App State athletes use their voice to get out the vote

Under the bright lights of Kidd Brewer or in the dome like Holmes Convocation Center during games or matches, App State athletes work at being the best at whatever they are doing and win.  

But off the field, athletes are taking on a new task: getting people to vote. 

App State Athletic Director Doug Gillin said getting feedback from athletes is very important for their department. Part of that is listening to what is important to them. 

One of the key issues for athletes, Gillin said, was registering people to vote. 

“A lot of our teams took it upon themselves, to make sure that they had 100% registration and a lot of them just took it upon themselves to spread the word,” Gillin said. 

At least four App State teams are 100% registered to vote, said spokesperson Joey Jones. Those teams are women’s basketball, men’s basketball, women’s soccer and volleyball

Leading up to the final day for people to register to vote in North Carolina, the App State Athletics Twitter account posted videos from athletes urging people to register to vote. Those athletes came from women’s soccer, football, women’s golf and men’s basketball. 

“My teammates and I are all very young voters,” said Daryn Armstrong, a junior on the volleyball team. “For some, this might be their second election. But for many of us, this is our first.”

Armstrong said voting is a privilege that she doesn’t take lightly — especially as a young Black woman. 

“Women were not always able to vote,” Armstrong said. “African Americans were not always able to vote. So this being my first presidential election, it’s exciting. It’s a way for voices to be heard.”

On the volleyball team, Armstrong said a lot of conversations between the team have been about registering to vote and how to vote, whether it be absentee or in person. 

Thomas Hennigan, a senior wide receiver on the football team, said since he is one of the older guys on the team, his goal is to help the younger guys register to vote. 

“A lot of it’s guidance to help the younger guys understand the process and everything and how everything goes,” Hennigan said. “We just want everyone to know that their voice matters and I think everyone’s opinion needs to be heard.”

As part of the civic engagement movement, the Sun Belt — the athletic conference most of App State’s sports participate in — and the NCAA are mandating all athletic programs have the day off for Nov. 3. 

For Hennigan, that means he can go vote in his hometown of Greensboro. 

“For me, it means the opportunity to drive home in my home county,” Hennigan said. “So that’s just  awesome and I’m really thankful for that opportunity.”

Along with the day off on Nov. 3, Armstrong said her coaches have been very supportive of their goal to get people to vote and have provided educational materials to the team. 

“I’m very appreciative that our coaches understand and want us to have our voices heard and want us to participate,” Armstrong said. “It’s just great to know that our coaches are supporting us and are encouraging us to vote.”

Hennigan said he feels similarly in how supportive the coaches have been in response to speaking out about voting.
“When we’re done here with football, they want us to be great husbands and great fathers,” Hennigan said. “So I mean, voting is just another way of extending their care for us.”

Early voting in North Carolina started Oct. 15. In Watauga County, six early voting sites will open at 8 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m. during the week.

On the first two Saturdays, the early voting sites will open at 8 a.m. and close at 6 p.m. On Oct. 31, the last day of early voting, the early voting sites will be open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Here are the voting sites in Watauga County:

  • App State – Plemmons Student Union – Blue Ridge Ballroom
  • Blowing Rock Town Hall
  • Deep Gap Fire Department
  • High Country Vacation Homes (Foscoe)
  • Western Watauga Community Center
  • Watauga County Administration Building, Commissioners’ Board Room

“If you’re gonna vote — which I really hope everyone votes —  research what you’re voting for, not just the person but policies,” Hennigan said.