Guest Coaches Program Honors Student-Nominated Faculty
Since 2016, nearly 50 faculty members have been nominated by a student-athlete to serve as an honorary guest coach for an athletic team.
Assistant Professor of Anthropology Alex Smith teaches courses about historical archaeology, museology, archaeological methods, and human heritage. And in February, he was guest coach of the women’s basketball team.
Smith is one of 45 College at Brockport faculty members to have played the role of guest coach since the Brockport Athletics Department established a program in 2016 that designates faculty guest coaches based on nominations from student-athletes. While the one-time title doesn’t require faculty honorees to build winning teams, the program recognizes excellence in both teaching and intercollegiate athletics.
The guest coaches program evolved from a vision to enhance relationships among faculty and student athletes, shared by the College’s Faculty Athletic Representative Lynda Cochran, assistant dean of the School of Education, Health, and Human Services, and Head Women’s Basketball Coach Corinne Jones.
“The program provides an important opportunity for students and faculty to connect outside of the classroom and share an experience that is unique to Division III," said Director of Athletics Erick Hart. "Our student-athletes play for the love of the game, and having faculty take time out of their schedules to share that experience strengthens their connections to each other and to Brockport.”
The program invites faculty nominees to attend a practice, where they become acquainted with the team and coaching staff, and a game the following day. On game day, the guest coach has the opportunity to sit in on the coach’s pre-game locker room pep talk, is introduced to the crowd of fans, poses for photos with the athletes, and cheers for the team from the sidelines.
Smith was nominated by freshman communication major Morgan Elmer, who took ANT 101 The Human Condition as a general education requirement. Elmer said Smith made the 8 am lecture class “interesting and fun.”
“I want [Professor Smith] to see that my work ethic is the same in class and in my extracurricular activities,” said Elmer.
When Smith found out he was nominated, he was “extremely honored,” a feeling he compared to winning a teaching award. Smith ran track at his Division III alma mater. “But not good DIII, like Brockport,” he laughed. A chance to observe and celebrate the high caliber of Brockport’s athletic programming is one of the reasons he was excited to participate.
“We have a major opportunity to provide 23 NCAA sports teams and really good facilities on this campus,” said Cochran. “Why not watch and support?”
So far, participating teams include men’s and women basketball, field hockey, women’s lacrosse, men’s and women’s soccer, baseball, and hockey. Cochran hopes that all 23 teams will eventually join in.
This academic year, 17 faculty/staff members from 11 different disciplines have served as guest coaches. Of those, 92 percent indicated their “knowledge of the student-athlete experience was enhanced” and all of them indicated they “had a better understanding of the role of athletics in higher education.”
Almost every athlete on the women’s basketball team has had a chance to nominate a faculty member this academic year.
“I’ve had faculty participants tell me, ‘I now have that student-athlete engage in the classroom, when they didn’t before,’” said Cochran.
Smith said the highlights of participating were watching Elmer score and listening to Coach Jones ask each player to recite their charge during a pre-game talk in the locker room. Most of all, he was inspired by watching Elmer perform her passion outside of the classroom context, which Jones agrees is the most significant impact of the program.
“The best part about it is having [the students'] professors see them in a different realm. It’s a great bridging of the gap between sports and academics,” said Jones.
“Seeing Morgan playing with her team showed another side to her Brockport life,” said Smith. “It made me consider the complexity and endlessly interesting aspects of my other students’ lives, as well.”