Reminder: College Coaches Are Educators

Failures have consequences and that was on display last week in Omaha at baseball’s College World Series.

So often in education, if an educator makes a poor decision, students suffer the consequences–something that I have experienced personally in my teaching career.

Typically, circumstances like that do not make national headlines. But in this case–what happened last week to the NC State baseball team at the College World Series–did.

Before I get into the details, I want to begin by asserting something that I believe strongly, namely, college coaches are educators. As educators, they are responsible for many parts of their student’s lives. In doing so, coaches walk a tightrope between doing too much and doing too little. As one of my coaching mentors, Bob Moore, taught me, “There is a six-inch difference between a pat on the back and a kick in the butt.”

All of this brings me to Coach Elliott Avent, head baseball coach at North Carolina State University. If you are not aware of the team’s phenomenal win streak this year–against heavy odds, I might add–you can read up on details via Google. Wins and team record don’t interest me here, but Coach Avent’s words do. I refer to what he said following his team’s COVID-related removal by NCAA order from the College World Series due to infections among the players.

According to multiple news outlets, Coach Avent was asked if he encouraged or required his players to be vaccinated. His answer? “My job is to teach them baseball, make sure they get an education and keep them on the right track forward. But I don’t try to indoctrinate my kids with my values or my opinions. Obviously, we talk about a lot of things, but these are young men that can make their own decisions, and that’s what they did.”

Any educator worth their salt knows that we teach our students more than baseball, physics, or Beowulf–and that understanding is one of the many beautiful and noble aspects of teaching.

Very much involved is teaching students how to analyze, consider, evaluate, and, then, come to independent conclusions. A good teacher does not indoctrinate. A good teacher instructs and encourages students to be aware of their world.

When asked if he was vaccinated, Coach Avent said, “I’m not going to talk about that. If you want to talk baseball, we can talk baseball. If you want to talk politics or stuff like that, you can go talk to my head of sports medicine.”

Wrong! It appears that Coach Avent is unaware that his job involves more than teaching about and coaching a sport. Because of that, Avent failed his players in a significant role, namely, as a mentor.

Baseball is not played on an island and, by not being responsible for their welfare as it pertains to the wider world, COVID entered Avent’s baseball bubble and burst it. Unfortunately, it also burst it for players, fans, the university, and the sport.

Leave a Reply