year and it propelled her into training to compete at a collegiate level, where she would be able to “grow into a stronger swimmer and human being.”

Since becoming a Gaucho, Micaela’s passion for the sport has increasingly grown. When she became a part of S.A.A.B., she was immediately “fascinated by the behind-the-scenes work the members did, especially with the community outreach within its community service sub-committee.”

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She was quickly voted Administrative Chair, a managerial role in S.A.A.B. where she helps organize fundraising events with local businesses and sponsors for the annual Big West Conference Coin Drive that benefits local charities. Velasquez also works closely with the Adopt-A-Family project at Isla Vista Elementary School during the holiday season.

For the upcoming school year, she was just voted Co-Chair of S.A.A.B., the highest ranking position by her fellow S.A.A.B. members. She is “excited to continue work with the community while representing fellow Gaucho student-athletes and working towards department wide goals.”

Her involvement with Special Olympics started in Santa Clarita, while she was in Junior High School. She became an assistant coach for the swim practices. She continued to work with Special Olympics throughout her high school years as the Assistant Coach for the Santa Clarita Special Olympics Swim Team. She was soon awarded Southern California’s Special Olympics Volunteer of the Year.

Velasquez with other S.A.A.B members at Adopt-A-Family delivery day last holiday season.

Velasquez with other S.A.A.B members at Adopt-A-Family delivery day last holiday season.

After moving to Santa Barbara for college, she continued volunteering with the the Santa Barbara region Special Olympics as a coach, explaining, “Coaching can range from encouraging a swimmer to get in the water, building water safety skills, teaching the various strokes, or instructing aerobic workouts. The biggest reward I have from working with Special Olympics is assisting the athletes in building their confidence and watching them amaze themselves. Whether it’s getting the fearful to stick their toes in the water, the shy to laugh, or the challenged to overcome, it is an amazing feeling to watch someone achieve their goals and dreams.”

Her favorite part of coaching others is being able to “see the potential and recognize a dream an athlete doesn’t even know is possible yet.”

Velasquez has also coached at Dos Pueblos High School for the women’s team and even travelled with the team for their away meets in Ventura and to their CIF Championship meets.

An active member of the Santa Barbara community now, Velasquez still remembers when she stepped foot on the UCSB campus for the first time for recruitment. She remembers seeing the special bond the team had, she further illustrates, “for the last three years I have been a part of the family. We have supported one another through the hard sets, pushed each other to achieve greatness and continued to build friendships that will last a lifetime.”

Being voted team captain by her teammates is a great privilege that comes with an even greater responsibility. Velasquez is “eager to be able to play a part in leading the team into another competitive year and creating a positive winning culture.”

If you go to a meet this upcoming season, don’t be surprised to hear Micaela and her teammates cheering each other on the Gaucho way, “Let’s Go Gauchos” to remind each other to give their all each and every day.

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