Center for Community Engagement

Sarah Leyman ’11, Coach Wooden Citizenship Cup finalist, reflects on years of organizing Amherst athletes for community service

Sarah Leyman '11

Story by Jenny Morgan, photo courtesy of Sarah Leyman '11

Sarah Leyman ’11 (pictured second from right) is currently competing with the women’s basketball team in the NCAA Division III Women’s Basketball Tournament. Bolstered with a home court advantage through at least the Elite Eight, Leyman, co-captain of the team and president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, is optimistic for her final tournament with her teammates.

The team, already in the Sweet Sixteen and going strong, is poised to continue succeeding— you might even say there’s a championship in the air. Regardless of the tournament’s outcome, Leyman is already a champion both on and off the court— and women’s basketball coach, G.P. Gromacki, knows this better than anyone.

Last fall, he co-nominated Leyman for the Coach Wooden Citizenship Cup with Molly Mead, director of the Center for Community Engagement. The Wooden Cup recognizes collegiate and professional athletes who have made the “greatest positive influence in the lives of others.” Gromacki, in his nomination letter, describes Leyman as a “relentless, tireless, athlete” whose “dedication to excellence in all aspects of her life are second to none.” Leyman traveled to Atlanta, Georgia, this January for the Wooden Cup award ceremony after being selected as one of five finalists nationwide. She describes instantly feeling inspired by “the community of athletes” at the ceremony. This year’s Wooden Cup was awarded to Quinton Carter of the University of Oklahoma (pictured center). Leyman sums up the entire experience as “humbling”—although she certainly has a lot to be proud of.

As a first-year student and athlete, Leyman was serendipitously invited to represent the women’s basketball team on SAAC, the Student -Athlete Advisory Committee that represents all of Amherst’s athletic teams to the college. A natural leader, Leyman became the president of SAAC during her junior year and took the charge of increasing student-athletes’ presence in the local community to heart. Under her leadership, every single athlete on every Amherst team participated in a community engagement activity—both this year and last.

Leyman attributes this success to relationship building “throughout the student-athlete community”, which has in turn facilitated a “willingness and excitement about community engagement.” In her nomination letter, Mead adds that Leyman was able to do so by “parlay[ing] the natural competitiveness of student athletes to create [this] norm.” These accomplishments signal the longevity of Leyman’s dedication to both her fellow student-athletes and the larger community they are a part of. She hopes that Amherst student-athletes continue community engagement long after they graduate and that they feel “a sense of personal responsibility to give back throughout their lives.”

When asked about her favorite memory of community engagement as part of the women’s basketball, Leyman simply can’t choose one. She says it’s “either working at the A Better Chance (ABC) House to tutor the kids over  Interterm, or going to an elementary school last year during the NCAA Final Four. I love working with kids and being a role model for them.” Leyman hasn’t just been a role model to the children she tutors—she’s inspired a whole generation of student-athletes at Amherst College.

You can read more about Leyman’s nomination for the Wooden Cup here and watch a video of Leyman and Mead talking about community engagement here.

Jenny Morgan is a staff writer for the CCE and the newest fan of the women's basketball team. She currently enjoys making her own hummus, book clubs, and hanging with Maltese puppies. She welcomes any comments at jmorgan[at]amherst[dot]edu.